Mary Vo: A Dancer with a Dream

By Connie Lay-Ngo

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She is a student with many titles. Some refer to her as the senior Poms captain, Orchesis officer, former NWN news anchor and member of Break Beatz, or as an exceptionally passionate dancer. Others know her as Mary Vo.

Vo’s dedication to dance is planted deeply in her heart.

“[With dance], I like that I can freely express my emotional feelings through art,” said Vo. “[It] makes me feel very lively and it’s something that nothing else can give me. It is something I’ve done all my life, for about 10 years now. I try to use it for good work like charity events [and] promotions.”

Niles West’s Varsity Pommers recently placed 12th in the nation in the Universal Dance Association’s (UDA) National Dance Team Championship and Vo shares her pride in the team.

“I am very happy and proud of Poms. I feel very accomplished as it proved that all my hard work for Poms has paid off and I’m very proud of those girls. [Finals] were awesome and I made one of the most memorable experiences ever in my life. It was very competitive and fun.  This was the first time in history that Poms has made it to finals, so we put a dent in history,” said Vo.

“We got first place [in] our regional competition and I personally feel like this is the best Poms has ever done in history. Everyone works hard and puts in all their effort. I think it’s the bond we have and the leaders of Poms. We all click very well and we connect to each other. We prioritize Poms and that has made a big impact on our results. I am satisfied with the results [because] we didn’t think we would make finals at all. My jaw dropped for 10 minutes. Finals and nationals are extremely hard to get into, especially because our team is inexperienced.”

Junior captain Evangeline Alpogianis agrees with Vo and supports her leadership role in their group.

“[Vo] is a very good leader,” said Alpogianis. “She’s very hard-working and dedicated. She used to do hip hop and joined Poms last year, so she has adapted to [Pom’s] new styles within two years.”

Vo was also involved in the recent Orchesis performances.

“I’ve been involved with Orchesis for two years and I think this year’s performance was amazing. [Before the performances] I prepared choreography and formations and mentally, I prepare energy, motivation, and focus. But more importantly, I try to remind everyone to just to have fun.”

Vo has recognized the impressions that her performances have given of her and wants the world to know that her popularity has nothing to do with who she is.

“I’m not intimidating, and if anyone feels that way, I always stress out,” said Vo. “People feel intimidated by me because my dancing is rough, but I’m really nice, I swear. And I’m open to anyone at any time. Don’t be afraid to talk to me. I’m not cool. I’m not a celebrity. Aside from performing, I can be very clumsy when I’m not focused and I stutter when I talk sometimes. I value my work and I’m not intimidating.”

Outside of school, Vo still manages to keep herself busy at all times in other activities.

“I always like to be busy, so I’m constantly coordinating benefit events for my Youth Group,” said Vo. “I like to read books that people to recommend to me, going to church, and hanging out with my friends. I’m another typical Asian that watches anime. I love fellowship because I like reaching out to the youth and preparing things for [them] in the ministry. I’m very religious. I sing lead for my church’s worship, play the drums, and coordinate events. I also love one-on-one personal talks. I like to talk to people when they need someone there.”

In addition to her extracurriculars, Vo continues her hobby in workshops and organizations.

“I am a dance teacher at Nonstop Dance Productions and the co-director of a dance group called Puzzle League.  Puzzle League is a dance organization that was established in 2010 by six members from Nonstop Dance Productions. We sought for growth and decided to create a more competitive based group.”

Vo’s inspiration to dance comes from one friend in particular and another choreographer she admires.

“I came from a Chicago public high school and transitioning from a Chicago high school to here has brought me to see all these amazing people in my life now. I transferred here for Orchesis. My best pal, Matt Punanes, was once an officer for Niles West’s Orchesis company. I looked up to him since I was 11 and I purposely transferred here after he graduated and head into the potential he left his year. Now, we both co-direct a dance group together for workshops and choreograph. I work with him a lot now. Another choreographer, Parris Gloebal, is the director of ReQuest Dance crew and she represents women’s strength and integrity. She’s fierce and nothing stands in her way. I want to dance with her one day.”

Not only does Vo know how to wow a crowd in school assembly dance-offs, work the stage with her fellow pommers, and collaborate with her dance group companions, but she also knows how to dream big.

“I want to be a dance instructor and a physical therapist,” shared Vo. “So I’m not going to run off and be a dancer. Dancing comes with pros and cons. It’s not practical and it can be corrupted through fame and self-wanting goals, but through what I do, I want to use [my skills] to be selfless and help others instead. I want to share my passion with others by healing, teaching, and being selfless. Originally, I did want to be a dancer, but instead I wanted to use my other abilities to do ministry work. I desire more to help others than to fulfill my own desires. I want to travel to Third World countries and share my love for dance and heal those who cannot move. I want to share the passion I feel when I dance.”

Vo shares a message to all people with dreams like hers: “Never forget what you’re doing it for. Hard work always pays off. Even if you don’t attain it right away, you will get your reward in the future. Don’t ever give up, because [giving up] is not worth it.”

Vo’s dream has taken a step forward as she has been accepted to the University of Iowa to dance and major in Pre-Physical Therapy.

“[University of Iowa’s] Physical Therapy program is the top five in the U.S. and their dance program is well known and progressive,” said Vo. “[When I got my acceptance letter] I was in complete shock. Actually, I’m still in complete shock. After the auditions, I remembered feeling sure that I wasn’t going to make it into the major. Their dance major is primarily ballet; a field that I’m not trained in. I felt really intimidated and overwhelmed because it was literally the first ballet class that I have ever taken, and also because it consisted girls who have been taking ballet all their lives. Out of the 200 people who auditoned, only around 35 people end up in the major. Prayer is amazing.”

Vo is currently planning to participate in the upcoming musical, Chicago, and assist in its choreography.

Want to know more about Mary? Here are some Fun Facts:

  • Her favorite things to eat are crab ragoons, tacos, Chipotle, chicken wings, pho (vietnamese noodles), lasagna, and pasta.
  • Her favorite movies are Bridesmaids and the Harry Potter series.
  • She anticipates the release of the “Hunger Games.”
  • She likes to listen to R&B, hip hop, and contemporary music with meaning. She dislikes rap or songs with cursing.
  • If she could change one thing in her life, it would be her grades.  She also wishes she was as strong in the past as she is now so that her past wouldn’t have affected her so greatly.
  • Her favorite subject in school is English.
  • She can burp on command.