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East Lyme senior explores life through dance

East Lyme — Since the age of 7, East Lyme High School senior Noah am Ende said he has used dance as a medium to grow into who he is today.

Shy as a child, am Ende said dance, as well as art forms such as painting, photography and film, have given him a voice and a way to express himself over the years while also allowing him to embrace "the full human experience."

“When I’m trying to speak on my own, I get tripped up on my words,” he said. “So, I’ve relied on dance to express myself.” Movement, he said, “has become my voice.”

In recent years, am Ende said this expression has materialized most through forms of improvisation dancing. In particular, am Ende said he has fallen in love with choreographing his own performances, whether solo or as part of duo or trio dances.

Dancing for more than a decade now, the 18-year-old am Ende, who does tap, jazz, ballet, modern, hip hop and contemporary dance, recently has picked up several first-place awards among dancers his age for his self-choreographed solo dances in regional competitions. He also has won several first- and second-place awards for both duo and trio dances he’s choreographed and performed at various competitions over the past four years.

“Dance is a form of healing,” he said. “Improvisation, especially, is so freeing. ... With it, you don’t need to talk to someone about your emotions, because it’s like you are already having that conversation with yourself. You are working through all that through moving.”

This fall, am Ende plans to keep moving forward in his dance career, and by way of that, his own self-explorations, as he plans to attend the California Institute of the Arts, or CalArts, to study dance. He said he is most excited to be in what he described as an environment specifically geared toward teaching and learning dance, “because that’s what you need to explore art.” He added that, at the same time, he's also excited to be somewhere new, forcing "me to step out of my comfort zone and help me grow even more.”

Am Ende said he started dancing around the age of 7 after his younger sister, Brianna, started taking dance classes at the former Dancer’s Edge dance studio in East Lyme, now known as Studio 22 Dance Center. Playing soccer at the time, am Ende said he was jealous his sister was able to be in dance class while he “would sit around just picking grass,” he said, laughing.

“We had gone to her recital, and (my brother, Nathan — who is also a dancer — and I) thought it looked kind of fun,” he said.

At his first day of dance class, am Ende said, “I knew it felt right. ... I had a magnetic connection to dance and I never really connected to sports.”

Besides dancing, am Ende has passions in the visual arts, such as painting and photography, but especially film.

In particular, am Ende said he loves artistic horror films and psychological thrillers, such as Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan,” Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and especially the Berlin-based dance-art house-horror film “Suspiria” directed by Luca Guadagnino, who is most known for his 2017 romance film “Call Me by Your Name.”

“Horror is something that actually makes me feel something,” he said. “I was always interested in the horror aspects of film. Why do people want to scare themselves? I thought that was very interesting. And how is someone able to make a piece of art that truly terrifies someone?” he asked.

Beyond horror, am Ende said he enjoys exploring similar themes of “darker” or “deeper” aspects within his own art and choreography, helping him embrace “the full human experience.” Recently, he said he’s explored metaphorical themes of good and bad, and personality juxtapositions one can have within themselves.

“I never had anything traumatizing happen growing up or something that’s made me upset or sad,” he said. “But to me, it’s important to explore both the dark and light sides of anything, because that then gives a fuller perspective. If I only explore the happy, bright side of myself, then I’m losing the other half.”

An accomplished student, am Ende has consistently achieved high grades in his other classes, such as math and science, he said, because “I’m a perfectionist,” despite not loving those subjects.

He added both his parents are chemical engineers and "always joked we would all become chemical engineers, too, but little did they know I hated science,” he said. “It wasn’t fun. I always liked the abstract parts of life.”

Despite their love for science, am Ende said he has never felt pressure to pursue their path and was always supported in his own interests.

“I had a good childhood,” he said. “My parents were very open. They let us do what we wanted to do when we were little. ... There are parents around here that want their children to strictly follow gender roles in society, but we were allowed to explore beyond that.”

Am Ende said his dance studio teachers also have helped allow him to explore his own creativity.

“He is really special, and not just in dancing,” am Ende’s Studio 22 dance teacher Velouria Joyner said. “But when he is dancing, I think the most amazing part is that you can really see his passion come through it. You can tell that he really enjoys it.”

"I’ve watched him for years and have known him for a very long time,” she continued. “I’ve got to see him grow up and improve on his dancing, but have also got to see him explore his individual style. He is so passionate. You can tell that it’s his calling, that he was meant to do this.”

While am Ende said he isn’t sure what exactly he will do in life after college, he does have a few ideas, including auditioning for Cirque du Soleil — “I love how weird it is” — directing films or opening a dance studio with his brother.

“I’m trying to enjoy the idea that I don’t really know where I’m going to end up. I’m accepting that plans don’t always bring you where you might think they will,” he said. “I’ve lived my entire life following the same schedule. I have summer, then I have school from this month to this month. I have dance Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday ... You can become comfortable in something like that. But I don’t like the idea of living too comfortably. Dance taught me that.”

m.biekert@theday.com

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