Dance is Hard Work

June 2, 2013
Vritti Samtani

Every year, for the past ten years, I have committed hours and hours of my time to dancing. The friction between my soles and the hard wooden floor has demolished a countless number of shoes. In my room lies a stack of leotards and tights filling up an entire fourth of my closet. All the sweat and muscle pain always leads up to one thing, the annual recital, held every summer.

A few months before the performance excitement and chaos fills the studio. My dance instructors spend every waking moment steering us towards perfection. Final turns, thrashes, and positions are put into place. My fellow dance mates and I rehearse hip-hop, ballet, jazz, and even tap in what we like to call “show mode.” The music thunders through the room as counts run through our minds. All of us work as a team to manipulate our strengths and find our flaws. We condition our bodies through abdominal work and stretches. The all time favorite for flexibility is splitting our legs between two chairs, with nothing to support the weight of our own bodies. Energy is rushing out of every fingertip and happiness lights our faces. The exhilaration of dancing possesses our bodies.

This past year, however, was a little bit different. Instead of dancing our typical styles, we explored lyrical dancing for the first time. Until then, I had only seen lyrical performances on the television. Lyrical was completely different from any style I had ever studied before. It wasn’t as rough cut as hip-hop, but it also wasn’t as classical as ballet. Lyrical requires grace and the maximum amount of technique. I knew learning the style would be a challenge, but I was ready.
Our instructor pushed the play button for the first time. I could visualize the smooth, but strong movements in my mind. At that point I was able to connect with the beat and instill it into my brain. A little while later it was time to introduce the first steps. We started slowly, but eventually sped up to a regular pace. The choreography was difficult for me to catch because of all the leaps and turns. By the end of the class, I felt like I had learned nothing but the five second walk on entrance. I slowly strolled out of class, disappointed, but not discouraged.

That night I practiced and practiced, yet no progress was made. The steps were in my mind, but I just couldn’t express them with my body. I knew it would take a lot of work to beat it out. Weeks passed, and class after class I still felt like I wasn’t up to date. I was having difficulty transitioning into the new technique. Months passed and I was still struggling with the same moves. The only advice my instructors had for me was to practice, something that I had already done. I sought out help from a friend on the team. Together we worked for hours at a time until progress was made.

Showtime! After anticipating the moment for so long, it was finally here. I could feel shivers race down my spine as I tried to warm my body up. It felt as if all my muscles had run away and my memory had been erased. Sure I was nervous for the lyrical, but I was also just as excited. Only three dances remained until it was our turn to shine. Those fifteen minutes seemed like millennia.

I took a deep breath and confidently walked the five second entrance onto the stage. Lights were beaming down upon our faces as we began to dance. The stage felt slippery and the audience could not be seen. I thought my heart had thumped its way out of my chest. After five minutes, I was actually pleased with myself. No major mistakes were made; I did it! Excitement rushed through my body as I jumped for joy in the air. The thrill of dancing the lyrical on the stage has stayed with me forever. That night held one of my proudest moments. I proved to myself that I could achieve what seemed to be impossible with effort, and a little bit of hope.

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