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Abigail Sartin : Dancing Through Adversity

Dreams of the World: One Dream a Time. This post is the latest in the series Dreams of the World, which profiles interesting people Kike meets during his travels.   Abigail Marie Sartin is eighteen years old. Originally from Wichita, Kansas, she now works in New York, practicing diligently to become a professional ballet dancer at SLK Ballet, under the guidance...

Dreams of the World: One Dream a Time. This post is the latest in the series Dreams of the World, which profiles interesting people Kike meets during his travels.  

Abigail Marie Sartin is eighteen years old. Originally from Wichita, Kansas, she now works in New York, practicing diligently to become a professional ballet dancer at SLK Ballet, under the guidance of accomplished dancer Sara Knight. Her father puts her in dancing classes when she was only two years old, shortly before he passed away from heart complications.

Abigail Sartin by KIKE CALVO
Abigail Sartin trains daily at SLK Ballet, under the guidance of dancer Sara Knight. Photo © KIKE CALVO


“My dream is to share my emotions and passion for life to audiences across the globe, so that I can share the way my faith in God informs my art,” Abigail said. She hopes to be an inspiration to those who were told that they could not pursue their dreams, helping them break down the walls people try to build around them.

Her passion showed as she eloquently reflected on my image of her holding her pointe shoes. “I was thinking about all the sorrow of the past years and all the things and people who had tried to stop me from pursuing my dream. All the people who had told me I wasn’t good enough, the grief that came from almost losing my mom, losing my father as a child, and having to protect myself from the people who tried to tear me down. I was clutching my pointe shoes just as a daily cling to the hope that one day I will succeed beyond all odds. With my eyes closed I was imagining how good it will feel when one day I can look back on that exact moment with pride, knowing I had conquered the walls that had once surrounded me.”

Although she is only seventeen years old, Abigail has danced for almost sixteen years – moving with grace even as she was learning to walk. Although it is difficult for her to be apart from her family for most of the year, she has worked tirelessly for what she believes in.

Abigail has endured more tragedy than many twice her age have encountered. On October 25, 2013, my her mother was hit by a police car while crossing a street in New York City, leaving her unconscious and in critical condition in the ICU for nearly a month. She had incurred severely traumatic brain injury and extensive physical injuries. She lived in a brain rehabilitation clinic for a month after leaving he hospital. “Every day I visited her before and after ballet, as she pieced back together who she was and what had happened to her. It was devastating to me, having to live without a mother for almost two and half months, and ballet was my only escape,” she told me.  “Today she is overcoming all odds and is working on physical therapy, and mental therapy as her brain and body slowly heals with the support of my family and friends.”

How does Abigail deal with these hardships and keep working at such a physically and emotionally grueling calling? Her relationship with Jesus Christ and deep religious convictions are what motivate her to keep going. Her religion is her inspiration, bringing her joy and helping her give that joy to others: “I love using the beautiful body God gave me to do extraordinary things and share with others my love for life and the beauty in His masterpiece.”


Dancer Abigail Sartin by KIKE CALVO




This inner love and fighting spirit have already gotten Abigail far in the world. She has an uncommon dedication to her passion, sacrificing her home, family, friends, childhood, and comfort for the beauty of ballet. She left home at 15 to learn in New York City, under tremendous pressure even before her mother almost died. Abigail does high school online while spending her days doing Pilates, individual workouts, and dancing. She has sacrificed a normal childhood, but from this sacrifice have come incredible gifts. She didn’t seem to regret it, as she told me hopefully: “I dream and pray that one day I can achieve what I feel led to do with my life, and share with others my passion for this beautiful art.”


Dancers Among Us: A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday is a book of photographs of professional dancers in unexpected places. Jordan Matter shows us dancers creating their art in the midst of daily life.

Dancers: Behind the Scenes with The Royal Ballet brings the viewer an inside look at the world of a ballet dancer. Complicated, passionate, and grueling, the world of dance is made accessible in this collection of photographs.

And if you want to see some ballet in person, try going to a local show, asking to visit a dress rehearsal, or even taking a class yourself!


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Learn more:
Kike Calvo Ballet Gift Collection
Explore a selection of Ballet books
National Geographic Book “Stunning Photographs” 

Buy a Ballet or Dance print from Kike:
National Geographic Online Store
Great Canvas Online Store 

Books on Dance and Ballet:
Dancers: Behind the Scenes with The Royal Ballet
Darcey Bussell
Dancers Among Us: A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday

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Meet the Author

Author Photo Kike Calvo
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike: