Leili Rackow (Jean Celest Photography, courtesy San Francisco Ballet)
You might have seen 16-year-old Leili posing in a Discount Dance Supply ad, or competing at the 2015 Youth America Grand Prix finals in NYC. But this super-focused aspiring ballerina spends most of her time away from the spotlight, training at the San Francisco Ballet School. In fact, Leili first fell in love with the stage after studying traditional Chinese dance as a way to honor her heritage.
It turns out that Leili has a remarkable backstory: When she was 11 months old, her American parents adopted her from her foster mother at an orphanage in Nanchang, China. Now, her hard work and talent have put her on the path to success.
"My foster mother explained to my parents that whenever I heard music I would dance and laugh. So perhaps my love for dance was always in me." —Leili Rackow
Birthday: December 29, 1999
Hometown: Agoura Hills, CA. “But I was born in Nanchang, China."
Current favorite song: “New Soul," by Yael Naim. “It always puts a smile on my face!"
Favorite food: Mexican food
Best advice she's received: “Face your challenges with grace and humility."
Dream role: Kitri in Don Quixote
Choreographer she'd love to work with: SFB corps member Myles Thatcher
Go-to stress reliever: Taking a bath with lavender Epsom salts
Dance idol: “Yuan Yuan Tan. She's a joy to watch and I've witnessed her dedication, poise and grace."
Her dancing in three words: “Sharp, musical and daring"
Proudest achievement: “I live on my own and have become a self-sufficient young adult."
Non-dance hobbies: “I like to spend time outside, whether it's walking or running. I'm always up for an adventure!"
Advice for Dance Spirit readers: “Research the story of a ballet and watch live performances. You have to do more than just look pretty onstage. A dancer has to move the audience."