“IT FEELS SUPERHUMAN,” says Dylan Sherman. With his perfect coiffed hair and impeccable posture, he is the archetypal dancer.
When I first met Dylan, I thought that he was what people mean when they say they want to be artists. He doesn’t waste words, movements, or gestures. In a vaguely ‘90s-reminiscent windbreaker and nicely fitting pants, he has the kind of offbeat style that comes across as chic, understated, and quietly alternative. There’s no single aspect of his appearance that marks him as an artsy Seattle hipster (though he transcends such labels), but rather his demeanor as a whole.
A freshman from Seattle, Dylan has been dancing ballet since he was nine years old, enrolled in the same class as his older sister at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. It began with Swan Lake, where he became inspired by the iconic tutus and magnificent set.
“I did a bunch of little kid sports, like soccer, T-Ball, and swimming lessons,” Dylan says. “But nothing really stuck, because they’re so team-oriented, and I was definitely more introverted, especially during that elementary school age. I never had that athletic, masculine, go-getter attitude.”
But ballet was different. It required immense skill, concentration, talent. Above all, as Dylan discovered, it also required introspection and grace. Ballet quickly became much more than an after-school activity. Behind every movement was hours of rehearsal and practice.
“It just made sense,” Dylan says.
“It gave me an identity that reflected onto other people, and also how I saw myself. It did help get a stronger sense of what it means to be an introvert, and be in control of yourself.”
And it shows. Dylan carries himself with a quiet, unassuming confidence. Every move he makes is precise. He embodies the amalgamation of strength and refinement, the Renaissance art of sprezzatura.
At Stanford, Dylan acknowledges that his rigorous academic schedule is incompatible with the demands of advanced ballet. Though he is a member of Cardinal Ballet, he explains that “it’s no longer about perfect placement.” Instead, it’s about applying his body to space, outside of the strict rules of ballet, and exploring dance in a capacity outside of the strict hierarchy of a ballet company.
“I’m not sad to leave it behind,” he says about ballet. He has recently begun exploring contemporary dance, and enjoying dance for what it is, without the structural meticulousness of ballet. Similarly, he’s gained the freedom to broaden his intellectual horizons as a freshman in college. Being a dancer will always be a part of his identity.
Ballet began as a way for Dylan to connect with himself, but became an introduction to the arts world as a whole.
When asked what he wants to study at Stanford, Dylan says,
“I'm interested in arts administration, specifically how cultural institutions can be designed to shape civic discourse and engagement.”
While ballet will always be an integral part of his identity, he’s looking forward to exploring other areas of interests in college, and applying his talent in other capacities, like contemporary dance.
“At times, when everything comes together, and you’re flowing through movements,” Dylan says, “you can feel the gaze of people around the room on you. It feels miraculous.”
By: Lisa Liu
Photography by: James Schull