Senior Spotlight: Ellie Cohen

Lin Yee

Going through Instagram, you can find lots of interesting posts and videos. Some that always catch my eye are the videos that Ellie Cohen posts, featuring her and her friends dancing through various hip hop combinations. I first met Ellie in French class, but Dance Ellie was so different from School Ellie, in the best way possible. 


If you know Ellie, you would know that she has always been a dancer. “I first started dancing when I was three years old,” Ellie explains. “My mother put me in it because I was very shy as a kid and she wanted me to get out of my shell.” Props to Mom, because that plan worked out marvelously. Maybe it was the makeup and dress-up part distracting her, but young Ellie never felt nervous or got stage fright before performing; “I think for me, I was one of those kids who wanted to do everything right and never got distracted by the audience.” 


Nowadays, she loves performing more than ever. “It’s one of the most magical feelings one could experience, being up on the stage with everyone watching you.” The pre-performance jitters are still there sometimes, but her passion for dance and performance makes the problems go away. 


As people grow up, their passions grow up and mature with them as well. For instance, at first Ellie thought she was a life-long ballerina, until she decided to branch out. For the majority of her 14 years of dancing, she has done ballet. Since entering high school, however, she started to explore other genres of dance, including jazz, contemporary, and hip hop, the latter of which she focuses on now. The decision to concentrate on hip hop came down to COVID and the demanding ballet schedule. Despite having to drop it, she adds that ballet has given her the technique to adapt to different genres, easing otherwise difficult transitions.


Ellie’s experiences with dance have also evolved with her and have given her a unique insight on life. She originally planned to major in dance, but then had a change of heart: “I realized that I didn’t want dance to be my job. I wanted dance to be a therapy for me.” She realized that she had to keep it special and not overdo it, in order to continue the passion. 


Dance has also taught Ellie a lot about mental health, an issue that is close to her heart. “I think that dance has shown me how beneficial it is to one’s own being, but also how cruel it can be.” She brings up the fact that many in the dance world suffer from problems with eating and self-image, due to the stigma around dance. The normalization of looking at yourself in skin-tight clothing and comparing yourself to others is also quite detrimental. Ellie did not realize the true effect until she began easing out of ballet, and believes that mental health in the dance world should be looked at more closely. 


Reflecting back on fourteen years of dance, Ellie believes that the number one thing she has gained from dancing is herself. “Because I started at such a young age, dance has morphed me into the individual I am today.” She would also like to thank her dance teachers, who she looks up to the most. They have taught her both dance and life skills, the most important of which is how to be professional. Whether it be for a performance, a job, for school, or just out in the world, Ellie will take these lessons with her wherever life takes her. 


As she prepares to close one major chapter of her life and enter into a new one, Ellie’s plans regarding dance are still up in the air. She plans to attend the University of Washington and major in psychology. Taking what she learned from dance with her, she has considered being some sort of mental health advocate.


 Dance-wise, she is not entirely sure if she will continue to dance after she graduates. UW-Seattle does have a student hip hop association that she could join, but there is always the possibility that this is the end of the road for her and dance. “I have been slowly backing out of dance ever since this year, and it has been a prolonged grieving experience for me. I am still kind of in denial that my fourteen years of dancing is almost over. It is a bittersweet moment. I know that dance will always be a part of who I am and even though I won’t be doing it as rigorous as I have done in the past, it is still there for me.”