Dalton High graduate plans to continue ballet career

·4 min read

Jun. 2—While Paige Manahan was disconsolate to learn the Georgia Governor's Honors Program camp wouldn't be offered last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she remains grateful for the lessons she learned during the application process.

"I was very, very disappointed, (that) I didn't have that to look forward to," said the recent Dalton High School graduate. Manahan had joined other finalists in a group message, and "we'd been talking all the time, (so) we were excited to meet in person."

"It was really hard, at first, but it was great" to go through the application process, which included performing dances both live and on video, an in-person interview and a written essay, she said. "It was a lot like (applying) for college, (so) it was a good experience overall, and it definitely helped."

Manahan, who will attend Ballet Magnificat!, a Christian ballet company in Mississippi's capital of Jackson, would have made dance her focus at the summer camp, perhaps an obvious choice for someone who has been dancing since age 3.

"I can't remember not dancing, and I don't want to have a time when I'm not dancing," she said. "I definitely do love it."

In dance, "you can always grow, and I love performing," she said. "It's easy to be hard on yourself, but you're always growing in dance, and it grows with you."

Dalton High School's drama program routinely called upon her dance knowledge and skills, said Wes Phinney, head of the school's drama department. She choreographed numerous numbers for casts of multiple shows, and she was recognized as an "All-Star performer" at the one-act competition for the 2019 production of "The Duchess Mislaid: A Commedia."

"I think that her exceptional dance training and skills have served her well in meeting the challenges of such physical acting, the best example of" which was as the mute servant Pedrolino in that one act, Phinney said. "Paige was called on to communicate through movement only, and being such an outstanding dancer, she had little trouble."

She's dedicated to improving herself, and that's part of the reason she was excited for the Governor's Honors Program camp last summer, which is typically held at Berry College.

"I always want to work on my technique," and she'd heard from friends who had attended the camp that dancers "can work a lot on artistry and how to emote," she said. Being denied that opportunity "was really discouraging to me."

Manahan "loves and lives dance," said Berrien Long, owner/director of the Dance Theatre of Dalton. "I hate she missed the (Governor's Honors Program camp) experience, but knowing Paige, she'll find" other ways to grow and blossom "as an outstanding human being and dancer."

Manahan managed to get into a Mississippi dance camp last summer she'd been to previously to fill part of the gap left by the disappearance of the Governor's Honors Program camp, she said. "I was really lucky."

Manahan, who was celebrated during a Sept. 14, 2020, Dalton Board of Education meeting for being a Governor's Honors Program finalist, "stood out in drama class as an exceptional young actress, which she has demonstrated in two exceptional winter play performances, 2019's 'The Crucible'" and then "Shakespeare in Love" the following year, Phinney said. "The main thing that stands out in my mind about Paige is that she is open to suggestions and directions — even though they are few and far between — and willing to do whatever is necessary to improve her performance, not just for herself, but for the good of the show and everyone involved."

In "Shakespeare in Love," for example, "she was asked to do a great deal of physical acting," including climbing, running and fighting, as Viola De Lesseps, "but she never hesitated and ultimately rose to the challenge to give an outstanding performance," Phinney said. "Paige is one of the finest young ladies I have ever had the pleasure of teaching, always positive in her outlook, very well-mannered and friendly, just delightful to be around."

Manahan is partial to ballet more than any other style, because "it's the basis for everything" else, from contemporary to jazz, she said. Plus, "it's so pretty."

And the Dance Theatre of Dalton proved to be an ideal home for Manahan.

"I love all the girls at the studio, and we've been together since we were little," she said. "We do 'The Nutcracker' every year, and it's one of my favorites."

Manahan "is a smart, talented, strong dancer who is always pushing herself to be the best she can be while at the same time being kind and helpful to everyone else in the studio, (and) her sweet personality shines on the stage where her exquisite dancing really comes to life," Long said. "Keep an eye on her, (because) she will do great things in life."