I’m a Berkeleyan: Miko Fogarty on ballet and why she left it for college

I started ballet when I was 4. At 9, I began competing at international ballet competitions and by the time I was 11, my life revolved around ballet. I basically dedicated my whole life to ballet at that point. Like, every minute of every day.

Miko Fogarty looking at the camera

Miko Fogarty, a junior transfer student at UC Berkeley, is majoring in integrative biology with plans of going to medical school. (UC Berkeley photo by Anne Brice)

After I finished sixth grade, we decided I would enroll in a homeschooling online program to accommodate my training and travel schedule. I missed school a lot. I would dance all day, then do my online classes at night from 8 p.m. until midnight or 1 a.m. When I was 13, I had this really bad habit of doing homework until 3 a.m., which I do not recommend.

At 12, Fogarty was featured in a ballet documentary, First Position.

The most prestigious competition I went to was the Moscow International Ballet Competition, which is held every four years. It’s considered to be the equivalent to the Olympics. I was so nervous. It went on for about two weeks. We trained so hard for that competition — seven hours a day leading up to it. My mom and I moved all the way from the Bay Area to Indiana for three months before the competition because there were really good teachers there.

I got through all the rounds, and then I ended up winning gold at 16. It was the biggest thing I had accomplished and I felt like my hard work had paid off.

Fogarty won gold in the Moscow International Ballet Competition when she was 16.

Soon after that competition, I got my first bigger injury. I broke my second metatarsal in my right foot. It was a confusing period. I was so lost and didn’t know what to do with myself without ballet. It was really hard for me, but it was also the first time I got a break from ballet. I got a couple months off to recover.

I got my contract to Birmingham Royal Ballet when I was 17.

KQED produced a video about Fogarty before she left to join Birmingham Royal Ballet.

I joined the company, but after a few months, I realized ballet as a career wasn’t for me. I just didn’t like having a job where I was only judged for my physical attributes. I wanted to also be judged on my intellectual abilities. I really wanted to pursue something else. So, I decided to go to college.

After two years in community college, I transferred to UC Berkeley. My dad got his MBA from Berkeley when I was 2 and my younger brother is an undergraduate student here, too. I guess we’re just a UC Berkeley family. It’s always been my dream school. I’m planning on becoming a doctor or researcher, but I don’t know in what yet. I still have to get into medical school.

Miko with her arms in the air in a ballet pose

Now, Fogarty teaches ballet lessons and master classes, but her main focus is being a student. “I didn’t know how much I missed school until I came back,” she says. (UC Berkeley photo by Anne Brice)

In ballet, I learned so much about discipline, how to work hard — to put 100 percent into everything I do. I’ll be speaking at TEDx Berkeley in March about what I learned from ballet and to encourage people to not be afraid to change your life if you’re not happy with what you’re doing now. Now, I teach private ballet lessons and master classes, but I’m mainly focusing on school.

I feel like this is my second chapter. It’s quite different. I didn’t know how much I missed school until I came back.

This is part of a series of thumbnail sketches of people in the UC Berkeley community who exemplify Berkeley, in all its creative, scrappy, world-changing, quirky glory. Are you a Berkeleyan? Know one? Let us know. We’ll add your name to a drawing for an I’m a Berkeleyan T-shirt.