HEALTH AS A FAMILY TRADITION
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.”