The lights are glowing with a fuzzy haze that makes the audience beyond the curtain impossible to see. They are nothing more than a blurred darkness, yet I know they are there. Will they notice if I fall? Will they think me any less talented if I stumble? What if I mess up that one part? “No,” I tell myself trying to focus back into my present reality, “Just get out there and do what you love. Focus on nothing but expressing how much you love this with every move you make. What is your passion? What is it that makes you truly your happiest? Dance,” I answer myself in both my anxious head and in my soul. The lights on stage grow dark as the music fades from the current routine. The audience applauds and suddenly the only noise is that of shuffling feet rushing off stage, frantic whispers, the rustling of a costume, and the panicked undertone of someone searching for a lost feather headpiece.
Someone whispers good luck and somewhere far off is the faint voice of the commentator announcing our number. I feel an uncontainable smile cross my face and a shoulder squeeze from a team mate as my feet cross the threshold of reality and into my moment.
Ever since I can remember I have been competitive and inclined to being a perfectionist, not entirely happy unless I had done everything just right. No matter how much I told myself to suck it up and be content with myself I would always compare myself to others and wallow in my own shortcoming. In retrospect I can see that everything in my life was in a box. Everything in the box had to be perfect and orderly, there was no room for mistakes or error. The things that filled my box, such as dance, school and relationships, were only valuable based on their tangible successes. Then somehow, perhaps it was by a grand jete , dance came outside of the box. It was no longer about how perfect I had to be, or how I compared myself to others, but that I was doing what I loved. It was then that dance truly became my passion. I realized that if I did not want to lose my love for dance I would have to learn to dance for myself, instead of for those around me whom I was aiming to please. I use dance as a means to fill my soul, test my own limitations, and to expand my premises of artistic expression, and in return dance uses me to better myself. I would not have learned of or accepted my many flaws and strengths if it were not for dance. It is not just a means of expression but a mode of growth and progression in my life.
Dance has taught me many key things about hard work and determination in which I have learned to apply toward the rest of my life. I am still a work in progress and yes, there are still many things in the box, but dance is constantly teaching me to accept my flaws and still work hard to better myself. My friends always tell me to stop caring about grades and school all the time, but perfectionism and a drive to do my best are constant forces pushing me and testing my limits. School is incredibly important to me as is preparing myself for the future. My experiences in dance have taught me to always set goals for myself in both my dance skills as well as in school. Dance has also given me a great sense of teamwork and unity even in such a solo-centered sport. I have learned that the best routines are the ones in which all of the dancers are like a family and operate as one supportive unit. The best example of this occurred this past summer when my senior competitive team and I traveled to Nationals in Las Vegas. There we performed our best and took home second place nationally because we were able to form such a close bond over the course of the week. Dance has also taught me to invest in other areas of inspiration where I am free to think and be outside the box of perfection. Such as in creative writing where I have more recently been able to challenge myself and submit more and more of my work to free-lance magazines, instead of keeping my projects hidden and worrying about what other people thought. I have also developed a passion for traveling where I can experience new challenges and test my own limitations in resourcefulness and exploration. One of my best experiences was during a school trip to Europe on a World War II tour where I got to experience the incredible freedom of getting to discover the world around me in terms of both the past and present. Ultimately my passion for dance has helped me to grow as a person and discover my own strengths as well as find new passions.
Someday I want to look back on my life and admire how far I have come and all that I have accomplished, instead of how far I still have to go. I know, that like everyone, I will never completely overcome my flaws. But for now I would like to think that my passions and enthusiasm for life have taken me to new heights and great successes. Dance has helped me to be this better individual and work my hardest and follow what it is that I love to do. I like to think that all of life is a dance, there will be parts that will be difficult and you will fall flat on your face and others where you will be triumphant. There will be parts when you are the magnificent soloist and others where you are only part of the chorus. There will be parts that will take lots of practice, and ones that come naturally. There will be parts where the choreography will seem old-fashioned or misplaced, but you will not understand how it all fits together until the piece is finished. There will be parts where you dance with passion and vigor, and ones where you will just mark the steps. But what I have learned is that when the moment comes learn to dance; because the stage is waiting.
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