Michelle Chen ’25 Finds Passion in Discovering Dance Styles and Crafting Choreography

Michelle rediscovered her love for traditional Chinese Dance at Andover.

Michelle Chen ’25, a board member of Andover’s APAC (Asian Performing Arts Club), and dancer in performances such as “The Nutcracker: Reimagined” and “Grasshopper,” took her first dance class at merely two years old. She learned traditional Chinese dance up until seventh grade, soon after taking up ballet classes which became her primary focus. 

“I started ballet in seventh grade, and definitely it’s something that I innately started loving. I think it’s just because ballet is so technical, and just requires my complete focus when I do it. But I also just love that there’s so many graceful movements with it, and even though it can look super easy, it does require so much work to put into it,” said Chen.

At Andover, she continued practicing and performing dance. She found it a calming way to relax from more stressful parts of her day, such as schoolwork and extracurriculars. She has danced in many performances, but noted that the most meaningful one was the 2022 Dance Open, where her perspective on dance drastically changed.

“I did a piece with four different people [and] one of them was the Co-Head of APAC, Vanessa [Fan ’23]. I actually used to do classical Chinese dance with her outside of [Andover]. I quit Chinese dance in seventh grade, so I just decided to join it for the nostalgia, and I think after doing that piece, it really just brought me back to why I like Chinese dance and brought me closer to my culture,” said Chen. 

In addition to reigniting her love for Chinese dance, she also discovered other dance styles at Andover that she had not previously explored. Furthermore, she found Andover to be a creative outlet to explore her love for choreography. By watching other dancers perform — from professional Ballerinas to friends at Andover — she’s been inspired to incorporate new styles into her own dance and choreography.  

“Once I came [to Andover], I started experimenting with modern dance and stuff like that. Even earlier in the Fall Term, I did [a] K-pop dance, which I never thought I would do before. So that has really stretched me, and especially in a way when it comes to my choreography, I’ve started adding different elements into it [and] listening to the music more, while before I think it was a lot of pure ballet or pure Chinese dance… My dancing has mainly evolved as I’ve been trying out these different styles… I think especially coming to Andover, that has really taught me to experiment a lot with my movements and try out different tricks and turns. It just allowed me to step outside my comfort zone,” said Chen.

Even with her expertise and love for the art, she still faces challenges in devising new and unique choreography, aiming to learn even more dance styles. Her passion for the art, however, has motivated her to persevere and make these dreams become a reality.

Chen said, “We have a performance coming up for APAC, which is the Asian Performing Arts Club, and me and Emma [Tao ’25] are actually choreographing a piece for that. It’s going to be a traditional Chinese dance piece, and it’s the first group dance I’ve choreographed before, so it’s definitely been a bit of a challenge. But it’s coming up [on] March 29, and I’m really excited for it… I hope to continue doing more choreography. Definitely with this APAC piece, it’s been a lot of fun. It’s challenged me a lot creatively. I also just want to continue to explore different styles like jazz.”

Chen’s passion has also manifested in others whom she has worked alongside with. For instance, Tao, Chen’s friend and fellow choreographer, found inspiration and respect in working with Chen on their upcoming performance. 

I think her willingness to try new things definitely [is inspiring]. Because as she said, she had mostly focused on Chinese traditional dancing and ballet previously, and she has explored so many new styles, along with choreographing, which I find really brave of her for doing. I’m really glad to be choreographing with her honestly, because she has been so determined in the process,” said Tao.