Hayden Hopkins, with her long, wavy hair, dream-dancer figure and legs that comprise 70 percent of her body, moves with intention, passion and a slyly sweet smirk. She teeters across the floor on a relevé so high you think her feet just might snap—but she has the strength to stay on balance while bringing her other leg into a développé extending far beyond her head.
It’s not surprising that picture-perfect Hayden, 16, has developed a cult following online, with more than 10,000 Facebook followers and an overwhelming number of dancers creating fan pages and reaching out to her through Twitter. She posts photos from competitions, shows off her impossibly bendy body and shares snapshots of her alongside fellow superstar friend Sophia Lucia. But Hayden wants her admirers to know there’s more to her seemingly charmed life beyond her Instagram filter.
“People see pictures of me and think I have this perfect life,” Hayden says. Despite the pretty pictures, though, Hayden hasn’t always had it easy, and the past few years have proven especially difficult.
Hayden started dancing at 2 in her home state of Washington. She delved into the competition scene early, but by 13 decided it wasn’t for her. “I wanted to get away and work on my training,” she says. Plus, things at home were taking a turn: Hayden’s parents had just been through a divorce, and finances became a struggle, especially with Hayden’s sister, Lennox, pursuing a competitive rhythmic gymnastic career. So Hayden, who is home-schooled and lives with her sister and their mom in Puyallup, WA, took her training into her own hands. She takes classes at various area studios when possible (primarily Westlake Dance Center in Seattle), travels with conventions when she’s awarded scholarships to cover the costs, and watches YouTube videos in her living room to guide her through barre and center-work exercises.
“I make my own connections,” Hayden says. She attends 10 to 12 conventions each year independently (including JUMP, NUVO and West Coast Dance Explosion) in an effort to meet as many choreographers as she can—and the relentless networking has paid off. At WCDE’s Las Vegas Nationals in 2010, Hayden met the owners of a studio based in Sydney, Australia. They loved Hayden—they had seen her on YouTube first, naturally—and offered to fly her Down Under to act as a guest teacher and choreographer. Hayden has been back for another monthlong stay to work with the studio, and that trip ended just two days before she flew to NYC for the Cover Model Search competition.
“I love meeting people who recognize me from the internet,” she says. “I don’t know why people started to follow me, but hopefully it’s because they see something positive I’m putting out there.” As for the inevitable haters? “There will always be people who look for negatives, whether about my body or what I’m wearing—it’s easy for people to judge while they’re hiding behind their computers. But I’m proud of who I am.”
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT HAYDEN
Stacey Tookey, convention instructor: “Hayden is a very talented young dancer with an incredible facility and a magnetic passion for dance. She stands out as a bright light, even in a class with hundreds of dancers. I adore her and I know she’ll go far.”
Greg Zane, ballet instructor at Broadway Dance Center: “Hayden has beautiful extensions and feet. She’s very strong. Her dancing reminds me of Sylvie Guillem’s—she has control over her extensions, so she doesn’t just whack her leg, she shows the line and
the energy through the body. It’s very pretty.”
Birthday: July 5, 1997
Most-played on her iPod: Lana Del Rey
Who would play her in a movie: Troian Bellisario, who plays Spencer on “Pretty Little Liars.” “I think she looks like me!”
Favorite actor: Leonardo DiCaprio
Dance goals: “I just want to be the person who’s always traveling. I always want
to be in a different state
or a different country.”
Favorite dancers of all time: Stacey Tookey, Nick Lazzarini, Travis Wall and Jason Parsons
Favorite meal: Spaghetti and garlic bread
Strangest thing in her dance bag: “A rotten orange I keep forgetting to take out”
Favorite movie: Garden State
Must-see TV shows: “Pretty Little Liars”
and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” “Kourtney’s my favorite.”
If she could be a superhero, her power would be: “Invisibility, so
I could spy on people. And I know it sounds weird, but I’d spy on my best friend to see what she’s doing when I’m not around!”
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