Prep of the Year Honorable Mention: Margot Johnson

Annie Goldstein

“I black out and go into my own world [when I’m dancing]. I’m completely unaware of the audience or [the] people in the wings. When the music starts, I feel nervous, and then as I start moving, everything goes away,” senior Margot Johnson said.

Margot Johnson will attend the University of California, Santa Barbara next year to further her dancing career. Photo courtesy of Cassi Lee.

Johnson first took to the stage at age seven when she started performing in musical theater. Her love of theater drew her to explore dance, and Johnson has continued to do so competitively at the Performing Arts Academy of Marin (PAAM) for over a decade.

From the beginning of Johnson’s dance career at PAAM, owner and director Annie Thistle knew that Johnson would thrive at her studio. Thistle first interacted with Johnson when she was a musical theater student and has been her teacher, mentor and choreographer throughout her time at the company. Thistle appreciates Johnson’s commitment, and saw her potential and drive for dance early on.

“Since the very first day I met her, I knew [Johnson] was destined for big things. She was the only child at age seven that took it upon herself to submit an audition video when she missed her mini-musical audition. She sang a song, said a monologue and had her mom record it all,” Thistle said. “She was so put together, so enthusiastic and had a ton of potential.” 

Participating in dance classes and summer intensives, Johnson joined PAAM’s pre-professional training program, the highest level of dance offered at the studio. Additionally, Johnson was selected to attend the Preprofessional Dancer Institute over Labor Day in 2021, a program run by Francisco Galla that selects only 80 to 90 youth dancers in the United States. 

Over the years, Johnson has attended many dance competitions — typically five to six per year. Johnson has placed first overall with several group dances at Break The Floor conventions and RADIX Regional Competitions. This year, she was awarded the first place overall senior soloist award at Kids Artistic Revue (KAR), a dance competition and convention in Burlingame. Not only has she excelled technically as a dancer, but Johnson has found unique ways to express herself through her craft. 

“I feel very connected to whatever music I’m performing to, and that’s why I enjoy [dance]. It is more than just dancing. It is very much like an expression, and it’s very freeing and exciting. It feels really good to be on stage and to strive to get better,” Johnson said. 

Thistle has witnessed Johnson’s growth and progression as a dancer and admires Johnson’s ability to connect her personality with the choreography.

“She’s warm and welcoming, very intelligent, very rational and pragmatic, but she’s also a beautiful artist, so she knows how to tell a story,” Thistle said. “[Johnson] can [perform] pieces that move people. She’s not only an amazing athlete and dancer, but she’s a really great artist because she truly understands what a piece is about.”

Although she did not anticipate dancing in college until her sophomore year of high school, Johnson embraces her next step as she heads to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) to major in dance. 

“Dance has taught me confidence, freedom of expression, social confidence and the ability to communicate and work well with others,” Johnson said. “Being able to continue to stay in shape and make connections with people who have the same passions as me will give me a community once I go to college.”