Dancing Through the Years

January 19, 2009
By AshLeigh Arnold, Slatington, PA

Each year the seasons change, animals adapt, the Earth grows colder, and inevitably humans must amend along with these other transitions. Whether I admit it or not, my world also changes with time. Meeting new people, acquiring new tastes, and changing opinions all occur with age. My seventeen and a half years hardly represent one-forth of my life, yet so much has already changed throughout those years. Sometimes I welcome change, while other times it throws me off completely. Still, I must learn to adjust with whatever life offers me. Mary Engelbreit once said, “If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.”

Although always a constant in my life, I have not always felt the same about dance. As a shy four-year old, I dragged my clanking tap shoes into a scary room filled with mirrors. I timidly imitated the teachers’ moves throughout the never-ending hour of tap, ballet and tumbling. With girls I hardly knew surrounding me, I thought of how my time could be better spent at home watching Barney. A year of forced classes resulted in a recital routine to “The Mickey Mouse Song” and a picture of a very angry Minney Mouse look-alike with crossed arms. In my younger years, dance was nothing more than another activity imposed upon me by my mother.

Needless to say, I needed a break from my dancing career. After my year hiatus, I joined my younger sister at the studio. This time around the studio didn’t seem so foreign and my previous experience made me feel superior to my sister. Dancing began to make me feel important and even special. Each Wednesday morning, a black leotard and pair of pink tights accompanied the usual clothes my mother laid out for school. Regardless of the specific directions to put on my dance attire after school, I secretly wore it beneath my school clothes. My leotard made me feel like a real ballerina, and I would show it off whenever possible. As I grew older, dance stopped feeling like a chore and more like my own unique quirk.

When the dance studio, Steppin Out moved closer to town, my best friend and I decided to enroll in classes together. Although we both had previously taken dance classes, the thought of dancing together thrilled us. I always admired the older girls at my former studio who took jazz classes, so I couldn’t wait to experience a jazz class with my best friend by my side. The next few years I learned how fun dancing cold be. I experienced the liberating side of dance that I hadn’t encountered in the structured technique-driven ballet classes I was used to. When I started to receive compliments for my ability to shake it, I realized that dancing could be more than just a hobby. I signed up for cheerleading, talent shows, and anything else I could do involving dance. My friends and I were constantly choreographing our own routines to our favorite songs. I took a variety of classes including jazz, ballet, and hip hop and dreamed of someday being a star on Broadway. During my years of elementary school and middle school, dance became a time to socialize and let loose.

As expected, high school followed those carefree years. The start of ninth grade brought on a big reality check and many changes. During this transitional year, I focused less on becoming famous and more on quenching my thirst for dance. I knew that dancing could be very fun, but it was also my passion. I realized I would need to do more than take classes to reach my full potential as a dancer. I tried out for the high school dance team and couldn’t wait to perform at the games. Each performance gave me an unexplainable rush. Despite my fervor for dance, most girls on the dance team viewed it just another extracurricular activity. Seeking more dance experience, I became one of the seven members of our school’s first competition dance team. I helped choreograph some of our dances and also began assisting the youth cheerleaders with their halftime routines. Dance always found a way to dance into my mind, and I continually crafted new routines in my head. My early high school years were spent searching for more ways to get involved, especially with dance.

Nevertheless, nothing can be good all of the time. One year when our dance coach unexpectedly left for college in New York, our team was left abandoned with no competition routine. Since none of the other girls offered or even had the experience to help create a new dance, I agreed to assist in the task. I struggled to keep the girls’ attention while teaching the routines. Seeing the dance team from a coach’s perspective rather than a teammate made me see how truly petty and immature girls could be. I earned the title of “the dance team Nazi” that year and fought back tears at nearly every practice. The commitment of the girls in my dance classes compared to the dance team baffled me. I couldn’t understand how others could disregard something I was so passionate about. Although dance team almost broke me that year, dance itself became therapeutic to me. I learned to channel my emotions into my dancing rather than let other people affect me or my feelings about something I love to do. These years were very emotional, but I learned a lot about dance and myself as a dancer.

Now as a senior in high school and on the brink of graduation, I understand how much dancing has changed my life. I started out with just the basics of dance and now have grown to love every type of dance especially contemporary, jazz, and hip hop. As a co-dance team captain, I am more overwhelmed with dance than ever. While I’ll admit to hating most aspects of the dance team, I could never hate dance itself. Despite my loathing of the dance team, I am still an avid dancer. I plan on someday opening up my own dance studio/dance therapy practice to integrate my plans to become a psychologist with my favorite hobby.

Although my relationship with involved some painful experiences, it also gave me something to be proud of and to strive towards. Truthfully, dance is the only relationship I have been dedicated to for over thirteen years. I started off hating dance but learned to love it. Each performance creates a different experience and feeling for me. Dance classes, dance team, competitions, musical, cheerleading, and even dancing with my friends all remain some of my favorite childhood memories. I don’t know where I’d be without dance, and I don’t want to find out. I know dance will change for me in the future, but it will always be apart of my life.

The author's comments:
I wrote this class for a school assignment

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