To Ashland City dancer-choreographer Paiten Wolfe, life is a gift of endless encouragement and inspiration.
“I have danced since the age of three, so I don’t feel like I have a moment where I knew I was drawn to dance,” said Wolfe, 22. “However, I remember the first moment I knew I needed dance.”
She said that the moment of commitment to dance didn’t happen until she was 15 or 16.
“I was in Found Youth Movement Group when I had my ‘ah-ha’ moment,” she said. “It was a pre-professional dance company in Nashville directed by Travis Cooper — my dance dad. My first year in the company, my younger brother, Mitchell, was actually in the company with me. He and I had danced together for years, but something about that company brought us so much closer.”
Wolfe reflected on the impact of a performance with the group during her first year called “A World With or Without.”
“That show illustrated the difference that love makes in a person’s life,” she said. “In other words, the difference between a person who was surrounded by love growing up and person who did not. I had a solo that was based on all the things in my life that were hard and that could’ve really broken a person and how I overcame them. But for the sake of the piece, I did not overcome these struggles.
“It was the first time in my life where I actually emotionally dealt with the divorce of my parents, transferring schools, being bullied — the list goes on. It was the ultimate emotional release, and it made me realize that I have and always will need dance.”
Wolfe was born in Honolulu. Her father retired from the military when she was 8 and the family moved to Tennessee to live closer to her mother’s parents.
“Following college, I moved to Los Angeles to continue my dance pursuit, but due to COVID-19, I lost my job. I lost my dance training. For me, I lost what felt like everything,” she said.
With the pandemic shutting down most of the entertainment industry, Wolfe moved back to Tennessee. She said she is enrolled in cosmetology school and teaching at Millennium Dance Complex in Nashville every Monday night.
“Photography, cosmetology and writing help as well, but really the greatest motivator, healer, and encourager is dance,” she said.
Wolfe cited several teachers and mentors, including West Coast choreographer Kolanie Marks as having a profound effect on her training for success.
“Oh my goodness how this man trained me so hard yet in the same sentence he tells me to do better. He tells me what I am doing right. He also showed me that a teacher can care about your training and care about you as a person simultaneously,” she said about Marks.
Wolfe has performed in venues ranging from a high school gym to Nashville’s Nissan Stadium.
“One special moment that stands out was performing alongside my mentor as a peer,” she said. “I booked the Harley Davidson Fashion Show alongside Chi Lopes. She’d mentored me for a decade; and then, all of the sudden we were peers. I was no longer the student. I had arrived and stood out on my own.”
She listed Diana Matos, Kirsten Dodgen and Robert Green as her current favorite dancers. Dave Matthews, Dua Lipa, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Ariana Grande top Wolfe’s list of favorite singers.
“For me, dance has taught me life lessons,” she said. “Dance is the reason I know time management, professionalism, work ethic and so many other key life skills. Dance is more than just steps put together for fun.”
Her love for choreography has developed as a result of the open hearts of choreographers who have helped her find blessings in the dance of living to love each day by day.
“As cliche as it might sound, when I’m choreographing, there’s always a lesson, but my primary focus is creating a vibe and experience for not just the audience, but for the dancers,” Wolfe said. “I want the dancer to finish the choreography and then think about the ‘Wow’ factor that tells you how amazing life feels when you dance.”