For poet T.S. Eliot, “at the still point, there the dance is…” First-year student Nicole Szomstein, a 15-year veteran of the dance, would likely disagree.
Szomstein, SSH’21, never stops moving, whether she’s lending her expertise to BalletRox, a dance school dedicated to bringing the artform to Boston youth, or double majoring in political science and journalism at Northeastern.
“I’ve always wanted to be able to ensure the sustainability of my impact,” says Szomstein, who’s been teaching dance to children since high school. Her work with BalletRox, in particular, continues her commitment to working with those who have little access to serious dance lessons. When she was 16, she developed a program called Stand Up and Dance for students aged 5 to 13 who attended a homeless empowerment center in her native Miami. “The boys wanted to do hip-hop and the girls wanted to learn pirouettes, so the classes kept me on my toes,” she says.
Northeastern’s emphasis on co-op is what drew me here. The best way to gain mastery is to apply what you learn to the real world.
— Nicole Szomstein, SSH’21
Szomstein was more than up to the challenge. A dedicated volunteer, she interned with U.S. Rep.Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida in the summer of 2015, gaining a front-row seat to lobbying efforts by constituents opposed to the Iran nuclear deal and, in turn, learned how politicians respond to voters’ concerns. “I was a fly on the wall,” she says. “I got to see how the process really works.”
Through an organization called the Political Institute for Women, she attended a Girls in Politics Initiative, where she participated in a mock campaign, making fundraising calls and designing a video advertisement. She went on to complete a six-week internship with PIW founder Kimberly Mitchem-Rasmussen focused on developing an app to educate young girls about politics.
“I’ve always believed in experiential learning,” she says. “Northeastern’s emphasis on co-op is what drew me here. The best way to gain mastery is to apply what you learn to the real world.”
Her dance resumé underscores the point. Her training was rigorous: From the age of 3 she studied ballet in the Russian tradition at Vladimir Issaev’s School of Classical Ballet, in Miami, and for years was a member of Issaev’s professional company, Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida. There, as she climbed the ranks, she found herself putting in 20-plus hours a week for classes and rehearsals. “The discipline of dance formed my character,” she says. “It helped me create a balance between school and outside activities.” No doubt it ensured her success in the 15 AP courses she took in high school.
Dance also opened up opportunities to explore the world—a passion she’ll continue to pursue given Northeastern’s many global programs. As a member of an Israeli dance troupe at her local Jewish Community Center, Szomstein performed at festivals or competitions in Panama, Israel, Chile, and Spain. As a member of a Jewish youth leadership group, she volunteered at an orphanage in Costa Rica and participated in a student exchange in Israel.
Szomstein knows that her facility with languages—she speaks Spanish, English, and Hebrew—will continue to serve her well as a college student traveling abroad. “Traveling contributed to my understanding of diversity,” she says. “It enabled me to see things through a different lens. Performing with people from other countries, staying with host families, highlighted our common ground—dance—but also what we could learn from one another.”