Dancing has been an important part of my life for more than eight years. When I was eight, my mother enrolled me in dancing classes, never realizing it would lead to anything serious. For the first few months, dance was entertainment, something to keep me busy. Although I enjoyed taking classes, I did not become serious until the following year, when my favorite tap teacher told my mother to consider getting me involved in more competitive classes. That was the beginning of my long and successful dancing career, one that has taught me many valuable lessons about the art of dance, and the art of life.
Over the years, whether I was living in Buffalo, Atlanta, or Randolph, New Jersey, I learned to adjust as a person, and as a serious dancer. In fact, I found traits I needed to survive and grow as a dancer were also valuable in school and life. Of all the experiences I've had as a dancer, I cherish those moments when I had the opportunity to learn from other dancers.
Learning is central to the development of a dancer. In Atlanta, for example, I trained with dancers who studied with the Atlanta Ballet Company as well as those who had trained with famous European dancers, I learned something different from each, even though practices were long and grueling. And yet, although at times I wanted to give up, I sensed that I would be rewarded for my efforts.
This pattern repeated itself several times. I would be uprooted and immediately plunged into new and bewildering situations that made adjustment difficult. However, each time I was determined to apply what I had learned, both as a person. and as a dancer. Each time my repertoire grew. By this I mean that I not only learned new steps on the dance floor, but I also gained maturity in my responses to the world. Indeed, in time I was able to welcome change, because I knew it meant growth.
Over the years dance has helped me to grow in other ways. From it I have learned that hard work really does pay off. I learned that discipline and self control are not only a vital part of dancing, but a necessary part of life. Also, I have recognized that motivation and perseverance are keys to success. What matters is not who wins in the beginning, but who is still on her feet in the end. Perhaps the most important lesson dance has taught me is responsibility. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.
“Okay ladies, time for class. Get into your positions. Ready, first position…second position….third position.” The teacher just goes on and on and on. I was never late, always on time. I was the one who really was cool with a lot of people. I was always a part of the crowd that was social we were all stretching and hoping to relax before practice started. Bars are surrounding the perimeter of the rooms and bright clear mirrors around the whole studio. To be a dancer, it takes a lot of endurance, strength, and commitment. I need to use my legs, arms, and abdomen. In order for I to do that, they need to be strong enough. For some people, it can be a way to express your feelings or just do it, just to do it. Additionally, it can be a very good work out and keep you in shape. Taking ballet when I was little was fun. I would dance around at Philadanco in West Philly with my godsisters.
It was a couple years ago. I hop out the car and rush into the studio. Everyone is in their bodysuits and tights. Before everything starts, we are all stretching and talking among ourselves. Then the instructor comes in, “Hello girls, time for class!” Everyone gets up and is ready. Feet and arms move together in the five basic positions. I’m moving to the rhythm of the music. “Run run run run, JUMP!” says the instructor. It has been a hour in a half practicing our moves, then we take a break. There are so many conversations going on at once. All the chattering from my peers talking about different topics. Then all conversations stop. It was sounded like we were in a library and no one was to make a sound. Shhhh, someone new comes in. No one knows her but me. Long hair, glasses, and tall. I stand there in amazement wondering why she’s there. I knew dancing was in her but I never knew she would want to do it.. Whether it was ballet, tap, hip-hop. Well, I’m not too sure about the tap dancing. I make her comfortable and introduce her to everyone. She’s pretty good. First position, second position and it keeps going on and on. Never ending. She makes friends quick and blends in but is a stand out. “Demi plié everyone”, says the teacher. Tick tock. The clock is moving by fast. Now it’s coming towards the end of the day and yes, I am very tired. The soles of my shoes are worn out. The long, thick straps leaving a mark around my legs. I think it’s time to go home. Hopefully, the new girl enjoyed her first day. Well, she did cause that new girl was me!
That day was so much fun. For me, it was kind of nerve reckoning with all of the stares and looks only because I was new, but it all paid off well in the end. After walking in the studio for the first time, I immediately fell in love with it. The moves, the posture, and the technique of it all.
Okay, so now let’s move forwards some years. It’s been a long time since I have danced. Whether it was ballet, hip-hop, or whatever. Yeah, I might go on and dance with my friends at church or when we’re all at home just dancing for fun! I see people on T.V. moving to the beat. Whether the beat was slow or fast. It was years ago and now I’m feeling that I should do it again, along with other things. Every time I go out with my mom to the super market, or to the mall with my friends, I always end up dancing, and most of the time, there’s no music playing. My mom always tells me, “Raeven, I’m going to you back into a dance school.” I always blew it off but now that she’s said so many times, I think I would really like to do it. When she’s not home, I will always put on some music and learn the dances of different music videos …well, not study them, but just look at them and see how precise the dancers are with their moves.
It had been a while since I’ve danced. I have always loved doing it. Whether it was hip-hop or ballet. Sometimes, I do it because it can can be a way to express myself and it’s just fun. Now that I am older, I would like to get back into doing it and really becoming committed to it.