Where in the world is Miko Fogarty? Just three years ago, she seemed unstoppable. After being featured in the 2011 ballet documentary First Position, she became a teenage social-media star, winning top prizes at competitions in Moscow and Varna and at Youth American Grand Prix, and dancing in galas around the world. Last most of us heard, it was 2015 and she had just joined the corps of Birmingham Royal Ballet. A year later, she dropped off the ballet radar.
Turns out Fogarty, now 21, was taking time off to reevaluate her life, including the role she wanted ballet to play in it. She is now starting her junior year as a biology major at University of California—Berkeley and is considering going to medical school. (Her brother and fellow First Position subject, 19-year-old Jules, is a junior in the Berkeley economics department.) On the side she teaches private ballet lessons and gives master classes, and is the part-time conservatory director at San Jose Dance International, a new school in the San Francisco Bay Area led by artistic director Yu Xin. We caught up with her by phone.
Last we heard, you were at Birmingham Royal Ballet. Where have you been over the last couple of years?
I’ve been kind of quiet on social media about what I’m up to. I hope in the future to be more open with my followers on my daily life. I’m kind of in the process. Right now I’m a premed student at Cal and I’m researching science, which is completely different from what I was doing a couple of years ago. I’m also teaching a lot. I love teaching ballet; it’s definitely one of my passions.
What led you to change your path?
Even before I joined a company, I started losing the passion for dancing ballet and feeling like it wasn’t the career that I imagined myself doing for much longer. Of course, I didn’t open up about this on social media; I didn’t want to discourage anyone else. I felt like I had achieved a lot already in ballet, and I was ready for something more to experience. After a whole year of considering it and reevaluating my choices, I decided to apply for college. I was very sure of my decision when I made it, and I have no regrets.
Where did you start your college education?
My first year was at Feather River College, which is in Quincy, California. It’s a tiny school in the mountains. It was a nice break from the city life I was living and all the social media. Then I came back and took courses at Contra Costa College.
You were so young when First Position came out, and it catapulted you into the spotlight. Did you burn out? Or did ballet just run its course for you?
I don’t mind having followers and posting on Instagram, and being part of First Position was absolutely an honor. That’s not what made me want to change. It was ballet as a career—I was going into class and every day I was like, this is not what I want to keep doing. Even performances —when I was younger, I liked the feeling after a performance, but before and during it was kind of nerve-racking for me. It was kind of hard to enjoy; especially competitions. I thought that would change when I joined a company. It was a little better, but I didn’t feel the euphoria I hoped I would feel.
You were so known for competitions and galas. I would never have suspected you were so nervous.
I performed better when I was nervous. But I don’t want to be nervous all the time. And another side of ballet is always being so skinny. That was really mentally hard for me to sustain healthfully. That caused a little bit of depression for me. That was another reason I decided to do something else.
What were the positives you got from ballet?
Ballet has honestly given me so many amazing experiences. Traveling, knowing how to work hard, how to be disciplined about doing something is such a great skill to have in any field. Ballet taught me how to push myself past my comfort zone. It kept me healthy, and I got so many friends out of it. I’m forever grateful towards ballet. And it will be part of my life forever.
Tell me about San Jose Dance International.
We’re still in our infancy. We’re just putting together different events, such as Dancing for a Cure, which is a performance to donate to patients with cancer and their families. I recently led a (variations) workshop. It was really fun to teach variations and technique to students in the Bay Area. It’s what I do on the side, I guess; right now my full focus is school and research (on brain tumors, at UC—San Francisco). I teach private lessons and occasionally master classes, and help out with SJDI.
Is there anything you want to say to other dancers who might be going through some of the same things that you’ve gone through?
Be true to yourself, and don’t be afraid to switch careers just because you’ve done ballet for so long or worked so hard. If you feel like you’re gonna enjoy a different kind of career, then go for it. But make sure you make your decision well enough that you know you won’t regret it. You can have as much ballet as you want in your life – you can have a lot or a little bit, or somewhere in between, like I’ve been doing. And I want to say thank you to everyone who’s been supporting me through this journey.