FALMOUTH – Sasha Dmochowski got into dance for the costumes. As a 5-year-old in Falmouth, her two best friends took dance.
And, she said, when she saw the costumes they were going to wear to a recital, she was hooked.
“I thought they were the cat’s meow. I really wanted to wear costumes,” she said.
While those two friends eventually stopped dancing, Sasha kept at it, becoming a professional dancer with two of the top dance companies in the country.
And now at age 37, she is working toward her doctorate clinical psychology at the Weight and Eating Disorders Laboratory at University of Albany, SUNY.
From her years as a professional dancer before retiring in 2010, she has first-hand knowledge on the subject.
This weekend, Sasha is in Falmouth visiting family.
And she will be bringing together all of her passions by guest-teaching classes at Turning Pointe Dance Studio, which is owned by one of her childhood friends, Laura Sciortino.
She will teach a masters class to the advanced Turning Pointe students, but she will also teach two workshops on other elements of dance: nutrition and injury prevention.
With these topics, Sasha brings not just her experience as a professional dancer but also her academic studies.
Her audience will be mostly girls 9 to 18 years old, at an age when proper nutrition is critical and problems around body image are rampant.
Sasha said the importance of nutrition cannot be overstated. “Injuries occur because of inattention to diet,”she said.
She continued, “Dancers are athletes really. Yes, there is the artistic component.” But the bottom line is they are athletes with the nutritional needs of athletes, she said.
As in any career in which a certain body type is required, like modeling, wrestling or gymnastics, in dance, there can be psychological issues around body image that can lead to anorexia and other physical ailments, Sasha said.
Sasha’s career from her start in Falmouth to her years as a professional dancer has traveled a unique arc.
She began studying with legendary Falmouth dance teacher Klara Koenig, who herself had studied with the modern dance pioneer Rudolph Laban and danced in the corps of the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia.
Sasha remembers at first being scared of Koenig, who had a thick Hungarian accent.
“I was reading a lot of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. She reminded me of a fary tale. I quit”
But then she saw her friends’ costumes and she was back in.
Over years of classes, Koenig became a grandmother figure to Sasha. She recognized the young girl’s talent but she didn’t push her.
“She made it fun,” Sasha recalled.
She went on to study at the Boston Ballet School.
Eventually, Sasha’s skill and hard work landed her a spot with the Boston Ballet. She signed with them as a 15-year-old, dropping out of high school to be a performer in one of the top ballet companies in the country.
She was with the company for six years.
In 2001, she joined American Ballet Theater, touring the country and the world with the prestigious group.
Along the way, she earned her GED, took classes at UMass Boston and earned college credits through online classes.
In 2007, she began attending Columbia University full- time with enough college credits to start as a junior. She earned her bachelors degree in psychology and went on to earn a masters in general psychology at New York University.
In the summers, she performed at American Ballet Theater’s Metropolitan Opera House season at Lincoln Center, making enough money to pay her rent in Manhattan.
“It was my summer job but it was lots of fun, ” she said.
She retired from American Ballet Theater in 2010.
Having lived the life of a dancer for so many years, Sasha said she has seen “countless” dancers with serious issues around weight and eating disorders.
Now she can bring her knowledge around these issues culled from her 25-year professional dance career and her academic scholarship to the next generation.
And all because she wanted to wear pretty costumes.
-Laura M. Reckford