Angel Hoyang ’18 can still see the 2014 performance of “Tarantella” clearly today.
The satin pointe shoes tapped like falling rain against the stage, at first like a rainstorm, then petering out into a silent drizzle, Hoyang recalled. Like the sea at night, the audience seemed vast and dark, holding its breath with anticipation.
The lights illuminated the stage. She waited in position, taking in her surroundings for a moment. She listened intently for the first note of music, and from there, she knew her feet would carry her across the floor to its quick beat.
She reminded herself to breathe, because in this moment, dancing was the only thing she remembered how to do.
Up to 20 hours a week on weekends and after school, Hoyang perfects her technique and practices in the studio. She is preparing for her upcoming, starring role as the Snow Queen in Marat Daukayev Ballet Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker.” With a cast of 150 dancers, the show will take place in an theater seating 1,152 people to each of its three showings.
But according to Hoyang’s friends, you wouldn’t guess that this is the case.
“She comes off as rather shy most of the time,” Savannah Weinstock ’18 said. “I think she second guesses herself a lot… She’s much more confident on stage.”
To many students on campus, Hoyang is a classmate. But in her life of dance, she loves to be part of something bigger: a group, Weinstock said. But while she may seem quiet to passersby at Harvard-Westlake, she says she is much more comfortable while performing.
“I’m too self-conscious most of the time. That’s how it’s always been. Being that way has limited me a lot, but dancing helps with that,” Hoyang said, brushing hair behind her ear and fidgeting her feet.
Hoyang recalls the first time being on stage, feeling numb. At six years old, her body felt cold from the nerves tickling at her skin. The audience was dark, she said, and she could only make out small dots as peoples’ faces.
Her senses were dull, but as the music began, she remembers using that to her advantage in order to soothe her fears and dance through the piece with ease.
Hoyang has been a ballerina for ten years, and while dancing can be a mental release and outlet for her, it remains a time consuming and rewarding passion, said Weinstock.
Her father was a ballerina before she was born, so dancing was natural for her, said Hoyang’s mother Rachel Yang.
“Angel got on pointe when she was just nine [years old]. And once you’re on pointe, there are a lot of technical difficulties you must overcome,” her mother said. “She’s really trying to express herself, and she’s still a growing dancer, so she’s still challenging and pushing herself artistically and technically.”
Dance is a freeing passion because of the fact that nothing can really go wrong, Hoyang said. “Dance is an art form. There’s a lack of a certain type of expectation.”
Even though anxiety is common in her art, Hoyang aims to increase her control of her nerves.
“My biggest goal would be to be able to let go of things,” Hoyang said. “That’s the best part of dance, that you can have fun. And so I want to get to the point where I have an available outlet that I can use to feel free whenever I need to.”
And though she says she can lose confidence sometimes, dance helps her to overcome her insecurity both on stage and in the world.
“I am a performer in every sense of the word: I like to perform, but sometimes I hide myself behind a mask.”