What I feel when I Dance

January 2, 2008
“Shuffle ball-change, shuffle ball-change, shuffle hop stomp, wing, wing”, I keep repeating the steps over and over again to myself as I wait backstage for our music to begin. The group in front of us is already tapping their final sixteen counts, so we know that we will soon be the ones performing. I feel my nerves set in as their music stops and the audience begins to applaud at what they have just seen. Now here they come, with whispers of excitement and smiles of joy. I look at them affectionately for what they have just accomplished and think of how in three and a half minutes, I too will be full of excitement and joy. But for now, I turn back towards the stage and close my eyes as my heart pounds faster and faster in my chest. I take a deep breath, smile, and open my eyes. I am ready.
The applause dwindles down and I hear that first loud beat. Our music has begun. Now is our chance to show them what we’ve got. 5, 6, 7, 8, go! My class mates and I tap onto the stage with smiles on our faces, desire in our hearts, yet still fear in our eyes. I look out at what is believed to be our audience and I cannot see a sole, “Ahh, thank Goodness, now I can dance as if no one is watching”. The stage lights are shining so bright and so wide from everywhere I look and they are pointing right at us and at us alone. They seem so blinding and disguising to us dancers on stage, in fact they are, but in reality those lights help us dance to the best of our ability by taking away the hundreds of people whose eyes are on us and by giving us a dark, deep abyss to dance into.
Woo, now I can relax. We are halfway through our routine and all of the nerves are gone. We have reached the climax of our performance and are executing it beautifully. As I sing along with the lyrics in my now peaceful mind, I can naturally keep the smile on my face as my body knowingly does the dance steps it has practiced for the past eight months. This is always the fun part; the part where I am reminded of why I go through all of the treacherous, nerve-racking moments and late nights at the studio working hard. It is for these moments on these two days out of the year when I get the chance to feel completely happy, peaceful and talented, why I dance. It is what makes me a dancer, and the successful dancer that I am.
The end of our dance; the last sixteen counts; here is where those nerves come right back and set in. “Don’t mess up” we all yell in our heads at our feet and our hands. The big finish, we know we can do it because we have rehearsed it so well on so many nights before. Our minds race quickly sending messages to our arms and legs of what step to do next and exactly when to do it. As this is going on, those nerves are progressing into excitement and anxiety both to have shown our “invisible” audience what we have worked so hard on and to hear just what their reply will be.
The last step is counted “8” and a final group pose is resumed. We did it! We successfully completed our performance to our audience. The music stops and we stay still. The audience applauds loudly and yells for us all. This always seems so startling because you easily forget that in that large darkness sit hundreds of people with their eyes fixed on you waiting for the completion of your dance so they can share with you their approval. As dancers we are told to stay in our final pose for a few good seconds to accept the audience’s response, but as humans I feel we would do so even without being told to because the feeling that you get is amazing and simply put is something you just don’t want to lose. Knowing that you have just shown hundreds of people what you can do and hearing that they liked it is empowering and exhilarating. The lights go dim and we quickly, yet relentlessly run on our toes off the stage. We smile with joy and whisper to each other while passing by ten other frightened girls who wait in the wings; then we continue critiquing the elements of our performance all the way back to our dressing rooms.
Dancing is the one activity that I can do at any time on any day, and just be content and feel at peace with myself. Dancing is my stress reliever and my happy place where I can be whoever I want and do whatever crazy thing I want because Dance won’t ever judge me. After dancing for ten years, giving it up to move in my sophomore year was incredibly difficult, and thus is why if I could do one thing once more, it would be to dance; to get on a stage and just show them what I’ve got; to get up there and let lose, be myself and be free; to feel once more what I feel when I dance.

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