I consider myself a sensitive person by nature. I cry often, I care a little too much, and I take things to heart. As a Disney Princess I would be okay, but I grew up believing that expressing my emotions too often was frowned upon. I was never afraid to be myself, but I knew that not many people cared to see my incessantly caring personality. I subconciously carried this concept into the dance studio, where for some reason I thought stoicism was valued over vulnerability. I would only use facial expressions when running a piece and of course when preforming. No one else put emotion into the rest of class, so why should I dare to be different?
The summer before I started college, I went to Forge Summer Dance Intensive at Slippery Rock University, where I met Duane Lee Holland Jr., an inspiring faculty member who changed my life when he told me that vulnerability is a strength. I questioned how this could be, and he explained that if I don’t allow myself to be vulnerable, then opportunities and blessings will pass me by. “Don’t ever doubt yourself. You are so blessed,” he told me on the last day of the intensive. It's so hard, but to this day I still try to follow his advice.
This past fall presented opportunities and blessings in the form of my first auditions for Slippery Rock University Dance Theatre, or SRUDT for short. Dance majors and minors sat in the West Gym dance studio for the showing, as we watched juniors, seniors, and super seniors explain their pieces and demonstrate their audition phrase for us. One of whom was Darrin Mosely, a senior choreographing a piece about depression. After hearing his story and watching his audition phrase, I was inspired to audition for him. When the showing was over, we dancers had the opportunity to meet the choreographers and sign up for their auditions. I introduced myself to Darrin, and I don't know if this helped or hurt my chances of dancing for him, but I revealed that I had depression in the past. His audition came and went, and by the grace of God he chose me to dance for him along with nine other dancers. I saw this as my opportunity to learn how to dance vulnerably.
Learning to be vulnerable was challenging at first considering that twice a week I was learning some emotionally exhausting choreography with dancers that were strangers to me at the time, but after I broke down crying in the middle of a rehearsal, I stood up a stronger dancer. With each rehearsal I was able to put more and more of my heart into the choreography. As a cast we became a supportive and loving family, ready and willing to catch each other when we fall. Darrin’s piece, titled De-Press, Re-Press, Press Up not only helped me be at peace with a dark part of my past, but also helped me live a brighter present. When we performed the piece at the Adjudication Concert and the Fall Concert, our movement inspired the audience and showed them that they are never alone.
This opportunity and blessing would have passed me by had I not decided to be vulnerable at the audition, the performances, and every rehearsal in between, so Duane's words were proven true. Wearing your heart on your sleeve isn’t always easy, but it's worth the blessings you will receive.