Sunday Spotlight: North Salem High School Senior Juliette Daigneault
Juliette Daigneault was in middle school when she was told she would not be able to progress to the next level of ballet with her peers and would instead be held back. She had been a ballet dancer since preschool, and it was the activity she loved most. But she struggled to keep up with the fast pace of her classes at the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance, a highly competitive and nationally recognized dance school.
Daigneault was discouraged, disappointed and feeling left out. It was the type of moment that would cause many kids to quit altogether, declaring themselves not good enough. Daigneault, however, made a different choice. She chose not only to continue with ballet, but to double down on her commitment to it.
“Every single day after class I would go up to the teacher and ask what I could work on,” Daigneault recalled. She would search for ballet videos on YouTube, completing workouts and practicing repetitions at home in between classes.
“Being around other dancers who were a lot more serious motivated me, because I saw the potential of how good I could be,” Daigneault said. “It made me want to put in my best effort and really apply myself.”
Daigneault has applied herself to dance just about every day since, earning solos at the Conservatory and becoming a role model for her peers. The gains she made in dance have affected every other aspect of her life, with significant positive impacts on her academics.
“Juliette developed tools through dance that she carried over to school and began to thrive,” said Daigneault’s mother, Kathy. Being forced to learn complex movements at a fast pace trained her brain to process information more quickly. The intense discipline and focus that ballet requires improved her ability to focus in the classroom, something she had struggled with since elementary school.
By high school, Daigneault was dancing ten to twenty hours per week, taking AP and honors classes and achieving high honor roll every semester. “I was able to reach goals that no one thought I could,” Daigneault wrote in her college essay.
When the coronavirus descended in early 2020, Daigneault was once again challenged to find a way to persevere. “It was hard overall for senior year,” she said. “Knowing that there wasn’t going to be a real show was disappointing.” Like many seniors, Daigneault struggled to stay motivated. Her father helped her get creative to adapt, installing a ballet barre in Daigneault’s bedroom so she could keep up with her practice.
“My parents have always been very supportive of everything I do,” Daigneault said. “They never tried to force me to practice, and they’ve always helped out with things like fundraising bake sales, or volunteering backstage at performances.”
Now, on the cusp of high school graduation, Daigneault credits dance for giving her the confidence she needs to take on the world. “Dance has really taught me that you should never try to put barriers on what you can or can’t achieve,” she said.
This fall, Daigneault will head to Syracuse University where she plans to major in marketing. She’s interested in combining the field of study with her love of dance, and dreams of one day doing marketing for the American Ballet Theater. Once on campus, Daigneault plans to join one of the school’s dance clubs and in general is looking forward to experiencing all that college life has to offer.
“My [dance] teachers always tell us, you never know, you could roll your ankle and be out the rest of the year, so you want to make the most of every day, because you don’t want regrets,” Daigneault said. “That’s definitely something I’ve kept with me this year. I don’t want to feel regret looking back.”