Can this Muslim teen become the world's first hijabi ballerina?

Published February 2nd, 2016 - 03:23 GMT
Stephanie Kurlow, a hijabi ballerina, is trying to raise funds so she can train full time at a professional ballet school. (
Stephanie Kurlow, a hijabi ballerina, is trying to raise funds so she can train full time at a professional ballet school. (

Fourteen-year-old Stephanie Kurlow had been dancing since she was a toddler, but stopped when her family converted to Islam in 2010.

The Sydney schoolgirl thought that she would never be able to dance professionally after becoming a Muslim, because no company would want a ballerina who wore a hijab.

Stephanie, who lives with her Australian father, Russian mother and two brothers in Campsie, in Sydney's south-west, struggled to find a school where she could both dance and practice her religion. She had all but given up on her goal to dance as a career. 

But in the end, her dreams won out after being inspired by women of colour who were succeeding in their fields all over the world, like Noor Tagouri, the first American news anchor to wear a hijab, or Michaela De Prince and Misty Copeland, the first African-American ballerinas.

Now Stephanie has started a fundraising campaign on LaunchGood so she can train full time at a professional ballet school. 

She wants to raise money to prove that your religion doesn't have to be a barrier to being involved in performing arts.

'In this day and age there is a lack of facilitation for youth who are disengaged or of a different religion or race. 

'I plan on bringing the world together by becoming the very first Muslim Ballerina so that I can inspire so many other people to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams,' she wrote on her fundraising page.

'I want to encourage everyone to join together no matter what faith, race or colour. To bring harmony and a world of acceptance for future generations. YOU can help me achieve this dream.'

Stephanie hopes to raise $10,000 initially to pay for a year's tuition to a top ballet school where she can train the 30-45 hours a week needed to become a professional dancer.

In the future, she wants to open up a performing arts school that caters to young people of all different races and cultures. 

'I will provide for our future generations a chance to express and heal themselves and others through the magnificent art of performing and creativity,' Stephanie said. The young girl wants to have programs that cater for people of specific religions, as well as support groups for youth from disconnected communities. 

She believes that performing arts can be a way to bring people together,and is determined to make her dream come true, despite some people saying she can't make it. 

'I've gotten those looks or those little whispers from people saying that I can't do it, and there are some parts of the ballet world that only see me for the clothes I wear, or the beliefs I have,' Stephanie told the Sydney Morning Herald.

'But this means everything to me. I think I can bring people together through dance and inspire some young people from different races that might be a bit disengaged,' she said. 


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