Lesley Tan ’22 Creates Her Own Unique Style of Dance at Andover

G. WANG/The Phillipian

Lesley Tan ’22 has participated in the Youth American Grand Prix, an international dance competition, for four years in a row.

With the stage basked in a blue glow, Lesley Tan ’22, dressed in black from head to toe, rehearses her self-choreographed piece for Andover Dance Labs, with the somber notes of Billie Eilish’s “Ocean Eyes” playing in the background. As the blue lights illuminate her figure, Tan fluidly moves from a fan kick to an attitude turn before transitioning into a side leap. According to Tan, performing a self-choreographed piece in front of a big audience was a new and vulnerable experience.

“I didn’t choreograph much before coming to Andover. I felt especially vulnerable because I didn’t have much experience choreographing and there was also a sizable audience during the show. Nevertheless, I was proud to show people something that I created, even though it was a short piece. I remember people who I hadn’t met before coming up to me after the show and congratulating me,” said Tan.

Tan first started taking ballet classes at six years old, and has since trained intensively as a ballerina, perfecting her technique throughout the years. Since coming to Andover, she has started to incorporate different styles to her dancing, such as contemporary, jazz, and hip hop. Fellow Andover Dance Group (A.D.G.) member Katherine Wang ’21 described Tan’s dance evolution.

“You can see her training in her dancing very explicitly, and it shows in her dancing. With that being said, since coming here, I’ve noticed that she’s been able to expand a lot and it’s also been really fun to see her grow out of a ballet mindset … and start to experiment with different kinds of dance,” said Wang.

On campus, Tan is a member of A.D.G. and Blue Strut, which has helped her to experiment with different styles of dance. One style Tan has been experimenting with in particular is contemporary, which she feels is less restrictive than ballet because it allows her to show more emotions through her movement. Tan feels like she’s matured as a dancer during her time at Andover so far, and her mindset about dancing has evolved.

“When I was little, I felt like the way I danced was a lot more immature. It was just following all of the strict rules of ballet. But since [coming here], I’ve kind of grown out of that and have been able to create my own style of dance, now incorporating all of the influence that I have had from all other instructors and other styles of ballet, and that has really changed the way that I think about dance and how I dance in general,” said Tan.

Tan cites American ballerina Misty Copeland as her main dancing inspiration. Copeland was a judge at a competition in San Diego that Tan attended at the age of about ten or eleven. One of the reasons she looks up to Copeland so much is because she was the first African-American principal dancer, which inspires Tan to push through obstacles. Tan also explained how Copeland’s non-traditional body type gave her inspiration to dance.

“I’m also inspired by her because of her body type, because I don’t exactly have the perfect body type for ballet, and she’s inspired me to keep on doing ballet and other forms of dance even if I don’t have the perfect body type. She’s just been such an inspiration throughout my entire career as a ballerina,” said Tan.

Fellow A.D.G. and Blue Strut member Uanne Chang ’20 stated one of the things she loves most about Tan is the energy she brings to the groups and dances.

“I think she has a really strong dance technique from her ballet training, which contributes a lot to the dance groups she’s in, like ADG or Blue Strut. But what I love most about her is the positive energy she always brings to the studio, how she always has a smile on her face, and the warmth she radiates when she’s dancing with either everyone or on her own,” said Chang.