The Next Generation of Dance- a conversation with former students, Morgan and Paige Van Nest

There is probably nothing that makes teachers happier than seeing their former students pursuing a life of their own choosing.

Buuuuuuuuuut…….

If they also happen to have chosen a life that includes whatever passion brought you together in the first place, that’s also very nice.

I first met Morgan and Paige Van Nest, twin sisters (even though they don’t look very similar) when they were just entering high school and dancing at a St. Louis local studio. I had the privilege of working with them in classical and contemporary ballet, modern, and variations. Morgan was even my assistant for some of the younger classes.

These are the kind of dancers that teachers and choreographers dream about; talented, hard-working, versatile. They were always prepared and punctual. They were always kind to everyone, especially the younger students who idolized them. Most importantly, I could always sense their self-motivated and discipline, in a place coming from joy. I have very strong memories of watching Paige come to LIFE learning the Kitri Act 1 variation. I always gave her the sassy roles. When we created a ballet piece about the social roles kids take on in school, I cast Paige as the bully. Morgan was the snobby perfectionist teacher’s pet.

(If you want to watch the ballet, it’s called ‘Study Hall’ and it’s here. Enjoy their phenomenal dance skills! Also very skilled at paper-airplane throwing)

Both are recent graduates of different prestigious universities. Are you ready to be impressed?

Here goes…

Paige:

  • graduated from Webster University in December 2019 with BFA in Modern Dance and a Certificate in Entrepreneurship.
  • She graduated with honors from the dance department and graduated as summa cum laude.
  • Upon graduation, her capstone project was selected to be presented at the Central American College Dance Conference
  • She also served as the Vice President and President of the dance club at Webster University for two years.

Morgan:

  • graduated in May (via zoom) from SUNY Purchase College.
  • She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from the Conservatory of Dance, as well as a double minor in Psychology and Sociology.
  • She received the Purchase College Affiliates Grant as a senior to put towards the creation of her senior capstone project
  • Upon graduating, she received the Abbott Kaplan Award- A president’s award for interdisciplinary achievement.
  • She also worked in the dance department office, assisting the director and coordinator of the conservatory.

Despite different interests within the dance world, these two both were on a great path towards successful careers as professionals.

And then COVID hit.

This conversation covers what it was like for them, having either just graduated or just finishing their senior year of study during the pandemic, how they are keeping themselves healthy and structured, navigating social media as young women, and what an ideal life would look like six months from now.

(I also included some clips from a performance of our Variations class showing where they are performing an adaption of Balanchine’s ‘Emeralds’ becaseu they are beautiful and it was such a proud teacher moment for me)

If I’m being really honest, I’ve been struggling as a teacher with wondering what young dancers are facing, their challenges, worries, what was helpful in rigorous training and academics and what seems to be helping now. Through my conversation with Morgan and Paige, I was reminded about the impact a teacher can have and loved hearing their thoughts on how the dance world is becoming more diverse and what is important in education and movement for themselves as individuals and as the next generation.

If this is the future, it looks pretty bright to me.

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