Contemporary Queen Chantel Aguirre Writes a Letter to Her Teenage Self
Photo by Lee Gumbs, courtesy Chantel Aguirre
Contemporary dancer Chantel Aguirre's powerful presence and regal, fluid movement can enchant audiences in seconds—and have helped make her a commercial-world icon. The Santa Cruz, CA, native started dancing at age 2 at her mother's studio, Ballet Repertoire Theatre. When she was a freshman in high school, she enrolled at the San Francisco Ballet School while also competing with the Dance Company of San Francisco. Since then, she's worked with artists including Taylor Swift, Christina Perri, Beyoncé, Carrie Underwood, and Adele, and with companies including Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Justin Giles' SoulEscape, Billy Bell's Lunge Dance Collective, and Stacey Tookey's Still Motion. Currently, you can catch her touring with Travis Wall's Shaping Sound and teaching at NUVO.—Courtney Bowers
I know this is wild, but I'm writing to you from your future, and, boy, is your future bright. You won't be disappointed about where this beautiful world will lead you. I want you to always remember the way you see things. I want you to close your ears when people tell you you're naive for seeing the world the way you do. I want you to know that you can affect those around you with that way of seeing light. Don't let anyone dim it.
The hours you spent in the car driving to ballet, the missed parties in high school, the humiliation of putting on your prom dress in the car—they will all be worth it. That hard work and determination will lead you to accomplish, and even surpass, your current dreams. I know you want to do it all, but just breathe, focus on one thing at a time, and enjoy the madness. Always thank your mom and dad for their unwavering belief and support.
Aguirre at age 3 (courtesy Aguirre)
Your deep love for your art will lead you to the best things in life. You're currently meeting and creating a forever family of humans that deeply care for you. Keep them close. They love you, and will be a safe home on the days that are difficult. One day, those humans will be standing by your side at your wedding. They will be your biggest inspirations, mentors, fellow artists, and creators.
Through this art, you'll find and marry the love of your life, eventually traveling the world and learning, laughing, adventuring, creating, and teaching together. You'll perform truly challenging work that inspires you to the core. You'll even complete a tour with a dance company filled with your best friends and your husband! Yes, it will be bliss.
Let go of that feeling that you only have two choices, the "ballet world" and the "commercial world." Because on the horizon there's a beautiful melding of the things you love most, and you'll be right in the middle of it all. So trust yourself, keep your heart open, stay wild, be brave, and smile at every human you pass.
A version of this story appeared in the December 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Letter to My Teenage Self: Chantel Aguirre."