Any athlete could tell you that their sport is the most important thing to them, and that it's the steadiest relationship they will ever have. Athletes spend hours upon hours perfecting their craft, they work their bodies to the bone, and they don't regret a single second of it.
Dancers are a special kind of athlete. Not only do they have to be technical and strong, they also have to make themselves look beautiful while training their bodies to do unnatural things. At the same time, every former dancer I have ever met misses the sport terribly.
My senior year of high school was full of changes, none of which were for the better. I experienced a career-ending injury. After undergoing an arthroscopic hip surgery to repair my severely torn labrum, I felt lifeless. The most important thing in my life had just been taken away from me, and I had no idea what to do with myself.
The feeling that you get onstage is incomparable to anything else in this world. The second your big toe hits the Marley, you become a different person. The hot lights beam down on you and your rhinestoned costume reflects off the walls. You feel as if you are the definition of beauty and elegance. In the crowd are echoes and screams, nicknames, and phrases that only you and your team would understand.
A mixture of adrenaline, euphoria, determination, and passion takes control of your body as you perform. The music directs you and nothing else matters. It's just you and dance, showing hundreds of people how passionate you are about your art. In those two minutes and 30 seconds, you pray that you hit your turns and you leap higher than you ever had before. As each second goes by, you fall more and more in love. You never want it to end. But it does, and sometimes, too soon.
It’s been almost two years since I’ve been on stage and frankly, I’m going insane. I find myself looking at old dance pictures, watching dances on YouTube while I work out, and doing tendues while waiting in the check-out line. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about it. That’s the relationship between athletes and their sport. It’s always a part of their identity. Whether you didn't get the chance to play in college, or if your injury kept you away from your sport, just know that your first love will always be there in memory. Sometimes you feel pathetic. You keep longing to feel like you did when you were an athlete. It feels like you can’t let it go, and that’s OK, because you're not supposed to. Whether onstage or off, you will always be a dancer at heart.