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Humans of Harker: Art in motion

Cecilia Yang pursues art through dance and other mediums
Humans+of+Harker%3A+Art+in+motion
Katie Reed

As the spotlight flickers to life, illuminating the stage with a hazy silver glow, Cecilia Yang (12) strides to the center mark confidently. Settling into a starting position, she is only allowed a second to compose herself before the music begins, and with a toss of her head, she begins to dance. A series of dizzying pirouettes and daunting kicks followed by simple yet stylish chassés trace an intricate pattern across the stage, breathing life into the monotony of the empty stage. When Cecilia sweeps her arm upward in a movement akin to the fluid stroke of her favorite paintbrush, the stage erupts with colors, from the rosy pink flush dusted over her cheeks to the shimmering lavender silk of her costume. If the stage is a canvas, Cecilia is both the artist and the art.

Cecilia first began dancing when she was four years old after her parents enrolled her in classes at a studio. Although she originally did not enjoy these sessions, she became increasingly invested in the sport after realizing its creative value and how enjoyable it was to perform.

“Dance has always been a way for me to express myself,” Cecilia said. “There’s also something really unique about being able to perform on stage with other people who love dance as much as you do.”

The more energy Cecilia put into dance, the more results she saw, and she eventually enrolled in the Harker dance program in lower school. She continued to participate every year at Harker, later auditioning for and successfully joining the Harker Dance Company in 2020. On HDC, Cecilia made many memories with her team, which she recalls fondly.

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“One of [my favorite moments] was homecoming in my junior year,” Cecilia said. “It was really cold that night and we were waiting for halftime to start for a long time, but the moment I started dancing, the cheers of the crowd were so loud. It filled me with adrenaline, and it was rewarding to see our efforts being acknowledged.”

However, Cecilia’s journey with dance was not without its own challenges. At times, she felt as if she lacked the qualifications to meet the expectations of her dance instructors and peers.

“I definitely struggled with thinking I wasn’t flexible enough or good enough at dance,” Cecilia said. “It was a fear of rejection, mostly, and a fear of failure. But I wouldn’t say that I regretted feeling afraid because ultimately, it’s helped me grow as a person. Without that fear I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Although Cecilia tends to be on the quieter side, once she steps onto stage, her entire personality transforms, giving way to an aura of confidence and fearlessness. Dance instructor Rachelle Haun notes that this drastic change played a significant role in the choreography for one of the dances  in the  2024 Dance Production, ‘Night and Day.’

“For the dance show that we just did, I created a very dramatic piece and featured Cecilia in it,” Haun said. “It was so cool featuring her because usually she is so quiet and flies under the radar, but onstage, she was leading this sort of demon army, and she was super, super fierce. Witnessing that transition from this super quiet person who came in as a freshman into an absolute badass was just amazing.”

Annabel Yang (12) thinks similarly. As one of Cecilia’s close friends and a regular attendee of her performances, she’s been nothing short of impressed whenever she sees Cecilia dancing.

“I’m always in awe when Cecilia performs on stage,” Annabel said. “Even though she’s always bright and outgoing whenever we hang out, it feels like her confidence and energy is brought out so much more on stage. When watching her, you can really feel her passion. She’s always so expressive and is so versatile in her styles of performance.”

Alongside dance, Cecilia also partakes in other extracurricular activities, namely art in different mediums—from painting with watercolors to photographing nature, she’s tried them all. Like dance, she was introduced to art at a young age, and ever since, it’s been a personal favorite.

“I’ve always liked the idea of just creating something out of paper and pencil,” Cecilia said. “You can literally create anything in real life or just make something visually pleasing. Aside from that, I do also like the way that art can be used to communicate very important messages. You can use it just as entertainment, or convey something truly important, like social causes.”

Whenever she begins a new piece, Cecilia looks for inspiration in many different areas, whether it be the natural world, her community or her Pinterest feed, filled with images she finds aesthetically pleasing.

“I’m very inspired by the people around me,” Cecilia said. “A lot of my friends and family members are also very creative minded, so that also inspires me as an artist and a person.”

Just as Cecilia feels inspired by those around her, her friends look to her for their own source of encouragement. As her consistent work in her extracurriculars suggests, Cecilia is known by friends and family alike for her dedication and enthusiasm for her passion projects. Close friend Natalie Chen (12) commends Cecilia’s commitment, especially to dance.

“Cecilia’s love for dance is evident across all those years she’s been dancing for,” Natalie said. “She’s been dancing for pretty much her entire life, and she incorporates it into every single part of her life. She’s really committed to it. She spends hours on it, takes lessons for it, even volunteers for dancing. I just find it really impressive how dedicated she is to it, and I know for a fact that she’s going to keep doing it throughout college.”

Through her exploration of creative outlets like dance and art, Cecilia found her voice, and each day, she continues to strive for improvement. Although an initial fear of failure held her back from reaching out in the past, Cecilia adds that she is satisfied with her growth and how far she has come as a person.

“I think the biggest thing about me that’s changed is I’ve become more willing to put myself out there,” Cecilia said. “I’m more willing to audition for something or try to make a new friendship or talk to my teacher about something. I don’t think extroverted is quite the right word, but I’ve become more willing to try different things and talk to people.”

This story was originally published on Harker Aquila on May 21, 2024.