AOTI: Dancer and musician Sabrina Zhang

AOTI: Dancer and musician Sabrina Zhang

Both a master of melody and a showstopping performing artist, senior Sabrina Zhang is an avid dancer, pianist and cellist who allows her musical connection to guide her performance on and off the stage.

She has participated in dance and piano for thirteen years, shining at the competitive level in both mediums. Despite having struggled with a dislocated knee in middle school, Zhang has led an impressive career in dance with recognition at the national level. In the Showstopper National Dance Competition, Zhang was the runner-up for contemporary dance in 2020, the regional champion for contemporary dance in 2022 and ranked fourth overall in the 2022 competition.

For Zhang, dance is a mode of physical release and self-expression. She has trained in ballet since she was little, but she branched out to other styles including contemporary and hip-hop through her own choreography. Zhang appreciates the opportunity to tell stories through dance for herself and her audience.

In the 2022 winter dance show, Zhang showcased a contemporary solo choreographed to Billie Eilish’s Come Out and Play. Through this piece, Zhang recounted her journey from being a timid dancer to a braver individual. This confidence also came through in the group hip-hop piece she choreographed to Salute by Little Mix.

Classmate and fellow senior Alice Wang commented, “Every time I work with [Zhang] I am amazed at how brilliant she is as a dancer and choreographer. She continuously inspires me with her profound talent and creativity.”

Zhang emphasized how important the dance community at Poly has been to her. From forming close relationships with upper and underclassmen to the mentorship of Poly Dance Director Danielle Pigneri, dance at Poly has been particularly special to her. Zhang asserts that this community, spearheaded by Pigneri’s warmth and resilience, reinforced her passion for dance.

Zhang also appreciates the beauty dance brings to her life.“You can get super focused on technique or getting the moves right, but sometimes there are some moves that feel absolutely free, and that’s the beauty of dance.”

On the other hand, Zhang explores ways of interpreting piano pieces written by others within her musical endeavors. “The concept of finding different voices in a piece really spoke to me,” she said. For Zhang, the beauty of learning piano is in uncovering the dynamics behind the notes on the page.

Although playing piano initially felt competitive, Zhang discovered how attention to detail in piano allows her to make each recital her own, the epitome of what performing art is to her. The effort and care she put in paid off. Zhang earned first place in the Satori Summer Music Festival for piano four times and, in 2021, landed the grand prize at the Bach Festival.

Part of what enables her to delve so deeply into her music is her interdisciplinary musical background. Zhang finds that each of her artistic mediums inform the others. “During my time practicing the piano, I started seeing my right hand and my left hand like two dancers in a room doing a duet together,” she explains. Still, Zhang credits her level of musical understanding and expertise to her experience playing the cello.

Seven years ago, Zhang began experimenting with the cello as a sixth grader in her middle school orchestra. Zhang found time to dive into cello playing during the pandemic when it became her outlet and main hobby. She began pursuing cello more seriously in her junior year.

Zhang reflected on how cello grounds her. “Thinking of how I can become a better cellist and performer has actually helped me find ways to relax and let go of worries while I play, and that has translated to other parts of my life.”
Wherever life takes Zhang, the lessons she has learned from her musical talents will follow her.

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