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Ask anyone and they will tell you their mom made them participate in some sort of sport or extra-curricular when they were younger. When I was younger those sports were gymnastics and ballet. Sometimes people take those sports and run with them and sometimes they decide those sports just aren’t for them. In the case of Melanie, a freshman majoring in nursing, that sport was dance. Unlike many others, she took dance and ran with it, turning it into a passion.
I sat Melanie down and asked her to think back on her experiences of being a dancer- how dancing made her feel, what drew her to dance, what made it spark. Instantly her eyes lit up and a smile widened across her face. I told her I had a few brief questions about her dancing career and her memory flashed back. “I started dancing when I was about four years old”, she told me. Often times that’s when moms start getting their kids involved in sports or the arts. In fact, that is exactly what she told me. “Personally I got involved because my mom thought it was a good way for me to get exercise while being young and teach me discipline, teamwork, and raise my self-esteem at a very young age”.
That is how many of these things start out, but some people learn to love it. Some people dive right in. Melanie went on to say “Later on I personally learned to enjoy it because I was able to make friends easily because of teamwork and the satisfaction I felt after memorizing choreography to dance raised my self-esteem”. Once she got acquainted with the other kids and became more confident in her abilities, she danced with it- so to speak. Now that the door was open she learned to really enjoy it. She even started going to dance recitals and performances in her spare time to appreciate its beauty. As she grew more familiar with dance and its various types, she became more interested in trying them out herself. Throughout her years as a dancer, she incorporated different genres into her dance routine. This included everything from classical ballet to modern hip-hop. “I did all sorts”, she said when asked about the different categories, “I did tap, jazz, ballet, point, hip-hop, and contemporary”. In each genre she learned something new from their energies. Each kind of music and dance spoke its own stories. Each one had a feel to it. Of course, through these different classes she was able to make more friends and become more involved in the environment. As her confidence and experience levels grew, so did her opportunities.
Throughout her dance career, Melanie has been a part of several different dance productions. This includes everything from casual, low-key recitals to full on mass productions. Each production had its own experience. Each production she learned from. When asked what productions she had been a part of over the years she reached back in her memory to recall each one. “I’ve been a part of ten annual recitals and Christmas productions along with showings at the county fair back home in Maryland. I also went on to perform at the Orange Bowl during my freshman year of high school”. Through hard work, dedication, and years of practice, Melanie was able to make it big. She started out doing little recitals with her peers throughout her childhood and eventually rose high enough through the ranks to make it to a widely recognized performance. Not only was it impressive that she was able to perform in the Orange Bowl, but she was able to perform at a relatively young age. “Most of the people I performed with were juniors and seniors in high school. I was one of the youngest people performing out there”. We have all seen various football Bowls and we all know how selective they are when picking out schools and dance teams to perform. “Not only was my dance team selected, but a number of different high schools from around the country were performing with us”, she mentioned. Melanie had been practicing her entire life but once she got into her senior year of high school she had to make a choice.
Going off to college, many kids do not get to continue perusing their passions such as dance and arts. When she decided to attend the University of Alabama, she made the choice to drop dance and focus on her schoolwork. Being a nursing major does not leave you with much spare time. In fact, Melanie said she is aspiring to be a trauma surgeon, which means her love for dance had to fall to the wayside. She simply did not have time for both. But she still loves the art of dance and thinks about it often. “I don’t dance anymore. I do however attend different dance performances at the University and back home when I get the chance. In fact, I am going to see my sister’s performance when I get back home for break”. Even though she is unable to live dance herself, she is able to live it through someone else.
Her days of dance are over, at least for now, but she continues to long for it. When asked if she still wishes she could go back to dance she answered with an immediate “Yes because it was always a fun way to work out. It allowed me to make friends with people that I normally wouldn’t have made in the community and to showcase a passion of mine”. Through her experience as a dancer, she was able to learn more than just dance moves. She was able to master confidence, charisma, and bravery. These traits have passed over into other arenas of her life. It is noticeable just talking to her that these are qualities that she was not only just born with, but also acquired through being around such a fun and supportive environment most of her life.
There are many forms of expression. There are many ways to tell a story. Art has made its through and progressed through the history of human kind but dance has stood out as something unusual. With just one dance, a hundred stories can be told. It all lies in the eyes of the beholder. Dance leaves the story up for interpretation. This is part of what makes it so beautiful. When Melanie took dance and incorporated it into her own life, she learned some things about depth and beauty. Sometimes the most beautiful stories are the ones with no words. Sometimes things that we do, such as dance, can change our lives. Perhaps that is why our mothers push us toward these activities.
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