Dancing Through Life

Senior Madalyn Hesterlee keeps on dancing, even when things get rough


Kara Simpson

Dance captain Madalyn Hesterlee sits Aug. 25 on a staircase.

Morgan Tate

25 hours, that’s how long senior Madalyn Hesterlee dances a week. Her busy schedule starts at 6:45 a.m. when she’s out with the dance team on the field and ends at 9:15 p.m. at the Kansas City Ballet. Her only break is school.  

Her dance journey started when she was three years old and her parents put her in ballet lessons with her twin sister. 

“My parents put me in dance because when I started walking at 14 months, I was always walking on my tip-toes,” Hesterlee said. “I loved tutus, playing dress-up and performing.”

Her sister quit, but she continued, wanting to be like the more experienced dancers.

“At my old studio, I always enjoyed watching the older dancers,” Hesterlee said. “I just aspired to be like them when I was older. The only way to do that was to continue dancing.”

A majority of her childhood was spent in her old dance studio, American Dance Center. 

“I pretty much grew up there,” Hesterlee said. “It felt like a family,  we were just really close and the teachers saw me grow up and that was a second home.”

Throughout her years there, she performed in a variety of ballets, improving her skills and sinking even more time into dance. Last December, she performed in “The Nutcracker” as grown Clara at American Dance Center. 

“It was the most magical role you could like imagine playing, I felt just like a princess,” Hesterlee said. “It was a really big deal.”

In December of 2021, after the performance, American Dance Center was shut down, separating her dance family and transferring her to the Kansas City Ballet.

“American Dance Center emailed us a week after we performed The Nutcracker that they wouldn’t be reopening,” Hesterlee said. “We hadn’t heard anything until this email. It was just really hard because the seniors all thought we had another year. That was our last time performing together. The hardest thing for me was remembering all the years I was there and then realizing I was never going to dance with all of those friends ever again.”

Dance had taken up most of her time, so Hesterlee hadn’t been involved in any extracurricular activities outside of Orchestra. Going into her junior year, Hesterlee wanted to get involved more at Northwest.

“I wanted to do something to get more involved for my last two years of high school,” Hesterlee said. “If it could be something that I was already good at, then I’d probably enjoy it and get to meet new friends.”

The biggest struggle for Hesterlee was balancing both her commitments and also her schoolwork, but she’s worked with both her teachers at the Kansas City Ballet and her coach to make sure it worked.

“I pay a lot of money to dance at Kansas City Ballet, but I’m also a captain on the dance team, so I have to be there for my team,” Hesterlee said. “It just comes down to communicating with Kansas City Ballet and then my coach . Both worked so hard and helped me be able to do both. Sometimes I miss ballet and then other times I miss dance team, so it’s all about compromise and just communication.”

As Hesterlee starts her senior year, none of her struggles can stop her from dancing and capturing the magical feeling of dance.

“Dancing as Clara was a moment I had wanted my entire life,” Hesterlee said. “I had worked so hard for that and it didn’t feel real. I felt like I was just dreaming.”