Reaching A Breaking Pointe: Life In The Eyes Of Rory Pan

Reaching A Breaking Pointe: Life In The Eyes Of Rory Pan

The story of one dancer who overcame her biggest obstacle and challenges society today.

Rory Pan is an all-around dancer who balances both on the tips of her toes and the title of class president as well as a winner of Miss Atlanta. This all came crashing down once she had a freak accident, leaving her unable to walk for months on end. Her struggles of being both a successful dancer and student leader led to several struggles with school, dance and her recovery. I had the opportunity to interview her to understand how she approaches the art of dance and balances her passion with the rest of her demanding day and future goals.

Rory officially began to learn dance at the age of four, but she fell in love with it long before then. Her sister, Sally Pan, influenced her greatly in her dancing endeavors.

“I still have video recordings at home of me, jumping up and down… with my sister. I started officially… at my sister’s dance studio, like Chinese folk dance, because my sister was already doing it.”

However, Pan reveals an often overlooked side of her experience when she first started out dance.

“My mom wanted me to be disciplined, beautiful… feminine. I don’t really like her reasoning (for me starting dance). I hated it at first, I really did. I cried after every class. But she kept me in it, and now I love it.”

Many kids undergo the struggles of having to prepare for such greatness at a young age. Parents may force their children to be better and greater at what they do. This stress was present throughout Pan's childhood. In ballet, students start as young as 4 years old to train their muscles to stretch to the positions needed to reach perfection. As the children are still growing and forming, it's easier to stretch and gain the needed muscles rather than starting as adults.

There have been numerous instances when Pan wanted to quit. She describes that everyday, she is surrounded by a studio of girls who possessed the “ideal dancing body” that is impossible for her to achieve. A perfect dancer has to be tall, skinny, bend a certain way, have a good arch and so many other things to achieve being professional in ballet according to Rory. These standards motivate Rory to try as hard as she can in dance class everyday, but it is still discouraging seeing some of the other girls.

“Other girls that are naturally flexible [and] just naturally good at everything... [they can] slack off... and [still be] amazing. It's always disappointing when you 'try so hard,' but 'you’re still not as good as them,' going into how being great isn't just practice and the amount of effort, but winning the "gene pool lottery," where your numbers are already chosen."

Rory has felt her journey was quite formidable at times, but her success paints a story full of perseverance and true passion. For her, dancing has had a positive impact in ways she could’ve never imagined.

"Dancing is an avenue in which I can really just disappear from the world... and be myself and express feelings that aren’t tangible. People can have this avenue in which they move their bodies and have control and do what they love."

As a solo performer and group performer, Rory simply hopes to communicate happiness to her audience. The ultimate goal of dancing is to invoke various emotions in the audience through a variety of movements, speed, strength and facial expressions.

“Each dance has a different meaning. Some of them are really happy, but some of them are really sad and want you to feel something deeper...”

Her entire life came crashing down at one point when facing one of her biggest obstacles: losing her feet, her biggest assets as a ballerina. Rory had been attempting to exit her mother's car when her feet went under, and the tires continued to roll with Rory trapped under.

“The [injury] changed me tremendously. I’ve learned to never take anything for granted. I [felt] like I wasn’t improving in any way. With that injury, I wasn’t able to dance for 6 months, and just… sitting there not even being able to walk... my friends in my class going to competitions and watching their recitals… it just made me so sad. Now that I’m back, now I try even harder, and I love [dance] even more."

Her positive outlook and resilience are what she claims carried her through the six months in which she couldn’t dance.

“Injuries do change you as a person, both mentally and physically, because as of right now I still can’t do things that I did before – but it hasn’t stopped me.”

Though this obstacle put a halt on her dancing for over a year, she faces one even greater that threatens to stop her dancing altogether: society. Though she adores dancing, she doesn't plan to make it her main career.

“It’s hard to do something that you love for work because then...there’s more stress added onto it-- but that’s not really the main reason. I feel like… I wouldn’t be able to do dance because I wouldn’t succeed...and it’s hard when you love it so much but you aren’t this ideal image.”

She, however, assured me that although these societal expectations are burdening, without a doubt, she plans on continuing dance for the rest of her life through volunteer work and recreational teaching.

The ideal body image for ballerinas is very strict, very demanding and very controversial. To be considered an ideal ballerina, one must be slim with a long neck, a shortish to medium length torso and long legs with complimentary long arms and high insteps. He or she must be able to not only extend, but hyper-extend both of his or her legs and arms to conform into shapes and positions that audiences find amusing but he or she finds uncomfortable, or even impossible, at times.

Rory manages to do all this, while balancing her extracurriculars with academics and her leadership positions in both school and her community. She feels it is quite difficult, adding that she doesn't get any sleep like much of high school students. She tries to not waste time and procrastinate (which she finds difficult as well) by adhering to a set schedule. She explains how she takes advantage of breaks and lunch to fit in homework, while the hours after school are filled for dancing and directing.

"Time management is really everything. Breaks are important... but it’s also important to have a social life as well. I always find a way to make it work.”

As for leaving her impression on the student body of Northview High School and her community, Pan says looks forward to participating and communicating her message through her dances at the talent show and International Night. She’s proud to be a dancer and ultimately hopes that she'll one day be able to inspire others who maybe lack confidence. She wants to help them find an avenue to express their personality and communicate their own message as well.

As for now, Rory continues to dance. She has made it onto America's Got Talent while being renowned in international competitions — all while taking her recovery into stride. However, her career may end early if society doesn't repaint this image of an ideal ballerina to fit the qualities that are reachable through practice and endurance. Like every other recovering athlete, ballerinas deserve time to reach the high bar.

For Rory, she'll never be able to arch her foot as much as a professional dancer can today, blocking her from her dreams. Despite her downfalls, she's still able to compete, win and influence those around her to fight for their own beliefs and dreams, too. She has become the prime example of a face of a new generation of dancers that will open up doors for change.

Cover Image Credit: Rory Pan

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7 Reasons Why Literature Is So Important

"Literature Is One Of The Most Interesting And Significant Expressions Of Humanity." -P. T. Barnum

Today, there are too many people who believe that literature is simply not important or underestimate its abilities to stand the test of time and give us great knowledge. There is a stigma in society that implies one who is more inclined toward science and math will somehow be more successful in life, and that one who is more passionate toward literature and other art forms will be destined to a life of low-paying jobs and unsatisfying careers. Somewhere along the line, the world has come to think that literature is insignificant. To me, however, literature serves as a gateway to learning of the past and expanding my knowledge and understanding of the world. Here are just a few reasons why literature is important.

1. Expanding horizons

First and foremost, literature opens our eyes and makes us see more than just what the front door shows. It helps us realize the wide world outside, surrounding us. With this, we begin to learn, ask questions, and build our intuitions and instincts. We expand our minds.

2. Building critical thinking skills

Many of us learn what critical thinking is in our language arts classes. When we read, we learn to look between the lines. We are taught to find symbols, make connections, find themes, learn about characters. Reading expands these skills, and we begin to look at a sentence with a larger sense of detail and depth and realize the importance of hidden meanings so that we may come to a conclusion.

3. A leap into the past

History and literature are entwined with each other. History is not just about power struggles, wars, names, and dates. It is about people who are products of their time, with their own lives. Today the world is nothing like it was in the 15th century; people have changed largely. Without literature, we would not know about our past, our families, the people who came before and walked on the same ground as us.

4. Appreciation for other cultures and beliefs

Reading about history, anthropology, or religious studies provides a method of learning about cultures and beliefs other than our own. It allows you to understand and experience these other systems of living and other worlds. We get a view of the inside looking out, a personal view and insight into the minds and reasoning of someone else. We can learn, understand, and appreciate it.

5. Better writing skills

When you open a book, when your eyes read the words and you take in its contents, do you ask yourself: How did this person imagine and write this? Well, many of those authors, poets, or playwrights used literature to expand their writing.

6. Addressing humanity

All literature, whether it be poems, essays, novels, or short stories, helps us address human nature and conditions which affect all people. These may be the need for growth, doubts and fears of success and failure, the need for friends and family, the goodness of compassion and empathy, trust, or the realization of imperfection. We learn that imperfection is not always bad and that normal can be boring. We learn that life must be lived to the fullest. We need literature in order to connect with our own humanity.

Literature is important and necessary. It provides growth, strengthens our minds and gives us the ability to think outside the box.

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I Made Emma Chamberlain's Mediocre Vegan Cookies, And They're Pretty Incredible

Emma and her vegan cookies have made their way into my heart, and are here to stay.


One day, I went down the black hole that is 'YouTube at 3 am' and discovered my favorite social media influencer of all time: Emma Chamberlain. I started binge watching her videos every night for about a week, where I came across her "Cooking With Emma" series. I decided that I wanted to give her vegan antics a go for myself.

I've never cooked or baked anything with the intention of it being vegan, so not only is that new territory for me, but I've never even eaten a vegan cookie. The only reason I'm doing this is because Emma did, and she is aesthetic goals.

To start the journey of vegan baking, I took to Pinterest, just like Emma, and found this recipe to use. Although the video that inspired all of this used a gluten free recipe, I opted for only vegan, because I'm allergic to most of the ingredients that make things gluten-free.

In true Emma style, I used a whisk to combine the wet ingredients together, making sure to use her special technique.

Then, I did the same thing with the dry ingredients.

After that, I dumped everything together and combined all of the ingredients.

Once they were combined, I chopped up a vegan chocolate bar, because Emma and I like chocolate chunk cookies, not chocolate chip, there's a difference.

Now that everything is combined, I made balls of dough and stuck it on a pan, and baked them while I binged more Emma, because what else would I be doing in my spare time?

The recipe said to make the balls a lot smaller, but we aren't perfect, so I made them gigantic. In my head, I thought the worst thing that could happen was it turn into one big cookie, but that's a whole other video you need to watch.

I took them out of the oven, and they were brown on the top, but still a little doughy. At this point I was tired of waiting and eager to eat them, so I disappointingly set them aside to cool, which only lasted a minute or so before I snagged one up to try.

The taste was definitely one I've never associated with cookies, and came to the conclusion that if I decided to go vegan, it would be doable with these cookies and Emma Chamberlain by my side.

Emma inspired me to get out of my comfort zone, which is a reoccurring theme throughout her channel, and I'm happy to be apart of it. She taught me that even if mediocre cookies is all you have, eat them with pride because you made them yourself.

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