Letter to My Teenage Self: Rachael McLaren

(Photo by Andrew Eccles, courtesy Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Rachael McLaren moves with a ballet dancer’s refined footwork, a musical theater vet’s theatricality and a modern dancer’s unmistakable groundedness. After training at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, McLaren performed in the Toronto cast of Mamma Mia! for two years before landing a spot in Ailey II in 2006. Two years later, she joined the main company, where she continues to perform featured roles in a wide variety of work by choreographers such as Wayne McGregor, Bill T. Jones and Jirˇí Kylián. This December, McLaren will make her New York debut as the lead in Alvin Ailey’s Night Creature during AAADT’s winter season in NYC. —Jenny Dalzell


Dearest Rachael,

Right now, you’re finding every opportunity you can to dance. It’s not just a hobby for you—you’re completely in love with it, and dance makes you feel like your strongest, most radiant self. Know that in sharing your passion, you’ll inspire enthusiasm and joy in others. This is what you were born to do. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Confidence is what you’ll need for your journey—and what a journey it will be!

Your adventures will lead you to work with many talented dancers, choreographers and artists, and you’ll get the chance to travel the world doing what you love. Be a sponge and learn from the inspiring people you meet. Don’t be afraid to be curious. There’ll be times when you’re thrown out of your comfort zone, but don’t shrink. Relish the challenge. Keep your heart open and your mind focused; you’ll be forever grateful for the gift of learning something new every day. Keeping a journal will help spark creativity, and it’ll help you get

to know yourself. In time, journaling will become beneficial for your sense of well-being.

(Photo courtesy Rachael McLaren)

Your body is your chosen instrument; treat it with love and tenderness. Go ahead and throw perfectionism and comparison out the window—they only lead to self-doubt and endless frustration. As you work hard to fine-tune your technique, be patient and work with your body. Always remember that your spirit is unique and your story is your own. You’ll find a beautiful sense of freedom in your artistry when you embrace your most authentic self.

I’m so proud of you for knowing your worth and trusting your gut! Don’t ever stop.

All my love,


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