Writer Lara Piu
Photographer Michele Dawson Photography

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ack in January, Boulder Creek High School senior Paityn Lauzon was a finalist in the Youth America Grand Prix Phoenix Division, the world’s largest ballet competition. Yet she can’t remember the moment her dance career began — understandable, considering she was only 3 years old at the time.

“I was so young when I started, and it’s all I’ve ever known,” Paityn says.

Before that, she watched her sister Kayleigh at dance recitals and competitions.

“I’m sure I was so excited to finally be able to take my own classes instead of watching everyone else,” she adds.

Paityn is just as enthusiastic today — perhaps more.

“I get so excited once I’m standing side stage, ready to go on. I’m all warmed up, jumping up and down, ready to get onto the stage,” she says, explaining the adrenaline-filled anticipation before she performs. “All I need is a good luck jelly bean and quick hugs from my mom and teachers, and then I’m ready to perform.”

At the studio where Paityn studies, Arizona Dance Artistry (AZDA), she trains 10 hours a week. She’s also a teacher’s assistant for another five hours.

“I love seeing our little ones grow from the beginning of the year to the end,” she says.

During competition seasons or production rehearsals, Paityn trains six to seven days a week and logs up to eight hours a day on the weekends. For the past two seasons, Paityn performed as Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Phoenix Youth Ballet Theatre production of “The Nutcracker.” In May, she performed the role of Giselle in the namesake classical ballet story.

When we spoke to the professional ballerina in the making, she was in the midst of a seven-week intensive summer program at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, which involves nine hours of classes six days a week. Last summer she attended Boca Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive and the summer before that, she studied with Grand Rapids Ballet.

“Ballet is year-round for me, so I only get a couple weeks off for the whole year,” Paityn says. “Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on things since I can’t hang out with my friends as often, but ballet will always come first in my life.”

Yet her schedule is balanced by comparison.

“Most ballet dancers my age choose to do online courses and go to dance during the day, as well as all afternoon and evening,” she explains. “I’ve always wanted to keep a small amount of normalcy in my busy schedule, so I go to school full time and take classes afterward.”

On a school day, she participates in BC’s dance program.

“Luckily my high school has an amazing dance program directed by Stacy Shane,” she says. “I’ve been in Performance Dance Ensemble since my freshman year. It’s always been one of the highlights of my day.”

With a 4.0 GPA and 22 college credits from AP and dual classes under her belt, it’s safe to say her approach works.

“Graduating will be bittersweet because I actually love high school,” Paityn adds.

At AZDA, Paityn studies ballet technique, pointe and variations classes. She has also studied contemporary, lyrical, jazz, tap, hip-hop, modern and classical ballet.

“My teachers have instilled in me the importance of being well rounded in all different categories of dance, even though I’d rather be doing only ballet,” Paityn explains.

The people in her dance world make all the work worth her while.

“I love dance, I love my studio, but most importantly I love my teachers,” she says. “Samantha, Melissa, Elizabeth, Hailey and Jenna are constantly pushing me past my limits and strengthening me as a dancer. They really are my second family. Having my parents, siblings and teachers supporting me only makes me want to improve and keep dancing.”

In fact, there was a bit of magic the first time she walked into AZDA.

“I had barely turned 10 at the time, but it just felt like it was meant to be and I knew that AZDA was where I belonged,” she explains. “I met the studio’s owner and director, Samantha Gobeille, that day and I instantly knew that she was going to have a huge impact on my life. I wouldn’t be half the dancer I am today without Miss Sam and all of my dance teachers now.”

And there’s also those gratifying moments when she creates joy through her work.

“There is no better feeling than when your performance can move more than just yourself, but the audience, too,” she says. “That is my absolute favorite thing about dancing.”

Her secret to success? Not having one.

“I don’t think there is ever a secret to success,” she explains. “As long as you go into things working hard with passion and determination, you will make it to where you are meant to be.”

Paityn credits the strong work ethic that her parents instilled in her and her siblings.

“I am always wanting to do my best and try my hardest in every aspect of life, whether it’s school work or dancing,” she says. “I try to stay focused and listen to the corrections I am given so that I can always apply them. I keep a journal in my dance bag at all times so that I can write down the corrections I remember from class and then read over them the next day. I make healthy choices to prevent injuries, and I put in as much effort as I possibly can every single day.”

After high school, Paityn hopes to get into a professional company. She also wants to go to college, and hopes to find a ballet company that allows dancers to earn a college degree while dancing. Otherwise, she wants to attend a college with a strong classical ballet program. Either way, her dance story will continue.

“There is nothing else I could ever see myself doing,” she says.