Talk with Lisa Marie Scott for any length of time, and the conversation turns to ballet -- to Russian ballerina Ekaterina Maximova, "La Bayadère," the Joffrey Ballet's "Astarte" and occasionally to more recognizable names such as Mikhail Baryshnikov or "Swan Lake." "It's more than a hobby," says this tiny, buoyant achiever as she shovels sugar into her coffee at a restaurant near her home in southern California. But then her résumé has already made it clear that Lisa can do a mean pas de deux: In her teens she won awards and scholarships, danced on stages from Japan to Switzerland to Los Angeles and studied with Maximova. Now, at the age of 20, Lisa is retiring her leotards and toe shoes. Though her defection may be a loss to the world of ballet, it's a boon to those of us who don't hang around dance studios or concert halls. "To be honest, I quit because of the weight requirement," says Lisa. "To get that true ballet look, I had to get down to about 85 pounds, and even then I felt like I wasn't skinny enough. I had to ask, Do I enjoy it enough to sacrifice everything else in my life? I couldn't keep on doing that to my body." She smiles wistfully. "I do miss it, though, and I still try to dance with local groups."
She lives with her parents and 17-year-old brother in a surfers' stronghold on the outskirts of Los Angeles, attending college and mulling over her next step. But southern California is merely the latest home for Lisa, who has been on the move since the day she was born to an American military physician and a Japanese woman who met while Lisa's dad was stationed on the island of Okinawa. She lived in Florida, then in Guam (where as a toddler, she learned her first ballet move: walking on her tiptoes to avoid the prickly leaves that littered the ground), then in San Diego, Virginia, Japan and Hawaii. The move from Hawaii back to the mainland was the toughest. "We came to California when I was in junior high," she says, "and I found that here people really judge you by how you look." And this was a problem? "I was kind of a nerd," she insists. "I didn't fit in, didn't wear my hair the way everybody else did. So I concentrated on school and ignored the rest." In high school she discovered boys, became more social and was elected homecoming queen, all the while winning dance awards, taking college-level courses and getting straight A's. "With a father in the military and a mother from Japan," Lisa says, "there was always pressure to do well." Obviously, pressure brings out the best in her.