Being persistent and open-minded are only some traits all-male dance team captain Ethan Lee embodies, and he values them in his team members too.
Lee’s passion for dancing began when he was in eighth grade, with him initially performing for his Chinese after-school. His friend sent a video of him dancing to the all-male coach when Lee was transferring to Wilson, who encouraged him to join. Donning a “why not” mentality, he decided to try out.
At the time, Lee could not have predicted how committed he would be to the dance team.
“When I first started trying out, I did not have the intention of joining and liking it,” Lee said. “The atmosphere with all the guys and having them being so welcoming, especially when I was a little itty-bitty freshman, made me want to stay here.”
In terms of inspiration, the senior cited K-pop, which he believes started him on dancing. Choreography is a huge part of the K-pop scene, with every title track sporting its own unique dance, so it is no wonder that the medium is a great source of inspiration.
One of Lee’s favorite and most rewarding moments has come from competing. The senior dance team captain finds it really fun, especially when the entire team puts in their utmost effort. After the team is done, they relax, have fun and go out to eat.
“At the beginning, I was like, ‘We are not going to win, right?’ After the first competition where we actually placed first, it felt like an immense success. It is really rewarding to just keep winning and not being too cocky, in a sense, but continuing to work hard,” Lee said.
However, being part of the dance team has not consistently been smooth sailing. In Lee’s freshman year at Wilson, the team was unable to continue competing due to the onset of Covid-19.
“When Covid first struck, I thought everything was going to be over. I remember in our last practice, we just figured out that we would not be competing for our last nationals. Our team was just sitting there crying in the corner, and I was really bummed out,” Lee shared.
During the pandemic, it was extremely challenging for the team to stay connected; especially as a dance team, it was crucial for everyone to be together. Not only did the coach at the time leave, but the team was not able to meet up due to school restrictions. With both of these factors in play, Lee recounted, “Our team kind of fell apart.”
Despite the challenges the dance team has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee believes they have a better chance than ever in the upcoming school year.
“Starting this year, we have a new coach. I think it is getting better, especially when everyone is so open-minded,” Lee imparted.
As the new all-male dance team captain, senior Ethan Lee hopes to guide his members with his experience as well as a fun perspective! Lee is one of the few members who has been on the dance team for four years, which provides him with an edge of expertise. The role reversal as captain is a bonus too; once, he was the freshman getting yelled at—but not anymore.
“Now, I get to be that person to critique everyone, but not in a bad sense—I get to tell everyone about my experiences and help those who were once in my position grow,” Lee explained.
Addressing prospective members of the dance team, Lee also shared some tips for male high school students who want to join, but doubt themselves for whatever reason.
“Have an open mind. Dance team [may seem] scary since everyone’s like, ‘I am so scared, it is so hard to dance, I cannot dance.’ But it is okay. As long as you have fun and have a [growth mindset], you got it,” Lee advised.
Evidently, being on the dance team is not simply a passion, as it has taught the senior some key lessons relevant to other areas of life.
“Everyone starts from somewhere,” Lee said. “When we learn new skills, it might seem daunting, and we think we are never improving. Despite this, everyone starts from different places. I started with no experience, but I have not let that get [to me]. I have kept going and going, practicing and practicing—and now, I have gotten pretty good at dancing.”
Outside of dance, Lee competes for Wilson’s Science Olympiad team. He has participated in Science Olympiad for nine years, since the fourth grade in elementary school, and he is now part of the Cabinet. From a young age, Lee developed an interest in STEM that has persisted throughout the years, evident by his continuous involvement in the program.
“I [have] had a passion for science since I was very little. I just wanted to know more. I joined my fourth-grade Science Olympiad team, and it was really fun because it was not as serious. As time went on, I got more serious about [Science Olympiad]. It’s the thing I have participated in all my years in school.”
Moreover, Lee’s investment in the STEM field has also fostered his interest for aerospace engineering, which also received an early start from middle school.
“It first started when I was in my robotics team in middle school, and I got to tour JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). I was really amazed by all these different machines and robots, and I [thought], ‘I want to do that.’”
When reflecting on the importance of dance, Lee recalls a variety of abilities the sport builds on and develops in relation to his extracurriculars.
“[Dance] teaches you a lot of core skills, like cooperation, teamwork and just being one unit. Especially when we are going off to college, and ultimately joining the workforce, we need to have those communication and teamwork skills.”
When Lee is not practicing for the dance team or participating in extracurriculars, he enjoys relaxing with his friends by playing and streaming video games.
“One big hobby of mine is that I stream, and I make videos on Tik Tok [of] my games. I play a lot of video games such as Valorant or Apex.”
Whether Lee chooses to aim for the stage or space, his work ethic and unwavering optimism will surely keep the spotlight trained on him!
Lee plans to study aerospace or software engineering at one of his dream universities, but still hopes to pursue his passion for dancing on the side. He wants to explore more and contribute to society, the eventual goal being a career at JPL, NASA or SpaceX.