Juliette McLaughlin
Juliette McLaughlin of Scotts Valley, a senior at Harbor High School, has been dancing since the age of 6. She recently signed with the Utah Metropolitan Ballet as a professional ballerina. (Contributed)

Juliette McLaughlin has been pirouetting her way through life since the age of 6. The Scotts Valley teen and Harbor High School senior has been dancing with Santa Cruz Ballet for 12 years, and she’s ready to take her next big assemblé into professional dance with the Utah Metropolitan Ballet as a ballerina.

With only 2% of ballerinas being offered a professional contract, that speaks volumes about McLaughlin’s passion, dedication and determination.

Diane Cypher, artistic director for Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre, has watched McLaughlin grow into the dancer she is today, and is thrilled for her success but not surprised.

“Juliette started training at The Studio as a young child and was shy at first, but always serious about classes,” Cypher said. “She joined the Petite Company of Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre and immediately gained confidence in performances. Continuing to hone her excellent work ethic, she mastered the academy’s syllabus requirements at a steady pace, moving through the program, ultimately achieving the high level at which she currently trains. She also moved through the Junior Company and Senior Company smoothly, gaining confidence as she built skills as a technician and performer.”

That confidence and skill didn’t come easily; McLaughlin has been training for 20-30 hours per week since she was 10 years old and considers dance her full-time job. Her 3.8 GPA has held steady, even while enrolled in multiple advanced placement courses. 

Juliette McLaughlin
Juliette McLaughlin has been a member of the Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre Senior Company for several years. (Contributed)

In December 2023, McLaughlin attended the National Master Audition in Los Angeles. Rather than having to travel to multiple cities to audition for one company at a time, the National Master Audition allows pre-professional dancers to be seen by 13 different companies for both ballet and modern dance. 

The four-day trial began with 75-100 dancers going en pointe; after a series of cuts, there were 15 dancers remaining. When all was said and done, McLaughlin was tapped by Utah Metropolitan Ballet to join their Company One, which is for demi-soloists, soloists and principal dancers—basically, the stars of the show.

Company Two dancers are considered core or ensemble dancers, and McLaughlin says it generally takes several years to be promoted from Company Two into Company One, but she was given an offer to start at the top of her game, and she’s been leaping for joy ever since.

As happy as McLaughlin is for what lies ahead, her parents are over the moon.

“When Juliette was a little girl, she would have nightly dance performances in a tutu in our living room. Our close friends and family learned to expect it when they came over for dinner and found it very endearing,” said her mother Christina. “Over the years it seemed to transition from cute to something more elite. We’re so proud of what she has achieved and so grateful for her friends, family, teachers and classmates who have been with her through it all. We cannot wait to see her take her talents to the next level. She is not just talented, but so kindhearted, generous and compassionate, and that is what makes us proud.”

Cypher is equally effusive about McLaughlin’s advancement.

“She has been a member of the Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre Senior Company for several years now and is ready to take on the world as a professional in the field,” Cypher said. “I could not be prouder of her hard work through the pandemic, which was extremely difficult, and also of her temperament. She is a team player, always generously supporting her peers and is wonderful to work with.”

Juliette McLaughlin
Juliette McLaughlin joins Utah Metropolitan Ballet’s Company One, which is for demi-soloists, soloists and principal dancers. (Contributed)

As for McLaughlin, she gives credit to Cypher’s instruction for helping her achieve this goal. 

“In the fifth grade, right after I got en pointe, I was cast as Clara in ‘The Nutcracker’ with Santa Cruz Ballet, and I was so excited,” McLaughlin said. “Since then, Diane has helped me in every way, and I’m so grateful to her for her guidance and support.”

Cypher added that McLaughlin has that “rare combination of natural ability and superior work ethic, self-motivation and discipline.”

“Her technical accomplishments are very strong, so I have no doubt she will flourish at Utah Metropolitan Ballet, which is a wonderful small professional company. The Artistic Director is very demanding and I know Juliette will do well in that environment,” Cypher said. “I could not be prouder of the dancer and graceful young woman she has become.”

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Christina Wise covers politics, education, art & culture, and housing issues. She has a degree in Communication from San Diego State University, and has lived in the San Lorenzo Valley since 1996. She's a community advocate and a mother of two.


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