Six-year-old Willow Pae ’20 won the first place prize at Tremaine, a dance competition in Chicago, for a trio dance with her older sisters, Alexis and Esther Pae. She danced jazz squares and other simple steps as her sisters performed more complex turns and jumps. They used umbrellas as props and lip synced in vibrant dresses and sparkly belts.
In an email to The Phillipian, Pae wrote, “I was and still am in awe by my sisters’ dedication to this craft and inspire to one day be as good as them… I cherish this memory because all the time spent with my sisters doing what we love bonded us even closer to one another.”
Pae first began dancing at the age of three. She recounts idolizing her sisters, who also grew up dancing.
“[I looked up to them] just because they would always be in the higher levels than me. Ever since a young age, I would always aspire to be like them. They would always help at home: they would stretch me and stuff like that, and encourage me,” said Pae.
In their basement outfitted with mirrors and a ballet barre, Pae’s older sister Alexis would help her and her other sister Esther improve their technical abilities by going over certain moves and offering corrections and help.
“[The part of my dancing that I credit to my sisters is] my technique because ever since we were younger, my older sister Alexis would actually stretch me and my younger sister… She would always have us doing technique things. We would do our turns and things, and she would tell us what’s wrong with them,” said Pae.
On campus, Pae is a member of Blue Strut, Andover’s jazz dance group. Growing up in Wisconsin, she took mostly contemporary and modern classes. Both styles differ from the sassy tone of jazz, so she had to adapt.
“Alexa [Goulas ’18] and Kiki [Kozol ’18], who are the heads of Strut, have really helped me be sassy even though that’s not really a part of my personality sometimes. In dance, you can have to adapt to what the music is… so they’ve really taught me to bring that side out,” said Pae.
Goulas wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “[Willow is] an incredibly strong dancer and crucial member of the team. She can apply corrections quickly and is a versatile performer. She excels in both jazz and modern dancing, and I’m excited to see what she will contribute to the Dance Department in the next two years. Outside of dancing, she is just such an amazing and lovable person.”
According to Pae, dance has taught her to be persistent to achieve her goals and learn how to do newer, more complicated steps.
“Dance has helped me learn about being persistent when getting what you want, working hard for what you want, and not giving up… There were many times where I wouldn’t want to stretch or I wouldn’t want to practice my dances, but working hard and keeping at it — and seeing results at the end — is really satisfying. Also, with dance, you are never really at your best. You can always keep improving,” said Pae.
Check out Dance Open later this term to see Willow Pae’s self-choreographed solo to Sam Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One.”