What dance means to me

What Dance Means To Me

"At 10 years old, I came for the exercise, but I stayed for the storytelling."

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There is much debate in the dance world about the "true" definition of dance. Is a competition piece made up of mostly tumbling tricks considered dance? What about the dozens of social dances that spring up each year from music culture? Does it hold up as dance when contrasted against a full-length ballet or a contemporary dance exposition in silence? Of course, the answer is yes. All of these things are dance, because someone moved and said it was so.

To attempt and define dance as an "umbrella term" is all but impossible, but to define dance for oneself is absolutely crucial to understanding the art form. No one moves about in their daily life exactly the same way, and so it is with dance. Everyone holds a different definition. Many dancers experience the same "side effects" of dance (euphoria, self-confidence, clarity, etc.) but the experience is unique to everyone who gets the chance to dance!


I did not begin dance training with any idea that it would become my major in college or a way to make a living. My mother enrolled me in my local dance studio because travel gymnastics would've been ridiculously expensive. My 10-year-old brain could have never imagined the way her 21-year old self would *still* love to spin and jump and feel like a fairy princess!


I remember the day I decided I wanted to invest in movement forever. I was 13, and one of my ballet classes was rehearsing our piece for the annual recital. Some of the moms were watching, and as I was twirling about in typical water sprite fashion, I saw one of them point to me and say, "She should keep doing that. It's obvious how much she loves it." And so in the middle of that dance, I told myself I would. It meant the world to me that I wanted something and someone else wanted it for me too.

After about 13 years of dance training and performance in a wide variety of styles ranging from liturgical to afro-fusion, I can confidently state what dance means to me. Movement is where I feel the most connected with my raw, unbounded spirit. When my body is in motion, I do not feel it necessary to abide by conventional social cues that don't make sense to me or mask what it is that I want or need. I have only achieved this freedom because of hard, sometimes grueling training, but the openness in expression you receive as a reward is undeniably worth it for me. This is a feeling I can only attribute to dance. I do not experience such exploration and depth in my daily life because it simply isn't acceptable or appreciated in many areas of society. This is why for me and most other movers, dance is therapy. (This is not to say you should neglect attending therapy and just dance instead!) But the therapeutic effects of allowing your physical body to tell stories are very real and incredibly fulfilling.

That is why I continue. At 10 years old, I came for the exercise, but I stayed for the storytelling. Nothing makes me happier than hearing the audience after a performance buzzing with ideas about what the narratives in the different pieces meant to them. Sometimes, choreography is abstract and almost too nebulous to pinpoint, and other times, it's very self-explanatory. But either way, the goal of all dance remains the same: to bring life and joy to both dancer and audience. If I can forever chase that goal, I'll be content with what my future holds.

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A Thank You Letter To The Best Teammate I've Ever Had

There's no "I" in team.
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We all have those amazing memories when it comes to sports. Sometimes it is from winning tough games, but most of the amazing memories that we have come from the teammates that we shared those wins with. Teammates are the people who you spend so much time with that you eventually become a family. Teammates do more than help just win a game; they can be there through everything. There's always that one teammate that stands out from the rest, and this letter is for you.

Thank you for being selfless.

Looking back, I remember a lot of teammates. Some were great and some were not that great. I've had teammates who have only cared about their playing time. I've had teammates that have only cared about if they score more goals or more points than anyone else. You did not care about that. If the coach told you to play a position that you did not want to play, you still played it without a complaint. If I was tired at a certain position and wanted to switch you, you did it. You never complained about where you were playing or how many goals you had; you just wanted the team to win.

Thank you for having my back.

The best kinds of teammates are the ones that support you no matter what you do. I got a red card? That referee is stupid. I got into a fist fight during a game? You were the first one next to me swinging. Some girl makes fun of me on social media for messing up in a game? You were roasting her in her mentions. Even if I was right or wrong, you always supported me no matter what I did.

Thank you for seeing me at my worst and building me back up.

There are always times in an athlete's life where we run to the point to where we need to throw up. There are times where we go through games and miss too many shots. There are times where we get a little too mad at our coaches and feel as if we cannot deal with it anymore. You were the one that got me through it. When I was in the middle of a run and my lungs were burning, you stayed right next to me and reminded me that there wasn't much longer to go, even if there was. You always reminded me how capable I was by yelling at me and telling me to go score. You've seen me tired, sweaty, crying, screaming and throwing up. After all that, you still went out of your way to build me back up and I cannot thank you enough for that.

Thank you for making me love the game.

Without people like you, I would have had a very rough ride through my sports career. I have had teammates that have made me go home crying because they were so mean and rude. I have had teammates who have only cared about themselves. Without you, I would've forgotten what a good teammate is. Looking back, all I remember is the celebrations, the screaming random songs in cars and us hating each other's exes automatically... Then talking about all these things at practice. Thanks for being a leader with me. Without you and the rest of the team, I would not have loved the sport that I played.

Cover Image Credit: Cheap Seats Photography

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The First Time My Mistakes No Longer Controlled My Life

Mistakes suck, and though I've conquered a few, I'm still learning.

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The whistle blows as the team cheers on.

My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent or I will fail. Fear.

In his first inaugural speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously stated, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Such a statement proves powerful to the matured minds of society; however, in the minds of some adolescents, this declaration appears somewhat foolish, as numerous "threats" ignite fear, thus causing teens to grow anxious.

A major cause for fear in the rising generation takes form in failure. In the eyes of these people, making a simple mistake paves the way towards absolute failure; therefore, perfectionists constantly walk on eggshells attempting to do the impossible: avoid human error. This mentality gives way to constant stress and overall disappointment, as perfection does not apply to human beings. If one can come to the realization that not one person can attain perfection, they can choose to live life in ease, for they no longer have to apply constant pressure upon themselves to master excellence. The fear of failure will no longer encumber their existence, and they can overcome situations that initially brought great anxiety. I too once put great pressure on myself to maintain perfection, and as a result, felt constantly burdened by my mistakes. However, when I realized the inevitability of those mistakes, it opened the door for great opportunities. The first time I recognized that failure serves as a tool for growth allowed me to no longer fear my mistakes, and instead utilize them for my own personal growth.

The whistle blows as the team cheers on. My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment, and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent. As hard as I try, I fail; as the ball flies straight into the net and thuds obnoxiously onto the gym floor, so does my confidence. I feel utter defeat, as I know my fate. My eyes water as my coach immediately pulls me from the game, sits me on the bench, and tells me to "get my head into the game" instead of dwindling on past errors. From then on I rarely step foot on the court, and instead, ride the bench for the remainder of the season. I feel defeated. However, life does not end, and much to my surprise, this mistake does not cause failure in every aspect of my life. Over time, I gradually realize that life does not end just because of failure. Instead, mistakes and failure pave the way toward emotional development and allows one to build character. In recognizing that simple slip-ups do not lead to utter failure, I gain perspective: one's single mistake does not cause their final downfall. Thus, this epiphany allowed for my mental growth and led me to overcome once challenging obstacles.

Instead of viewing mistakes as burdens, one should utilize them as motivation for future endeavors. The lesson proves simple: all can learn from their mistakes. However, it is a matter of choosing to learn from these mistakes that decide one's future growth. Instead of pushing faults away, I now acknowledge them in order to progress. Before coming to such a realization, I constantly "played it safe" in sports, fearing that giving my best effort would lead to greater error. I did not try, and as a result, I rarely failed.

Although such a mentality brought forth limited loss in terms of overall team success, it also brought forth limited, individual success. Today, fear of failure no longer controls life on the court. I use my mistakes as motivation to get better; instead of dwindling on an error made five minutes prior, I focus on the form needed to correct it. As a result, skills will constantly improve, instead of regress. Thus, errors serve as blessings, as it is through these errors in which one can possess the motivation to better themselves.

For some, fear acts as an ever-present force that controls every aspect of life. In particular, the fear of failure encumbers perfectionists, as the mere thought of failing causes great anxieties. In the past, I have fell victim to the fear of committing a mistake, and as a result, could not go through life without feeling an overwhelming sense of defeat. However, in a moment of what appeared to be a great failure, I finally recognized that life does not end due to one mistake, let alone one million. Instead, mistakes pave the way toward personal development and provide essential motivation to succeed in everyday life. Without mistakes, it proves difficult to grow in character. One must first learn to accept their faults before they can appreciate their best qualities. Thus, the fear of failure inhibits the growth of an individual; therefore, all must come to the realization that essentialness of mistakes, as they allow for the further development of overall character.

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