Traralgon’s Sarah takes on New York

Heidi Kraak

Many people move to New York in the hope they will make it big, but in a lot of ways Traralgon teen Sarah O’Brien is already a success story.

Sarah, 17, was one of three dancers selected from a pool of more than 1000 to receive a full scholarship to attend a prestigious dance school in New York and will fly out on Friday.

Sarah has been dancing since she was two years old and already trains full-time at The Jane Moore Academy of Ballet in Melbourne, but will step it up a notch in New York.

“It will be a lot more hours. I think the training will be a lot more intense as well,” she said.

“To have the teachers, the choreographers … they’ve been in companies and everything, so it is going to be a great opportunity to be taught by them.

“My ultimate dream is to be in a ballet company. But I will take anything: jazz, lyrical, musical theatre, acting, anything.”

On top of all her training, Sarah will keep up with her education via correspondence, but isn’t too fazed by the prospect of more hard work.

“I’ve always loved dancing. I was thinking the other day, like, ‘what if I was to finish now, what would I do with my life?” she said.

“But all I know is ballet … so that is where I’m going with it. I can’t believe I’ve been given this opportunity given that I am a small-town girl going to Melbourne and now Manhattan.

“It is just crazy to think that my dream is coming true and I’m following it.”

Sarah said she hoped she could inspire other dancers in the Latrobe Valley to dream big.

“[I want] to show to all the younger dancers in the Latrobe Valley that you can do it, like myself,” she said.

“I just started here doing classes and now I’m going to New York.”

Sarah’s mum Trish O’Brien said she was “delighted”, even though it was a bit of a ” bitter-sweet moment”.

“She has my full backing and support and I wish her well,” she said.

“The whole journey has developed Sarah into the beautiful person she is today, and caring and so loving to everybody.”

While Sarah is on a full scholarship, extra costs such as accommodation, flights and insurance are not covered by the dance school, and she has a fundraising set up to help her cover the costs of living in New York.

“Like if I stay another year I don’t think I’d be able to afford it,” she said.

“To be able to have other people help by donating money towards my dream to further my training in New York and to be able to stay there longer… that would be very appreciated.”

To donate or view Sarah’s fundraising page, visit