HEALTH AS A FAM­ILY TRA­DI­TION

KAI MOR­GAN

Santa Fe New Mexican - Healthy Living - - NEWS -

Kai Mor­gan started tak­ing dance classes at Na­tional Dance In­sti­tute when she was 4, and she hasn’t stopped. Danc­ing is her way of get­ting reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity at least 13 hours a week, but it also keeps her men­tally and emo­tion­ally healthy.

“Dance has helped me in ev­ery as­pect of my life,” said the 17-year-old. “It helps me in the class­room at school to be able to fo­cus and have dis­ci­pline. It also frees my mind from aca­demic work and what’s go­ing on in my life. It’s like a friend — it takes out all the bad things in my day and lets me use my body in­stead of words.”

Mor­gan is nat­u­rally at­tracted to dance and a healthy life­style; her par­ents are both re­tired pro­fes­sional bal­let dancers. Her mom, Al­le­gra Lil­lard, is pro­gram di­rec­tor at NDI’s pop­u­lar Dance Barn, and her dad is now a chi­ro­prac­tor who can tend to Mor­gan when she gets in­jured. Mor­gan usu­ally dances bal­let and also likes mod­ern and jazz dance.

“Be­cause both of my par­ents are dancers and I have danced all my life, health and well­ness is a big part of my grow­ing up,” said Mor­gan.

Her fam­ily has al­ways been ac­tive to­gether — hik­ing; play­ing at parks when Mor­gan and her 14-year-old brother, Blaze, were younger; and walk­ing their West High­land ter­rier, Wal­lace, around their Casa Al­le­gre neigh­bor­hood. “We did small stuff, but we were out­side and ac­tive and to­gether,” she said.

Mor­gan’s par­ents taught their kids the im­por­tance of shar­ing meals as a fam­ily and eat­ing a bal­anced diet with all food groups. For Mor­gan, food is fuel that al­lows her body to per­form ev­ery day. She feels sick and tired when she for­gets to bring lunch with her to New Mex­ico School for the Arts and eats snacks in­stead.

“I try to give my­self the best meals so I can go through the day with­out feel­ing sick or low en­ergy, be­cause I have a very long day,” she said. “You have to eat a good, hearty meal so you can ac­tu­ally dance.”

Grow­ing up as a teenager in dance, Mor­gan has learned to push away neg­a­tive thoughts on the days when she doesn’t feel like wear­ing a leo­tard and tights.

“I know many peo­ple who def­i­nitely have body-im­age is­sues be­cause of grow­ing up in a stu­dio,” she said. “You have to over­come that and love your body no mat­ter what.”

Lov­ing her body also means work­ing through frus­tra­tions when her body doesn’t per­form the way she would like. “In bal­let, you’re try­ing to per­fect your body in the way it can move,” she said. “It can be very hard when your body doesn’t move like that. You have to push through it and know you can’t change your­self.”

As Mor­gan pre­pares to leave home for col­lege next year, she is con­fi­dent she can main­tain her health once she is on her own. “Eat­ing right, stay­ing in shape and not get­ting sick is very im­por­tant to me.”

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