Paige St. John
Avon • Ohio
I have always been a perfectionist. No matter what sport I was playing or what report I was writing, I always want to be better than my best. With dance, there was no difference. From technique to performance to simple appearance, I lacked the ability to find self-approval. Up until my senior year of high school, I had let these characteristic consume me, determining my eating habits, my friendships, and ultimately hurting the passion for dance that had been 15 years in the making. Something that was my greatest love had turned into something that was hurting me from the inside out. However, in attending Magnificat High School (Rocky River, OH), I was blessed with a coach and a team that inspired me daily, pushing me and challenging me in both my art and my faith.
My senior year, our coach introduced our new team motto: “Strong, Not Skinny.” I remember hearing it and shaking my head to myself. To me it made no sense – sure strength was important but, at the time, I was so consumed with the number on the scale that I was unable to see past it. However, this motto came to mean more as the year progressed, as we traveled from competition to competition and continued to take class and practice as we always had. We were strong in our faith, skinny in doubt. Strong in love, skinny in jealousy. Strong in compassion, skinny in ignorance. Strong in the passion we shared and skinny in the daily distractions that surrounded us.
As I transitioned to college, this motto followed me and I held it close to my heart. As I began my career as both a Dance Major and student-athlete on The Ohio State University Dance Team, my thought process began to change. With the responsibilities of my sport and the requirements of my major, I saw the importance in fueling my body and taking pride in it. With my heart and mind focused on the future, I began to desire that strong rather than the skinny. Throughout each team lift and practice, I could feel my body changing, and with my mind focused correctly, I was able to simultaneously open myself up to the new perspectives I was gaining in my classes. Though my body has changed, it has changed for the better and I would not be able to dance the way that I do without changing my mindset the way that I have. From four-eight count turn sequences to aerials on both my right and left side, I realize now that my body is capable of so many incredible things when I treat it correctly. No longer do I care about seeing bone or shape, but I would prefer to see my own muscle when I am performing in front of a mirror.
Now, as I continue in my studies and journey closer to the professional world, I have chosen to share both my passion and my wisdom with younger generations. When I teach, my goal is to create a safe environment for my students and to remind them that class is the place to make mistakes. When I choreograph, my main concern is to create movement that makes the dancers feel joyful and feel valuable. I would rather have a dancer come up to me and tell me that they felt important in my class or in my piece than have them tell me it won every competition in the world.
As dancers, we are truly blessed to be able to move the way that we do, and we have the opportunity to share this gift with so many incredible audiences. Each time we do, we share our story. I know that I want my story to be one of challenge, growth, and joy, and I hope to instill the values that I have learned in those that I encounter throughout my career.