As a little girl, I peeked through the windows watching the older girls in ballet class. I looked up at the stage waiting for the day I could dance my senior solo. As much as I loved dancing, I wanted nothing more than to take my final bow. Now, I wish I could go back to that day and relive it a million times. They always say, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone," and I understand that all too well now. I didn’t realize what an impact my studio had on my life until I graduated.

My feet are permanently stuck in a pointe. I stand in first and fifth position without even realizing it. I walk on my tippy toes day in and day out. I have a dance choreographed in my head for every song that plays on the radio. I still bend my feet and crack my toes when I get nervous. I casually stick my foot out in tandu position when waiting in line.

My dance teachers were my family. They were always going to be there. They pushed me. When I first came to this studio, I was a really shy, awkward high school student who was scared to try anything and scared to speak up. I can thank dance for changing all that. Dance brought me out of my shell. It taught me how to perform in front of people, which helped in social settings. It taught me a smile was a girl’s best feature. Now, I’m known as the girl who’s always smiling or laughing. My dance teachers helped me with everything. When I say everything I mean absolutely anything I needed help with. Whether it was dance related or not, I could always count on them for some advice.

The girls I danced with were my family. They were friends when I didn’t have anyone else. I could always count on them and trust them, no matter what. They saw so much good in me and knew me better than I even knew myself at times. Most importantly, they pushed me to be the best version of myself. I was not only inspired by them while watching them dance, but seeing the hard work they put into school inspired me to be better.

Most people are lucky enough to say they grew up at the studio. I was different. I joined my studio during my sophomore year of high school. Before I knew it, I was hanging out with the girls outside of dance on the weekends, and hanging out in the sewing room with the teachers while waiting for my ride to pick me up. I felt like I did grow up here. I found myself here. This is where I was meant to be. Right away, this studio felt like home to me. Shortly after, I didn’t feel like the “new girl” anymore. I felt like I found my best friends right away.

There is absolutely no way in the world I would have become the dancer I am today if it wasn’t for each and every person at the studio, so thank you. When I see others dance, I see a beautiful story being told. I learned to dance like no one’s watching. I learned that if you do it full out, it looks better.

Dance is not only a way to express yourself and your feelings, but is a way to connect to people that absentmindedly become your best friends without you even knowing it. For some reason performing on stage together brings you closer than ever. Those late Thursday night practices along with those early morning Saturday rehearsals bring you so much closer to the people you never knew meant so much to you.

The special thing about dance isn’t how many cute costumes you own, how many trophies or medals you win, how many pirouettes you can do without falling; it’s about the people who shaped you into the person you are now. For me, those are all the teachers, dance moms, old girls, and younger girls… The ones I spent every week with.

It got to the point where I would come hang out at the studio after school even if I didn’t have practice. I came so I could see the people that mean the most to me. I came because I wanted to be surrounded by the people that love and support me. I came because I wanted to love and support them. Whether I was helping by picking up Starbucks for everyone or if I was helping organize the fabric room, I wouldn’t have wanted to spend any of those days doing something different.

Spending countless days and countless hours at the dance studio mindlessly becomes a huge part of your life. It felt like, in the blink of an eye, I went from falling on my face in the closing number, to performing my senior solo at recital, all around the same people I started with. Before you know it you’re competing your last senior solo, last duet, last trio, it’s your last everything.

The people at the studio become a part of your life; the teachers, the young girls, the recreation kids, and even the moms and the girls you dance with. Not only did I find my best friends, I found my second home. Watching my best friends graduate the year before me was so hard. I now understand what they meant when they said, “I can’t explain how much these girls mean to me.”
Even if I was having the worst day of my life, coming to the studio made me forget about it; all my worries were put on hold for the time being. All these reasons I loved coming to the studio, made dancing in the studio mean even more to me. They taught me to live by the beat of life.

The studio was the hardest thing to say goodbye to when it was time to go off to college. Now when I come home and visit, I’m not wearing my leotard and spandex getting ready to dance, I’m just watching. Maybe every now and then I’ll participate in across the floor or Saturday tumbling, but it’s still not the same. Although, when I come back to visit, the overwhelming amount of love and passion from all the teachers and moms makes me grateful to even have these people in my life. You forget about the fact you don’t get to spend every day of the week with them, you forget that you miss out on the hilarious moments at practice, you forget that you aren’t in the group chats anymore. There’s always a part of you that will remember them as your best friends, no matter what life throws at you.

Throughout the years we have built a bond that is unbreakable and indescribable. When my dance career came to an end, I honestly did not think it would be as hard as it was to say goodbye to all of you. Walking that stage to give my senior speech at recital, still, to this day, plays in my head. I miss every second of it. Even though we are all slowly going off in our own directions, I can only hope that one day our paths will cross again.

I miss how a few days away from each other felt like weeks.

I miss breaking out in the hip hop dance we learned the night before, whenever the song would play, no matter where we were.

I miss wearing matching T-shirts at competitions.

I miss the false eyelashes and lip-stain.

I miss frantically running around in the dressing room, all trying to get dressed in time for our next number.

I miss sitting backstage watching everyone from the side of the competition stage watching the girls perform their hearts out.

I miss the uncontrollable laughs that lead to wet pants and teary eyes.

I miss conditioning. I miss how we don’t get to spend endless nights in the studio together. I miss going away to competitions and not only enjoying dance but enjoying each other.

Thanks for helping me discover who I really am in this crazy world and thank you for being you. There was never a time I felt I couldn’t be myself. You all accepted me for the goofball I was, and still am. You guys have been with me at my absolute best and at my absolute worst. Thanks to dance, you guys have seen me the way the people I went to high school with never did.

I love you all and I don’t know where I would be without any of you. Thanks for everything.

There are so many things I could thank my dance teachers for and so many things I haven’t had the chance to. Even as an alumni, I know I will always have a place there. Thank you for teaching me what drive and ambition is. Thank you for teaching me to follow my dreams. Thank you for teaching me structure and to follow directions. Thank you for teaching me about art and creativity. Thanks for teaching me about life.

Dance was more than tap, jazz, ballet, and hip hop. It was about so much more. Every action in my life will be a constant eight count, and every action I take from now on will grow me into a better person, just like my dance studio did.