Chelsea and Amanda Reichert have never been the sort of people to gravitate toward compliments. They blush easily and are quick to remind everyone, as if a way of reminding themselves, that they’re not as good at dance as they’d like to be.
When compliments come — and with both girls clutching stacks of first-place regional and national dance awards, they do come — they absorb them gracefully, say “thank you” and change the subject.
“Chelsea is so hard on herself. She doesn’t even like to watch herself (on video),” says Karen Fender, director of Lawrence Dance Gallery. “She shrugs away from praise. And Amanda may cringe, but she’ll watch clips of herself.”
Twin sisters Amanda and Chelsea have been dancing since fifth grade. Now, at 18 and seniors at Lawrence High School, they are in the twilight of their high school careers and are mentally preparing themselves to leap into a new arena of competition — college.
The imminent progression from high school to college strikes the girls as bittersweet — partially, they will be glad to graduate so they can focus more intently on their craft, but partially they are reluctant, and a bit afraid, to plunge into the professional world of dance.
“I want to major in dance in college and have some sort of career in dancing or choreography, but I also know that it may not be realistic because it’s a tough job,” Chelsea says.
Fears may keep the girls grounded, but they also may be unwarranted. Fender says when she takes Lawrence Dance Gallery students to national competitions, people ask about the Reicherts.
“One of the heads at nationals asked me what it was like to have these girls walk into my studio and be that good,” Fender says. “I have no doubt that they have a future in dance, whether it’s performing or teaching. I can see both as great performers.”
The Reicherts didn’t stumble into the dance studio as award-winning dancers. When they started, the girls were stiff, not very flexible and kind of clumsy, say their parents, Van and Leah. But they loved dancing so much, they worked hard to improve.
“They liked dance from the get-go,” Leah says. “I always told them, ‘If you don’t want to do it, you can get out of it. But they were adding dance classes all the time.’”
The Reicherts work hard: Every day after school, at 4 p.m., they shuffle to the studio and practice until at least 9, sometimes 10 p.m. They also devote most of their weekends to dance.
Though the girls are twins, they aren’t the sort who relish in similarities. They bask more in difference: The girls have different dance styles, hairstyle, builds.
Chelsea is a liquid dancer, Amanda a strong one. Both love choreographing. When they create a dance number, they do their best to remain loyal to the music. They let the instruments, lyrics and beats drive their movement.
“It’s neat to be able to experiment with your body and figure out new ways that your body can move to portray something in the music,” Chelsea says. “I feel like it has pushed me to try to be more creative and has helped me to better understand the music I am using.”
The Reicherts are natural performers. Once on stage, they dive into the steps and move their feet in precise, thoughtful rhythms. They usually win awards for their performances, though the awards aren’t why they dance.
“I just try to enjoy my time out there,” Amanda says. “Performing is one of the best adrenaline rushes you can get, and in dance, the learning is never-ending because there is so much you can do.”