Dancing queen: ballerina Serena Tang

Flawless posture. A comfortable smile. Firm discipline. Behind all this, hours of practice. Senior Serena Tang has worked her routines to perfection to achieve the top places in ballet at Showstopper, America’s longest running dance competition that hosts over 50 events each year.

Showstopper has competitions spanning cities throughout the entire country, with Tang competing in Anaheim, Calif. and Sandusky, Ohio. She has consistently placed in the top four at Showstopper and maintained this streak last summer when she placed fourth overall in her age group. At that competition, she performed two routines: “Drowning” for contemporary ballet and “Kitri Variation” for classical ballet. To prepare for these performances, she practiced for five hours each week leading up to the competitions. 

Tang has competed at Showstopper since she first started dancing at the age of six. Tang originally only did classical ballet, then began doing contemporary ballet because of her experiences on Dance Team, in which they dance other genres such as jazz, lyrical and contemporary. Classical ballet pursues perfection and focuses on posture, limiting the movements and positions of the dancer to pre-choreographed routines that have been passed down through generations. In contrast, contemporary ballet allows for more freedom and independence. 

“After I got exposed to [new genres], I got more confident in my skills in other dance styles besides ballet, and I felt that I achieved a proficiency in contemporary and was confident enough to compete in the actual category,” Tang said. 

Tang joined Li’s Ballet Studio when she first began dancing and has stayed with the studio ever since. Over time, she was inspired by not only other performers in the professional and competitive world, but also by those that she surrounds herself with, such as dancers on the team at the studio. 

“When I first started dancing, [my inspiration] was mostly the seniors at the studio. I was amazed at what they could do,” Tang said. “But, now that I’ve reached the age where I can do what I’ve seen them do, I think my inspiration is mostly from other professionals and pre-professionals that I see. Also, from my experience on the dance team, I’ve gotten inspiration from the other members who do different dance styles.”

With her experiences in dance, Tang has gained an understanding of herself and the importance of her health. In her early years of dance, she considered pursuing a professional route and overexerted herself to a point to which dancing became a detriment, causing difficulties that still affect her now. Most of her injuries are concentrated around her legs and feet, caused by incorrect movements, lack of proper warm up or overexertion. 

“I’ve learned to love the things that I do, but most importantly treat myself well. I think it was because of all the peer pressure, pressure from my parents, pressure from my teachers because they kept telling me, ‘You’re so good,’ that I told myself I had to keep improving to get ahead. But, because of that, I disregarded my body and my health,” Tang said.

Tang began going to dance lessons less frequently, but she was also able to allow herself to recover for the first time since she started competing. This led to her regaining her interest when she joined Dance Team.

In addition, Tang has found joy in dance from by being able to use it as a source of escapism through expressions of creativity.

“When I’m stressed from school, dance is a reliever of stress because I can forget about everything else in my life. When I’m dancing, I’m so focused on what I’m doing,” Tang said. 

While many of Tang’s achievements are from representing Li’s Ballet Studio, being on Dance Team has also given her many unforgettable memories. During her sophomore year, it was when the team finally placed first in kick after slowly climbing up places each year, and then in her junior year she was able to feel the support of her team when learning how to ride the unicycle. Even since her freshman year, Tang has found a place of comfort in the team. 

“[During freshman year,] I was surprised during the spring showcase when they put up the reflection video that was dedicated to the seniors because I was crying too with the rest of the team,” Tang said. “I remember thinking, ‘I spent only one year with them, but I’m crying with the people who spent three years with these seniors,’ and I realized how much of a bond, how much of a family that Dance Team can give you.”

With her experiences over her past three years on the dance team, Tang now acts as a leader for the new dancers by teaching them moves they don’t know.  She has progressed from managing socials in sophomore year, to vice president in junior year and finally becoming president in her senior year.

“As seniors, we can interpret the coach’s mood easier and what she wants from a dance. We have to be the messengers to pass it on to the other students so that together, we can fulfill the goals that we set up for ourselves,” Tang said. 

Although she no longer wants to pursue dance professionally, Tang intends to continue the hobby for years to come.

“I want to keep doing [dance] recreationally because not only do I consider it a hobby that I love, it’s also the main form of exercise I get,” Tang said. “Dance is a great way to exercise while having fun doing it. Dance has the opportunity for physical exercise and expression and creativity.”

By Natalie Cheng, Staff writer
Photos courtesy of Serena Tang