I was a competition kid. Bedazzled costumes, tight pony tails and shiny trophies were my life for nearly 10 years. I spent my evenings at the studio, and the days I wasn't there, spent my nights in front of the TV in my straddle and splits, striving for perfection. But the thing is, that's the only thing most people can imagine when it comes to the world of dance competitions. They think of the crying, overtired kids all dolled up in false eyelashes and glitter. They think of screaming parents and coaches, in constant conflict with one another. The truth is, very little of the competition world is really like that.
When I used to tell someone that I was a competition dancer, the most common response was somewhere along the lines of, "Oh my gosh, like dance moms?!" Usually, I would sadly smile and respond with "Yeah, sure." While part of my world was like the popular TV series, the show itself in reality was a tragic representation of the real dance world. I did not spend 10 hours a day at a studio with screaming moms and a coach who made me cry. I did not learn a new dance every week and travel cross country to compete against a rival studio. I did not have customized costumes, and put more of my focus on dance than I did on my education.
What I did do, was learn who I was as a person. I learned how to have respect for others. I learned how to respect myself, and how to work for a goal. I learned how to fully dedicate myself to a passion, and how to strive for success. I learned teamwork, I learned admiration. I learned discipline, and I learned responsibility.
Yes, I did spend many of my weekends competing on the stage. But the truth of the world of competition dance, is that very little of it is really about the competition itself. Thanks to dance, I know how to manage my time to accomplish everything that needs to be done. I learned how to focus in the dressing rooms enough to finish my homework, stretch, have a quick snack, and still be ready to perform at my best.
Thanks to dance, I know how to overcome failure. I spend years as a soloist, really just performing for the joy of being onstage and sharing my passion with others. At first, I was devastated that I was not a platinum winning, first place finishing dancer at every competition. But with time, I learned that it was not the trophy or the score that mattered, but the feeling I got walking off stage knowing that I had done my best, had done better than at the last competition. And at the end, with my final senior competition, I won my platinum and first place, with my very own choreography.
Thanks to dance, I know how to work as a team, and how to respect others. Sharing dressing rooms at a competition is a real challenge at times, but it taught me how to compromise and respect one another. Cheering on my friends, and even other studios of girls I had never met before taught me about community, and about supporting others. There is something special about the world of dance where deep down, we all want each other to succeed. When someone forgets a dance and comes back out, the entire auditorium is cheering them on, full of support.
The world of competition dance is all about community. It's about loving one another, and working together. Yes, it is about competition and it is about bettering yourself as a dancer. But more importantly, it is about bettering yourself as a person. Thanks to competition dance, I am the person I am today, and I couldn't imagine it any other way.