Student dancers reach the high barre of excellence

Senior Hannah Brauer

Merle Scheff School of Dance

Ballet, tap, lyrical, hip-hop and jazz

P.T. Barnum

Pathfinder: Why do you dance?

Brauer: There is nothing that brings me greater joy. There’s nothing like being able to connect with the music and express yourself in a way that is not otherwise possible

What makes a dancer?

It takes a lot of determination. The girls at dance have a lot more spirit and they are ready to work.

What is your favorite type of dance?

I think some people don’t realize how had ballet really is—they think tutus and spinning on the little shoes, but ballet is hard. I don’t think people at West understand. The Longhorn Line is way different than ballet.”

— Kristin Priest

Ballet and hip-hop. BalletI like the way it feels. I like the simplicity yet complexity found in ballet. I like the dedication that is put into it. I like the historical significance. And hip-hopwell, I like the music.

Are you planning on continuing to dance after high school?

Yeah. At least take a few dance classes in college.

What is the hardest part about dance?

Being misunderstood and underestimated. People don’t realize all the hard work you put into it because you’re supposed to look effortless. Especially if you dance outside of school, it’s hard to get recognition for your work because a lot of the athletes here perform on sports teams with the school. That being said if you are on the dance team at school, you would get recognition. It’s like kids taking music lessons

Advice from a dancer to a non-dancer?

You do not know pain until you take a dance class. Go take a ballet class and then you can complain.


Freshman Kristin Priest

Patzius Performing Arts and Midwest Ballet Theatre (pre-professional ballet company)

Ballet, jazz, modern

Kimberly Priest

Pathfinder: What does your weekly schedule in dance look like?

Priest: I’m at dance every day after school. It’s about two to two and a half hours every day depending on the classes.

How would you describe the community and the tradition of ballet?

It’s such a tight-knit community, especially because you’re performing an art that not many people understand. Some people don’t understand how moving and powerful a dance can be and the emotion that’s behind it, since you’re with these people everyday after school. They’re lifelong friends.

What is the hardest part about dance?

The hardest part is definitely the commitment. It’s hard to tell your friends, “Sorry I have dance;I can’t do this,” “I can’t do that…” Especially after going home and doing homework late into the night. But it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make because it’s such an important part of my life. Dance is my life. It’s who I am!

Next time you watch a dance performance, don’t just clap at the really flexible parts, clap at the flowy beautiful parts, because those are the dancer’s favorite.”

— Rachel Wang

Do you want to make it into a career?

I want to. American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet are places I always think about. Recently I haven’t been dancing because I have been diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, so I haven’t been dancing for about a month, but I hope to get back to it soon. It’s been like, “What do I do? I don’t have dance!”

What is it like to perform?

It’s just like I’m so nervous before I go on stage and I worry that I’m going to forget the combo. But when you get on stage it’s like your brain shuts off and you just do it. After being on stage, I’m just so giddy and excited.

What is the typical ballet class like?

You get in and do steps to warm up. Then you do a barre for about an hour, and then we do center for another 45 minutes, with across the floor and adagio. I love center. Center’s fun because you get to do turns in your life.

How do you think dancers are represented in the school community?

I think some people don’t realize how had ballet really isthey think tutus and spinning on the little shoes, but ballet is hard. I don’t think people at West understand. The Longhorn Line is way different than ballet.

Words of wisdom from a dancer to a non-dancer?

Dance is an art. Even if you see it and you may not understand it, dance can really portray a story. It is beautiful art. It is really special to the person who is dancing it, like a song will come on and [I’ll say] “I did a combo to this!”. It’s something that people should appreciate.


Freshman MJ Stricker

Lucille Rapp Dance Studio

Ballet, tap, rhythm tap, jazz, contemporary, modern

Celebration Talent Competition LLC via MJ Stricker

Pathfinder: How many hours do you dance per week?

Ten and a half.

What does dance represent to you?

It’s kind of like my whole life, because I go from school straight to [dance], and I’m there from like three to nine, and then I come home. I think it gets demoted a lot. A lot of people don’t see the importance of it and it gets pushed under the rug.

What is your favorite type of dance? Why?

Tap is my favorite. This summer we went to nationals and I won the Teen Rising Star Solo. I have been tapping since I was two.

What do you think about dance as a sport?

Well, I think it’s the same, because the definition of a sport is anything that has competition and contains physical exertion, and that’s exactly what dance is. I wrote an essay about that last year.

Do you think dancers are underrepresented within the school community?

I think they are. Especially being a guy is hard because people think “Oh, well that’s a girl thing!”.

Do you see yourself dancing in the future?

I don’t actually think so, just because of all of the hours. Dancers have a 13-hour workday. I have a friend that goes to Webster and she has to choose whether to go to the bathroom or eat a banana in the short time between classes. It’s intense.

How has dance shaped you as a person?

I think it has helped a lot. It has helped in school, especially in P.E. with endurance. Also with performing; I can get up and do presentations. I could pick up the choreography in middle school musicals very quickly, and I could help out the people that didn’t get it.

Sophomore Rachel Wang

Dance Project St. Louis and Common Thread Junior Company

Ballet, jazz, modern, pointe

Rachelwdance copy
Deborah Fahnestock via Rachel Wang

Pathfinder: What is your favorite type of dance? Why?

It depends on the day! In general, I like modern because you can be really fun with it and it incorporates a lot of randomness. The dance community likes to call whatever they don’t know modern. But I love watching pointe.

What is them most painful part of dance?

Going back the first day for pointe and being forced to do pirouettes!

How many hours per week do you train?

It depends on the season. At the very least it will be eight hours, but during Nutcracker season or recital season there will be extra rehearsals and auditions and dress rehearsals and it can get up to like 15 hours.

What do you think dance has done for you as a person?

Dance is one of the most important parts of my life. As cheesy as it sounds, I love it and many of my best memories in life and most important moments are associated with dance and the community we have there. It also helps me to be more creative. Dance is how I can be artistic and expressive.

What dancers or dance celebrities do you look up to?

I’m not big on the whole “looking up to famous people” thing but I look up to my teacher Jen Medina, who’s “mildly famous.” She likes to think she’s famous sometimes. I really like Misty Copeland. I mean, who doesn’t like Misty Copeland? And also Miko Fogarty.

What is one thing you think non-dancers don’t understand about dance?

I think they don’t understand the time commitment, especially with some of my friends. Sometimes they will want to hang out and I will say I have dance and they’ll be like, “Didn’t you have dance last week?” and I’ll be like “I still have it!”. Or sometimes they don’t understand that when they watch it and it looks so effortless and beautiful, there is really a lot of work that goes into it

What message would you like to send to non-dancers?

Next time you watch a dance performance, don’t just clap at the really flexible parts, clap at the flowy beautiful parts, because those are the dancer’s favorite.