Today marks one year since my grandfather passed. What does this have to do with ballet?

Ballet has been an outlet and powerful source to release my emotions for the past 16 and a half years of my life. Dance becomes before language. It comes before formulating clear thoughts, and when that movement matures, it comes with purpose. It has shaped me not only physically, but emotionally in ways that no other sport could.

When my grandfather passed, the one thing I wanted to do was dance. He taught me to be a free spirit which is captured through the movement of ballet. I could not be more grateful for everything he taught me and chanelling that into a fluid movement through ballet is exactly what helped me.

My parents got divorced when I was 9, making me mature enough to understand the situation, but young enough to not verbally get involved. I looked forward to my one escape, ballet with my hellish instructor every Saturday morning at 9:15.

Not only did ballet provide a type of therapy for my troubles, but it molded me into the person I am today. Without my "hellish" instructor that guided me for 8 years, I would not have the self discipline that I have now. Ballet goes beyond being a physical endurance sport, it's a mental game. Ballet taught me that setting goals and reaching them is one of the most important things in life, and that is why I hold dedication and ambition as some of the most valuable traits.

My work ethic has tremendously matured through my years of dance, and this has expanded into real world scenarios. My instructor noticed that I became more meticulous of my technique and therefore he became more critical of me. Anyone who dances knows its an honor to be scolded over and over by the instructor, because it meant he/she cares. Because of this, I learned the value of ambition. I learned that hard work WILL pay off. Never forget that effort is directionally proportionate to your output. I've learned to translate this into my school efforts, extra curricular activities, and overall life goals.

My instructor paid close attention to my work ethic: when I showed up to class, how I planned on improving, my etiquette during class, etc. Without someone bearing over my shoulder in order to improve, I most likely would not have had the drive to succeed as a 9 year old. He showed me what improving work ethic would do and that is something I will always be thankful for.

Ballet has also taught me grace. In times of despair and need, ballet was a peaceful display of my emotions. Though the process of creating grace with my body was not so "graceful," it became worth it in the end. Lastly, less metaphorically, ballet taught me physical pain. Any dancer is aware of the endless tears, pulls, and soreness that ballet brings. We only get one body, and what we choose to do with it is ultimately our choice. Ballet has quite literally provided those "blood, sweat, and tears" that everyone talks about.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't change the fact that I am a dancer for the world. It's taught me more than most could. Without passion, life is meaningless. I grew a passion for dance, and I'm thankful for that every day. My passion shines through the work of art that is dance.