For 14-year-old Stephanie Kurlow, ballet is a passion, and one she’s not willing to give up, despite the many detractors discouraging her.

Kurlow remembers putting on her first tutu and ballet pumps at the age of two, and growing up in Sydney, she has always dreamed of dancing on stage as a professional ballerina. She sees her religion as being no bar on her aspiration, claiming that being a Muslim makes her dance moves distinctive, and that through the rhythm she feels more connected to God.

Her family, comprising of a Russian mother, an Australian father, and two brothers, collectively converted to Islam when she was nine. Although she gave up dancing for a while after that, it wasn’t long before the overwhelming passion returned.

Improvising a new costume made of long, flowing tulle skirt and matching headscarf, Kurlow is back to practicing 30 hours-a-week, preparing for a professional entry on stage. She trains at her mother’s academy for performing arts, which caters especially to Muslims and minorities.

Chinese-Australian ballerina Li Cunxin is a role model for Kurlow because of her courage in overcoming so many obstacles to reach the top of her profession. It’s the spot the young Kurlow has in her sights.

Kurlow says she has received encouragement on social media, but plenty of hate mail as well, but that’s not going to deter her in any way. She hopes her example will inspire other Muslim girls to step forward and pursue the opportunities to attain their dreams.