“On stage there’s so many people, thousands of people, but I can spot all the hijabis in the audience. It would always be a special connection when you look at them and you sort of have that moment of like, I see you and I’m so happy you’re here.

“When I was young, I would have never thought that I would see a hijabi dancer on stage with The Wiggles. That was just amazing and to think that they see that representation and they feel like they belong as well, which I think is really important.”

Kurlow, 18, grew up around Castle Hill, in Sydney’s north-western suburbs,  and remembers searching for a Muslim ballet dancer on Google when she was a child and finding nothing.

Stephanie Kurlow trains several hours every day.

Stephanie Kurlow trains several hours every day. Credit:Tom Compagnoni

“That was sort of a bit disappointing because you don’t have someone to look up to. Or someone to sort of guide you on how to get to that place of professionalism.”

Then she saw Zahra Lari, the world’s first hijabi figure skater, while watching the news and she was inspired.

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“Seeing other women in sports, and ice skating, and models and everything, journalists, is just… it’s a really beautiful thing.”

Kurlow describes herself as “very visibly Muslim” and feels a deep connection between her dancing and her faith.

She began wearing the hijab when she was 11-years-old and says the Muslim community has been incredibly supportive.

“My faith is really important to me. And it’s something that’s very spiritual for me. And so, I think that really comes out in my dancing.”

Stephanie Kurlow warming up before dancing.

Stephanie Kurlow warming up before dancing.Credit:Tom Compagnoni

She plans to work hard, make sacrifices and dedicate most of her time to becoming a professional ballerina in a company over the next few years, but she’s also thinking of her future beyond this.

“Later on in my career, one of my biggest dreams is to open my own ballet studio. For kids and young people of all races, religions and backgrounds and abilities. I really want to have a safe space for people to appreciate ballet and enjoy it just as much as I do.”

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