When I was younger, I had been incredibly shy. It was awful; I could barely look anyone in the eye. The only way I was able to break through that shell, at the time, was because of dance. Something about the upbeat music, people smiling as they watched, and moving in unison with everyone else really dazzled me. We were all stars, and nothing else mattered in that moment. Then, my mother changed the afterschool program I was in. All the people I had danced with, made great friendships with, and had known for years were not dancing with me anymore. Instead we went to another after school program, this one located, in my elementary school. Now this elementary school was different, located in the heart of Chinatown, in New York City everyone was Asian, or half-Asian. I shouldn't say everyone, but to a little girl that's really how it seemed. There were barely any people of color, no one like me, a black girl with dreadlocks. I only buried myself deeper into the protective shell I had always found comfort in. First day of after school, I didn't talk to anyone except my sisters. As days turned into weeks, I slowly became more comfortable and made friends. Still it wasn't like how it was before, and then I heard the music. It wasn’t Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, or anything like that, something I had never heard before, music made by traditional Chinese instruments. I had to find out what it was and then I saw it, these girls dressed in traditional Chinese clothing, red lipstick on, and dancing. It was definitely a different dance, every move meant something, and the music was purely instrumental. But it looked beautiful, I was entranced, and I immediately wanted to participate. What seemed like months later, but was probably only a few weeks, I became apart of it, and it wasn't an easy transition. I was use to hip hop and tap dance, fast-paced stuff, but this traditional Chinese dance was slower, and very challenging. The first performance was the only scary one; even then, I could tell some people had opinions about us doing this dance. But once it was over, we proved ourselves and others that we could do it, we respected it, and we loved it. All the other performances after that, no one had doubts in their minds, we might not have been of the same ethnicity, but we wanted to learn, and that’s all that mattered. I made wonderful friends because of dancing, and we had a lot of fun. We had to practice all the time, but we still made it enjoyable by pulling small pranks. So many memories were made, memories that I will never be able to forget. Even now, looking back on it, almost six years later, I can’t believe I was given that opportunity. I hope that I can do something like that again because that year I learned so much about a different culture. I danced with beautiful red fans, cups and plates, straw hats, it was a new concept, but it was beautiful, and I enjoyed every minute of it. During that time, I was apart of something, I had awesome friends, we were all different, but we all loved one thing, which connected us all. I haven't danced in years, nor do I live in that same neighborhood or state, but whenever I visit that area the feeling of happiness and nostalgia always rushes through me. By trying something completely new then, I find that now, I am more open to other cultures, through dance and other creative ventures.
Learning a New Dance
April 2, 2014