{moving abroad}: a ballerina in Copenhagen

by Tina on March 13, 2013

in Copenhagen, Moving Abroad


Working in the creative world means meeting some really amazing and creative people.  Most recently we had the privilege of working with our sweet friend, Shelby, who is an American Ballerina in Copenhagen, dancing as a professional ballerina for the Royal Danish Ballet.


Not only is she gorgeous and talented, but she is funny, sweet, and endearingly light hearted.  She has been living in Copenhagen for the past four years and just recently took a job with the Boston Ballet, so we are a little sad to be losing her here, but excited for the new adventure that is coming her way.


Since I posted a little sneak peek on Instagram (And receiving almost more likes than any other photo!), many of you have told me that you always dreamed of becoming a ballerina.  (Me too!) Who wouldn’t love floating through the air as if weightless, twirling and gliding across the floor like a beautiful swan? Sigh… how completely lovely, right?


I thought it was amazing how Shelby had taken dance when we she little and quit because she was bored and took up other sports and hobbies, including gymnastics.  (Her mom actually demanded a refund for her ballet lessons!)  After breaking her arm at the age of nine, she decided to quit gymnastics and give ballet another try.

shelby38 shelby39 shelby40

I asked Shelby if she wouldn’t mind telling us more about herself and what it is really like to be a ballerina…

shelby51 shelby52

When did you know that you wanted to become a professional ballet dancer?
It’s funny that I didn’t really consider it until I was already ‘tutu deep’ in the ballet world.. hahaha Really though, I was 13 and I had just moved to New York to train at the School of American Ballet. We could get comp tickets to see New York City Ballet perform and that pretty much sealed the deal.


When did you begin dancing full time and how old were you?
Ballet was pretty much my ‘after school support’ until I was given the opportunity to move to New York City at 13. I trained 6 days a week, once/twice a day until I was offered a professional job upon graduating nearly 5 years later.


Where did you live?
I grew up in Sarasota, Florida which is where my training began at the age of 9, but my serious training really began in Manhattan.

shelby47 shelby48 shelby45

When did you move to Copenhagen & how old were you?
I moved to Copenhagen in March of 2009 – exactly 4 years ago! I was 18 years old.


Were you scared to move abroad?
I had a mild nervous anticipation about it, but it didn’t really hit me until my first Sunday off here when I didn’t have a bank account/phone bill to google translate, bag to unpack or ballet to learn…so about 3 months in… I remember sitting on my balcony eating a ‘danish’ and thinking…”How did I get myself here…? Did I really just pick up and move to Europe..?” It was a pretty overwhelming realization once I spared a minute to consider it… shelby26

Have you enjoyed living in Denmark?
I have absolutely savored my time of living in Denmark. This country is so special, and I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to learn about and embrace the culture.


What has been your greatest challenge?
My absolutely greatest challenge has been the distance that separates me from my family. Especially on holidays, but even on weeknights when I would just love a mom-cooked meal…Oh, and having to wait for the green light to cross the street…..Us New Yorkers are pro jay walkers and this whole patience thing has really been trying…


Is being a ballerina hard work? How many hours do you spend in rehearsals, performances, etc?
Being a ballerina is extremely hard work.. It requires endless dedication, constant body ‘maintenance’ and a nurtured passion. The average work day is about 5-6 hours of class, rehearsals, warm-ups/cool downs, and then another 4 hours at night if we have a performance. 6 days a week.

shelby16 What surprised you most about Denmark when you first arrived?
Hmmm…. Probably the concept of “Jante Law” here in Scandinavia which is virtually the opposite mentality of Americans (especially New Yorkers…) It’s a concept that basically downplays individual achievement, instead encouraging the emphasis on the collective society as a whole. 


What will you miss most?
Undoubtedly the people. I’ve made some of the most incredible friends and family here and I couldn’t be more thankful for the enriched experience they’ve all contributed to during my time here…


Sigh… Isn’t Shelby just completely lovely?  She also has a beautiful blog, Tutus and Tea, which is full of recipes she loves and peeks into her life, both on stage and off.  I thought this interview would be the perfect way to get our  {moving abroad} series which will include articles, stories, and interviews of others who have moved abroad.  I know most of us do not have the option of moving to Europe as a ballerina, but Shelby is just one example of how someone has done it!

Thank you again, Shelby, for a wonderful afternoon together and sharing a bit of your story with us!

photography: Jack and Tina Fussell 

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Juliette March 13, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Oh, I love this! Gorgeous gorgeous shots -great job you guys! What a lovely and interesting individual to highlight here!


Kelleyn March 13, 2013 at 3:21 pm

She is beautiful!


lauren March 13, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Fabulous post! Shelby is amazing, and the photos and interview were just lovely!!


dearest someday March 13, 2013 at 4:01 pm

absolutely beautiful!


Jennifer March 13, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Beautiful! I love the photos, really nice!


Hannef March 13, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Love this post – beautiful photos


Victoria March 13, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Lovely post. So nice to hear Shelby’s story and all she has achieved at such a young again. Lovely photographs.


Ale March 13, 2013 at 11:02 pm

What an amazingly beautiful young lady! And an absolute inspiration.


Gabrielle March 14, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Such beautiful photography and so interesting to hear Shelby’s experience of living in Copenhagen. My husband works for a Danish company (which he loves) and visits the Copenhagen office regularly, he can definitely identify with what Shelby says about Jante Law, he works with several different nationalities and the differences in their work cultures is fascinating. I’m going to link to this post in my Lovely Links post on my blog thegreengal.co.uk tomorrow!


Carly March 16, 2013 at 5:06 am

How dreamy! The pictures, her story, so lovely!


Beth March 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm

One of your best posts, imo.


RadhikaGanju March 16, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Such beautiful Photos.


Nancy G. March 17, 2013 at 11:41 am

I really enjoyed reading this posting. Shelby seems like a wonderful young lady. My favorite photos are the ones where she is sitting by the window, relaxing in the chair and the ones where she is sitting on the floor whit her foot forward toward the camera. Awesome photos!


Danish Exchange March 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Really, really enjoyed this post. Fabulous shots you two. Really inspiring and what a gorgeous ballerina!


Nina March 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Amazing photos of a beautiful girl. Loved this post!


Kaley March 22, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Amazing – beautiful images of such a beautiful ballerina. I look forward to reading more in this series!!


Rowena March 25, 2013 at 12:11 am

Gorgeous photos & delightful interview. I appreciated the interview to transform the ballerina from simply a beautiful image into a real person. I lived abroad for 6 years in Russia, Italy, Portugal, France, England, Scotland, Ireland, and Sweden. Sweden is my favourite place on earth and I wish I could find a job that would enable me to move back there, at least part-time. You are lucky to be able to live in Copenhagen, a great city.


Birgitte August 14, 2013 at 8:04 am

These photos are gorgeous!!


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