A Sydney teenager has been granted a scholarship allowing her to become the world’s first hijabi ballerina.
Stephanie Kurlow, 14, gave up dancing after converting to Islam in 2010 and failing to find an academy that met her religious and dancing requirements.
Her passion for ballet prompted the launch of a crowd-sourcing initiative in January, with the aim of raising $10,000 to fund Stephanie a place in a full-time ballet school.
Swedish sports brand Björn Borg responded to Stephanie’s campaign by releasing a pledge video and awarding her the “Game Changer Scholarship” that supports athletes with “extraordinary visions and dreams”.
Mehmet Ozalp, executive director and associate professor of the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy of Australia, commended Stephanie for chasing her dreams, but believes her actions may ignite a clash of extreme views.
“People in the Western circle may say ballet is an important Western symbol and there is no place for the hijabi,” he told The Newsroom. “But I think most will support Stephanie on her journey. It is the merging of two streams.”
Stephanie’s Facebook page has also been flooded with messages of support.
“My little girls Elisa Sabrina Rosli (10 yo) and Erina Sofea (8 yo) are little ballerinas too. You will be an inspiration and role model to them and many more muslim ballerinas,” said Azura Shamsuddin.
Meryem Cinar said: “You are amazing lil girl! you will inspire many hijabis.”
Stephanie hopes her success will encourage young Muslims to pursue their goals in all careers. “It’s not just about me doing ballet. It’s about Muslims becoming engineers or TV presenters or writers,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Stephanie also has aspirations to open her own performing arts school in Sydney to cater for dancers of varying religious and cultural backgrounds. – Samantha Barrie
Screengrab of Stephanie Kurlow from Björn Borg’s YouTube channel.