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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35 Major Life Facts According To Nick Miller

"All booze is good booze, unless it's weak booze."

Fact: If you watch "New Girl," you love Nick Miller.

You can't help it. He's an adorable, lovable mess of a man and you look forward to seeing him and his shenanigans each week. While living the infamous and incomparable life of Nick Miller, and obviously Julius Pepperwood— he has learned many valuable laws of the land. And, although Nick refuses to learn anything from anyone besides his mysterious, old Asian friend Tran, he does have a few lessons he'd like to teach us.

Here are 35 facts of life according to 'Nick Milla Nick Milla':

1. Drinking keeps you healthy.

"I'm not gonna get sick. No germ can live in a body that is 65% beer."

2. Dinosaurs never existed.

"I don't believe dinosaurs existed. I've seen the science. I don't believe it."

3. A paper bag is a bank.

"A bank is just a paper bag but with fancier walls."

4. Having sex is similar to delivering mail.

"I'm like a mailman, except instead of mail it's hot sex that I deliver."

5. Moonwalking is a foolproof way to get out of any awkward situation.

Jess (about Nick): "Now he won't even talk to me. I saw him this morning and he just panic moonwalked away from me. He does that sometimes."

6. Using a movie reference is also a great way.

Cece: "Come on, get up!"

Nick: "No, I don't dance. I'm from that town in "Footloose."

7. There's no reason to wash towels.

Nick: "I don’t wash the towel. The towel washes me. Who washes a towel?"

Schmidt: "You never wash your towel?"

Nick: "What am I gonna do? Wash the shower next? Wash a bar of soap?"

8. Exes are meant to be avoided at all costs (especially if/unless they're Caroline)

"I don't deal with exes, they're part of the past. You burn them swiftly and you give their ashes to Poseidon."

9. IKEA furniture is not as intimidating as it looks.

"I'm building you the dresser. I love this stuff. It's like high-stakes LEGOs."

10. You don't need forks if you have hands.

Jess: "That's gross. Get a fork, man."

Nick: "I got two perfectly good forks at the end of my arms!"

11. Sex has a very specific definition.

"It's not sex until you put the straw in the coconut."

12. Doors are frustrating.

"I will push if I want to push! Come on! I hate doors!"

13. All booze is good booze.

"Can I get an alcohol?"

14. ...unless it's weak booze.

"Schmidt, that is melon flavored liquor! That is 4-proof! That is safe to drink while you're pregnant!"

15. Writers are like pregnant women.

Jess: "You know what that sound is? It's the sound of an empty uterus."

Nick: "I can top that easily. I'm having a hard time with my zombie novel."

Jess: "Are you really comparing a zombie novel to my ability to create life?"

Nick: "I'm a writer, Jess. We create life."

16. All bets must be honored.

"There is something serious I have to tell you about the future. The name of my first-born child needs to be Reginald VelJohnson. I lost a bet to Schmidt."

17. Adele's voice is like a combination of Fergie and Jesus.

"Adele is amazing."

18. Beyoncé is extremely trustworthy.

"I'd trust Beyoncé with my life. We be all night."

19. Fish, on the other hand, are not.

“Absolutely not. You know I don’t trust fish! They breathe water. That's crazy!"

20. Bar mitzvahs are terrifying.

Schmidt: "It's a bar mitzvah!"

Nick: "I am NOT watching a kid get circumcised!"

21. are blueberries.

Jess: "So far, Nick Miller's list of fears is sharks, tap water, real relationships..."

Nick: "And blueberries."

22. Take your time with difficult decisions. Don't be rash.

Jess: "You care about your burritos more than my children, Nick?"

Nick: "You're putting me in a tough spot!"

23. Getting into shape is not easy.

"I mean, I’m not doing squats or anything. I’m trying to eat less donuts."

24. We aren't meant to talk about our feelings.

"If we needed to talk about feelings, they would be called talkings."

25. We're all a little bit too hard on ourselves.

"The enemy is the inner me."

26. Freezing your underwear is a good way to cool off.

"Trust me, I'm wearing frozen underpants right now and I feel amazing. I'm gonna grab some old underpants and put a pair into the freezer for each of you."

27. Public nudity is normal.

"Everbody has been flashed countless times."

28. Alcohol is a cure-all.

"You treat an outside wound with rubbing alcohol. You treat an inside wound with drinking alcohol."

29. Horses are aliens.

"I believe horses are from outer-space."

30. Turtles should actually be called 'shell-beavers.'

Jess: "He calls turtles 'shell-beavers."

Nick: "Well, that's what they should be called."

31. Trench coats are hot.

"This coat has clean lines and pockets that don't quit, and it has room for your hips. And, when I wear it, I feel hot to trot!"

32. Sparkles are too.

"Now, my final bit of advice, and don't get sensitive on this, but you've got to change that top it's terrible and you've got to throw sparkles on. Sparkles are in. SPARKLES ARE IN."

33. Introspection can lead to a deeper knowing of oneself.

"I'm not convinced I know how to read. I've just memorized a lot of words."

34. It's important to live in the moment.

"I know this isn't gonna end well but the middle part is gonna be awesome."

35. Drinking makes you cooler.

Jess: "Drinking to be cool, Nick? That's not a real thing."

Nick: "That's the only thing in the world I know to be true."

Cover Image Credit: Hollywood Reporter

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