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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10 Songs That Are Just As Romantic As Ed Sheeran’s 'Perfect'

These ten love songs are just perfect as "Perfect".

Ed Sheeran is known for delivering the most soulful and endearing love songs of this generation and his latest song "Perfect" is no different. The music video currently has five million likes on YouTube and it's the perfect song for lovers, but there are so many other songs that are just as lovely and meaningful as "Perfect". Here are ten of them.

1. Beautiful - Huntar

Much like Ed Sheeran's song "Perfect", "Beautiful" by Huntar is about convincing someone of their beauty despite them not believing it. The song is about overlooking the clouds and the rain and focusing on the inner beauty and perfection that one possesses. It's about looking past the bad days and focusing only on the good. Huntar's voice is both gentle and rough, which really helps to get the message across, and while "Perfect" has a lovely guitar strumming along, "Beautiful" is accompanied with a gentle piano playing in the background.

2. Wild Love - James Bay

James Bay became famous after debuting his hit single "Let It Go", a song about ending a relationship and just letting go of everything they once had. All the other songs I've ever heard from him have been sad ones. This is the first happy love song I've heard from Bay and it's absolutely beautiful. After a two year hiatus and chopping off his lovely locks, James Bay is back with "Wild Love", which starts off with an Indian instrumental that I just can't stop listening to and has this awesome guitar solo in the middle. James Bay is a total bae in this music video where he literally just stares into your eyes and sings about giving you some wild love.

3. And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop - James Vincent McMorrow

I first heard this song in the pilot episode of "Teen Wolf" and I was completely enthralled by it. James Vince McMorrow's soothing, country voice will make anyone swoon. This is a total crushworthy song about meeting someone and instantly knowing that they're the one for you. It's perfect for slow dancing with your beau or even just falling asleep in their arms.

4. Nada - Prince Royce

They say that love has no language and that it can cross any language barrier. Prince Royce's song "Nada" is the perfect example of that. The whole song is in Spanish, but it sounds so lovely. There's a guitar solo near the end that'll have you and your beau twirling around on the dancefloor.

5. When You Got A Good Thing - Lady Antebellum

Those who say that all country music is about beer and men mistreating women clearly haven't been hearing the right songs. Lady Antebellum is a country band that came out with the hit single "Need You Now" that captured all of our hearts in 2010. A song that doesn't get as much love from that same album is "When You Got A Good Thing".

6. What I Never Knew I Always Wanted - Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood rose to fame after she won the fourth season of American Idol. She always delivers awesome hits and she's usually one of the very few country singers that can sway a person's mind about country music. In the song "What I Never Knew I Always Wanted", Carrie sings about finding someone she knew never she wanted or desired. It's about loving when you least expect it. And the music video will have you in tears as she displays a montage of her along with her husband of eight years and her son.

7. I Dream About You - Simple Plan ft. Juliet Simms

Both Simple Plan and Juliett Sims, the singer of the band Automatic Loveletter, are known for singing songs mainly about the issues surrounding teenage angst and growing up with no one understanding your pain. They were both part of those "emo bands" you all listened to when you were young, and while Automatic Loveletter is no longer together, Juliet Simms still lends her voice to songs once and a while. In "I Dream About You", Simple Plan and Juliet Simms sing about love and how strongly they feel towards it. Despite others thinking they're fools for thinking that way, they can't stop dreaming about each other and believing in their love.

8. When The Right One Comes Along - Striking Matches

Striking Matches is a not too popular or mainstream band with some really awesome songs. They're one of those underground hits that you never know exist until you accidentally stumble upon them. This is the first song I've ever heard from this band back when I was a young high-schooler, but they were a band worth remembering. The duo's music has been described as having found that "that sweet spot at the intersection of country, rock, and blues" and they're often regarded as a "countrified Civil Wars/Black Keys mix". "When The Right One Comes Along" is both a sad and sweet mix, and I swear Sarah Zimmermann just knows all the right notes to hit to have me crooning along with her. And while Justin Davis 's isn't heard too often in this version, his guitar playing will make you want to rock along with the soothing beat.

9. The Hard Stuff - Justin Timberlake

JT brought us all to tears in 2013 with his lovely song and even lovelier music video for "Mirrors" inspired by his grandparents' relationship, and now he's back in 2018 with "The Hard Stuff" from his new album, Man of the Woods. It's a song about wanting the complicated and messy baggage that everyone comes with instead of just having that picture perfect, clear-cut love story. JT sings about wanting both the sunny days and the rainy ones, meaning the good days and the bad. Everyone wants the best times, but JT explains that hard times make you stronger and makes the relationship that much more meaningful. Being the fifteenth song of the sixteen song album, it might get lost and forgotten soon after the release of the other songs, but for now it's my favorite of the album and I think it's as beautiful and passionate as "MIrrors".

10. Crystal Snow - BTS

Being as obsessed with BTS as I am now at this point, I simply can't just make a list of the best songs without including them. BTS is the Korean group that captured all our hearts at the end of last year with their looks and amazing songs and music videos. This is a less known song by BTS and is actually sung in Japanese (yes, the members can speak/sing in more than one language. As they have fans all over the globe, they often release Japanese versions of their Korean hit songs). While there is no visually pleasing music video for this song, "Crystal Snow" has a lovely feel to it that will have you shutting your eyes and imagining your own love-filled scenes. It's the perfect song for snuggling during the winter time and compares a girl to a snowflake. The members sing about trying to catch a glimpse and spend enough time before the snow melts away. They also wish they could be one of the snowflakes so they could float in the air together. You don't need a translation to understand the beauty behind this song.

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

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UNC First-Years On Their First Franklin Street Rush

A night that screams #GDTBATH.

An adrenaline rush is a vast understatement of what I experienced the night of Feb. 8. I rushed Franklin Street with thousands of my closest friends for the first time–celebrating the victorious accomplishment of beating Carolina’s biggest basketball rival: DOOK.

As a first-year at UNC-CH, I’d only imagined what rushing Franklin felt like until last Thursday. The energy throughout the crowds of fans was palpable as countless fans rejoiced at the same historic intersection of North Columbia and Franklin Street, harmoniously chanting the alma mater and various explicit references to our neighboring university under a sky of fireworks. Representing a prideful moment where everyone in the Carolina community unified as one, the the dash to Franklin is an unimaginable experience and one that I wanted to ask first-years about.

Q: In your words, how would you describe your first Franklin Street rush experience?

“Actually kind of crazy," Disha Ratra said. "I was sick that whole day and almost passed out in the Dean Dome, so running a mile to Franklin was quite a task. I even ended up tripping over a wall and skinning my knee on the way. In the end, it was definitely worth it because my adrenaline was PUMPING. Also, I lost my voice from screaming at the game/on Franklin. It has been three days since the game and I still don’t have my voice back."

“I was watching the game in the Union, and everyone screamed and started rushing out the doors," Hope Conn said. "About halfway to Franklin, I could feel my lungs in my throat, but I didn’t care. Pushing on we flung ourselves into the crowd. We joined in the cheers, I put my friend on my shoulders, and the smile never left my face. Rushing Franklin made me so proud to be a part of something bigger than myself.”

“Unimaginable," Amy Chau said. "Prior to this, I've seen videos and pictures of others rushing Franklin, but you never fully realize how crazy it is ‘til you're in the crowd, headed towards the fire or on someone's shoulder. It was a night for the books.”

“Such a rush," Sarah Mueller said. "I’ve never felt closer to my fellow Tar Heels and I’ve also never felt more love for UNC. I’ve heard many people describe the feeling of rushing Franklin, and there really is nothing quite like it. It’s something you have to experience for yourself.”

Q: How do you think rushing Franklin Street demonstrates the passion for sports and school pride?

“I’ve never felt school pride," Lang Duong said. "I was never a fan of my high school so I didn’t really care whether or not we won a game in football or basketball. I just remember running towards Franklin basically gasping for breath, but I didn’t care because I was so happy to be feeling what I was feeling for this school. Being able to see everyone there all feeling the same thing was truly something I had never felt before.”

“I think rushing shows how devoted we are to our school and how much we love to celebrate a win for our school," Ojesvii Sethi said. "We pride ourselves in several things but basketball is definitely something that brings the student body together.”

“Sounds cheesy, but it gave a sense of school spirit I’ve never felt anywhere else before," Aaruba Ayesha said.

“It shows that we will do anything to show our love for our school and our hatred for the school down the road," Olivia Williams said.

“Honestly, it is very inspirational and shows how close the UNC family is," Sienna Zico said. "We were all bumping around each other, but it didn't matter because everyone just wanted to celebrate. I had never felt so much school pride before.”

Q: What advice would you give to someone who has never rushed Franklin Street before and is planning on attending the next Franklin Street rush?

“Make sure to wear decent shoes, someone lost one and it ended up getting thrown into the fire," Nikki Kelleher said. "Also, don't bring anything you would be upset about losing or is likely to get lost. The amount of Facebook posts in UNC groups about ‘if you found this on Franklin...’ was pretty sad.”

“Try to be on Franklin Street for the game, but if you get tickets, it’s worth the mile run," Hayley Hayes said. "Wear shoes you don't mind getting dirty, leave all valuables at home, hydrate beforehand, and be prepared to fight other Chapel Hill students to reach a fire!”

“Do it," Christopher Cataldo said. "Don’t think about doing it and then say ‘it’s not for me,’ or ‘I’ll do it next time,’ do it now and every time after. You won’t regret it.”

While swamped in homework, projects, exams and other hurdle life throws at us Tar Heels, it's great to hear words of admiration for such a classic Carolina tradition as first-years strive to participate in all Chapel Hill has to offer, such as the basketball craze. Over the roars of triumph among the crowds exists a unified sense of pride for our school that truly never goes away, basketball season or not. The of advice I would give to potential Franklin Street rushers is to run, chant, laugh, join the celebration and soak it all in.

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

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