Thompson was born in Rochester, Minnesota, the daughter of Barbara Anne (née Barry), a singer and musician, and Clifford Elwin "Cliff" Thompson. She studied ballet as a girl and practiced three to four hours every day. She was dancing professionally by the age of 14. She won scholarships to several ballet schools, including the American Ballet Theatre, the San Francisco Ballet, and the Pennsylvania Ballet. Thompson danced in more than 45 ballets with the American Ballet Theatre. She also danced with the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Minnesota Dance Theatre and the Ballet Repertory. Her brother Andrew also took ballet classes and went on to become a professional.
Thompson was told by ballet legend and then ABT artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov that she was "a beautiful dancer, but too stocky." Due to this (as well as some small nagging past injuries), she decided to give up dancing in favor of an acting career. She moved to New York at age 20 and performed in a number of Burger King advertisements in the 1980s along with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Elisabeth Shue, her eventual co-star in Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III.
Read more about this topic: Lea Thompson
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