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The creak of the curtains as they fly out of sight. The first notes of music beginning to play. The sight of a silent audience sitting, waiting.
These are the moments a dancer lives for.
Performing is both exhilarating and peaceful. Offstage anticipation sparks the air – legs shake, palms sweat, and hearts race. But then a foot creeps from the wings, the spotlight hits, and everything changes – time slows down, steadiness seeps through the limbs, and there is only the music. Dancers endure months of long days at the studio, their feet bleeding, their bodies exhausted, but the extraordinary sensations that performing brings are the very reason they do it all.
Most dancers eat, sleep, and breathe to perform, but I do not. My love for dance is unique. It is unrelated to a perfectly executed pirouette, the sound of a cheering audience, or any aspect of dancing itself. I do not dance for the onstage experience but rather for the backstage experience.
I was only four years old when I began at my dance studio, a place I have come to view as a home away from home throughout the past thirteen years. It is almost an insult to refer to the other dancers and teachers at my studio as merely my friends and instructors, because my relationships with them extend far beyond that. From adorable four-year-olds dancing with teddy bears, to hopelessly awkward Jonas Brothers-obsessed middle schoolers, and finally to mature, college-bound young women, we have grown up together with our teachers proudly watching us every step of the way. My “dance girls” are the closest I will ever come to having sisters and I consider my teachers my second, third, and fourth moms rather than my coaches. They are not just my dance company; they are my dance family.
Whether I got into an argument with my parents, received a poor grade on a test, or felt out of place in my friend group, the studio has always been there for me. They have laughed with me, cried with me, and most importantly, helped me develop into the person I am today. They are my ultimate support group, one of the things I am most thankful for in my life, and at the end of the day they are the reason I dance. For me, the years of friendship and uplift I have found with them are what make every bruised knee, late night and early morning spent in the studio, and missed Friday night basketball game worthwhile.
Dance is a very meaningful part of my life, to which I owe a great deal. Performing before vast crowds of strangers gave me tremendous confidence. Competitions showed me that what really matters is not winning, but hard work. And the hours spent in my studio taught me the importance of teamwork as well as any varsity sport could have. Dance gave me many things throughout the years, but the lessons I learned and the courage I found pale in comparison to the friendships I made. Ten years from now I will care little for the awards we won or the standing ovations we received, but I will always value the people dance brought into my life and my time spent with them.
Holding worm contests in the hallway of our hotel. Intensely discussing the latest happenings on Grey’s Anatomy while we stretch. Curling up on my teacher’s couch each summer to watch our most recent recital on DVD.
These are the moments I live for.
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