Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Personal Story: A Dancer's World

I've been a little depressing with the last two posts, haven't I? Well, let's take a break from that!

As many of you know, I am a dancer. I have been dancing for as long as I can remember. Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Hip-hop, Contemporary, Lyrical, Hawaiian, Pointe (still learning!), and Ballroom. I taught the first four styles listed for about five years. One of the perks of being a faculty member at the studio was getting to choreograph a solo for myself and performing it in the annual recital. Solos were never my thing. Why on Earth would I draw attention to myself like that? I'm not even that great of a dancer.

 Hold that thought!

I'm not being hard on myself when I say "I'm not even that great of a dancer." I'm not bad, but I'm actually pretty average. My hips are too narrow for me to have a proper turnout, my arches can't make up their mind of whether or not they want to be lifted each day, I am by no means flexible enough to do half the stuff I should be able to at my age with my years of experience, and I am simply not that strong. But that didn't change my passion for dance. Not one bit! In light of that, I had come up with a quote that I have kept with me and have shared with others. I think it's something everyone can apply, not just dancers:

"Never let your performance 
define your passion."

Dance is more than being able to make it all look effortless and pretty. While that's the basis of it, it's not all of it. Dance is more than just what you see with Misty Copeland, Angela Carter, or Robert & Allison from So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). The public sees the dancers who are able to work harder to overcome those obstacles or have been dancing since they came out of the womb. Those are the dancers who are able to share with the world what the rest of us dancers aren't able to.

Dance is expressing any emotion through movement. It's learning to work with the rest of the group to tell a story. It's working hard to get as close as possible to what your teacher/choreographer is picturing in his/her head. Dance is choreographing. Creating a visual story set to music. Dance is finding yourself somewhere between the 8am barre and the 10 pm cool-down-laugh-session with your fellow dancers. Dance is what taught me that I could accomplish anything I wanted.

Resume thought!

So, I choreographed my first solo when I was a...junior? senior? in high school. I choreographed it to a song that my Momma always loved for me to hear on our car rides together. Now that I think about it, I think it was my junior year because I had been told that she wasn't supposed to live to see me graduate high school. I wanted to do something special, so I decided to choreograph a dance for her.

The fact that I was preparing to perform alone on the big stage freaked me out! I had never been on that stage alone. I was always with at least one other person. It was a comfort thing. As long as there was someone else on stage with me, I could do okay. So, I worked on my solo during any break times in my dance day, during lunch and advisory (equivalent to some people's homeroom, I guess?) during school, and at night when I was alone in my room. The song was on replay in my head, the choreography was playing over and over but constantly changing slightly. It had to be perfect. This was my first ever solo and it was a dedication to my mom!

Well, May finally came around and my solo was finished. It was time to perform. I was so nervous about it that I even forgot the spandex shorts to go under my dress but over my tights!! Talk about embarrassing. Luckily, I only had one slip up where it was noticeable. I can laugh about it now, so that's good! I was nearing the end of the dance and I was completely lost in the movements. I had no idea how well I was doing and I could barely remember how I had even gotten through to that point.

Me and "Hagrid"
As I exited the stage, I felt it all hit me at once. The adrenaline. The exhaustion, 'cause why would anyone choreograph a simple solo for themselves? The joy. The passion. The nerves. The fact that I just danced by myself in front of a ton of people. It all hit me, but I had to keep that smile on until I got out into the hall of course! The second I was out in the hall, I burst into tears. I had to run to the dressing room to get changed for whatever was next. I was running and crying and wiping my makeup. Great, now I gotta fix my makeup! As I was running, I saw my dance best friend--let's call her Hagrid (inside joke behind it, hehe)--coming towards me. She saw I was crying and she gave me the biggest hug. She told me how well I did, how proud she was. She told me it was okay to be crying, as long as they were good tears of course. I couldn't be more grateful for her being there for me during that huge rush of emotions.

I was happy that was the solo Momma saw. It was far from perfect, but it was 100% me. It was a song I connected with, I choreographed it, I chose the costume. It was me. And that's what started it. The next two years I choreographed a solo for myself. The last one, I ended up not performing because I had too much else to do for the recital in terms of teaching and my own classes.

So, there's another little snip-it about me and who I am. I find great joy in dancing, and I haven't been able to dance since being in college the last two, almost three, years. Maybe someday I can find a way to afford to go back to classes, but for now I will simply reminisce.

Until next time,

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