How Dance Saved My Life
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Health and Wellness

How Dance Saved My Life

Thank you, dance, for saving my life and being that one thing I can count on for a sweet, invincible escape.

How Dance Saved My Life
Focus Right Photography

What is it that a makes a person hold onto a life that is painful? What is it that stops someone from giving up? What allows them to remember that tomorrow is a new day and that this pain will end with time? For me, it's that feeling in my body, the music in my ears, and the passion in my heart allowing all my emotions to pour out; allowing for such a beautiful, sweet escape. Many Lyme survivors might not be able to relate, but for me dance has saved my life.

It must be something about the swift feeling under the ball of your foot as you pirouette, the air rushing beneath you as you leap, your body melting out emotion with each release and pushing through the anger with every contraction. Whatever it is, when I dance my life has no complications and that is the most beautiful feeling in the world. I allow myself to get lost in the rhythm of the music, float through each movement, and just let everything that has ever hurt me slip away as if it were never there.

This is what happens when my body is in the studio; my feet on the black Marley when the music comes on, counting the beats to my cue. But getting there is a completely different story. Throughout high school, I would wait endless hours for 4 or 5 o'clock to come around. I would get my schoolwork done in bed with my blue ice packs, I would attempt to eat meals and gag down my medications. I would cry through the pain or the heartache on a drive home from the doctors that had gone awfully. What made me push through was dance; soon I would be able to let these emotions out. I don’t have to hide my tears under my sunglasses or hide my face counting the cars go by as tears stream down my face. Dance allows me to express each and every emotion I feel without feeling weak or broken. And believe me, that is a lot of emotions.

What people didn’t understand was how I could dance, but not go to school. I one hundred percent get it. It doesn’t look right to those who don’t know, especially other kids who thought I was lucky to be able to dance and not go to school. I would still do anything to relive those days as a healthy teenager.

What other kids didn’t know is that many times I couldn’t drive to dance; I was either neurologically unable to drive or in too much pain to bear focusing on the road. Getting there was never easy, but once I was there I could almost always let everything go.

When I began to lose my memory, dance became frustrating at times, but I didn’t love it any less. Of course I would get discouraged, but not at dance itself, with myself. I began recording choreography and practicing at home in my head before I fell asleep, I even wrote down choreography to each piece and I would perform it in my head over and over again so I could train my brain to remember. If I had to remember something, it was dance; that was all I had and I wasn’t about to let Lyme disease take that away from me too.

The day I walked in with a port in my chest, needle visible, or a PICC line in my arm marked the day everyone viewed me differently. I know what people thought, should she really be here? I didn’t want to scare anyone, nor did I want anything to happen, but I knew I could do it. I saw the way younger girls looked at me, wondering what that scary looking thing was; but that didn’t stop me. Only I knew what my body was truly capable of and what my body could handle and with time that was a proven fact. I just needed to be believed in, like I believed in myself.

There were times I would literally drop. Muscles weak, body trembling. People around me would look nervous, but I would laugh and reassure them that this is indeed normal for my body. I would simply join back in when my body wanted to cooperate with me. Sometimes I had to listen to my body and not get down on myself when I knew I couldn’t go. I remember how much that hurt, but Lyme disease hurt me more.

Measurements were never easy. Throughout my high school years I was very underweight. I didn’t like how thin I looked and, believe me, I knew it as I was surrounded by mirrors in a dance studio. I didn’t let my insecurity or numbers on a measuring tape bring me down, instead I did everything I could to become stronger.

When I got my first pair of pointe shoes it was like Christmas or the best Birthday I could ever ask for. There is something so special about feeling so light, so airy and beautiful. The pain that came with becoming a ballerina didn’t matter anymore, nor did it compare to the pain I had been through. For once it was pain I could control. With Lyme disease, I have never had that option.

If I told you shows didn’t scare me I would be lying. Of course I was excited, everything I strived to be was about to be put on stage in front of hundreds and I was given the opportunity to show my passion with others through each and every movement. Unfortunately, my body is unpredictable and I never knew which curve ball would be thrown at me next.

My Junior year performing, I truly believe I underwent an out of body experience. Dancing in flowy white dresses to the angelic words of amazing grace, my body completely gave up on me mid performance. It was a tribute to the troops, the year of the Boston Marathon bombing. Tears flew down my face as the pain shattered through my twisting muscles; my arms, jaw, and hands began to tremble. I kept dancing. Whether it was the adrenaline of dancing for those who lost their lives, or solely the fact that I knew I couldn’t quit, I finished the dance. Until this day, I still do not know how I did it. Once that song was over, I was sitting in the dark wings of the stage crying, unable to move. I sat there for maybe twenty minutes until my mom assisted me back to the dressing room. I couldn’t stop crying, not because of the pain but because I truly did not understand what I had just experienced.

My senior year was unforgettable. The night before the show, I had a severe asthma attack and was taken from dress rehearsal by ambulance. Lyme disease affects the lungs, so it never made my breathing easier. That night I was told I had pneumonia. But I had three shows to perform in, and nothing was going to stop me.

Opening number went out with a bang. It felt amazing and I was simply just having fun doing what I loved. After my third number I began to struggle, so I used my inhaler. We had a quick change between our hip hop piece and our advanced pointe piece. As I quickly changed into my ballet costume and slid my black pointe shoes on, I felt the weight of the world on my chest. This was the last piece of the first half, and my favorite piece. I couldn’t miss it.

The eerie music began to play and red lights illuminated our bodies. Show time. Trying to breathe through each motion I began to feel my hands and feet start to tingle. I couldn’t breathe. My head pounded. I was losing oxygen. It was then, in front of everyone, I fell hard onto the ground straight out of a pirouette combination. Before I knew it I was back up and leaping across the stage, then exiting off the wing as planned. My friend whispered you don’t have to go back on but I knew I needed to. Not for anyone else, but for myself. Trembling, shaking, and gasping for air I made it through the dance and held the final pose. The lights went out and down I went. My friends carried me off the stage and into the dressing room. In came the medics. "I’m fine," I reassured them, "I just need my nebulizer." They tried to take me to the hospital and because I refused I had to sign a paper saying I denied to be treated. I understood why, but what was life without taking risks. This was my senior year and I deserved to dance just as much as everyone else; and that is exactly what I did.

I came out for the second half of the show on fire; I was dancing and dancing well, like I never had before. I wanted to prove that my weakest moments didn’t define me, nor did Lyme disease, nor falling, nor the port in my chest. I wanted to prove that no matter what you are going through, you shouldn't lose sight of your dreams or let them slip away the moment they are at your fingertips.

My final statement was made when Tiny Dancer by Elton john began to play and it was time for my senior solo. In those moments, I let everything go and left my heart on the dance floor. I didn’t think about Lyme disease, my near death experiences, not even the tremendous pain I was in. In those moments, I danced like a ballerina on top of a music box and I had never felt so alive.

Thank you, dance, for saving my life and for being that one thing I can always count on for a sweet, invincible escape.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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