I have been dancing for almost a year and a half. I started small, with one hip-hop class per week, I then added ballet (something I’ve wanted to try since I was a little girl). Over the course of the following 8 months I went from dancing 2 hours a week to dancing 7 or more hours a week, with multiple ballet classes, hip-hop, character and even a little bit of jazz. It wasn’t until several months into taking classes that I actually began to call myself a dancer. I must admit, at first, I thought it would just be a fun hobby and a way to keep myself in shape. I’ve since realized that dancing has taught me many things that extend beyond the studio.

Pain isn’t always a bad thing. Whether you’re stretching in dance or letting go of something you’ve held onto for too long. It may be difficult, it may hurt like hell, but in the end you will be better for it. That’s not to say pain can’t be bad; there are different types of pain. There’s the kind of pain that is going to make things better in the long run, or the kind of pain that can cause damage; the trick is being able to tell the difference.

Just keep going. I can’t tell you how many times one of my dance teachers has told me ‘the audience doesn’t know what you’re supposed to be doing, if you mess up just keep dancing.’ Now I’m not saying it’s okay to mess up, I’m saying don’t let it show on your face and absolutely do not stop in the middle of a routine because you forgot the next step. This applies to everything, don’t give up just because things get hard, or because you have made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, that I can guarantee. No one is perfect.

It never hurts to be supportive. I only ever played basketball as a sport, I was always part of a team. When I began dancing I first thought of it as a solo activity, unless of course you’re dancing in a group. However, the dancers at my studio are so kind and supportive, we’re not just a team, we’re more like a family. We laugh together, we cry together and we dance together. The dancers themselves are not the only ones that are supportive; their parents and siblings are just as caring and encouraging, not only with dance, but also with life outside of dance.

Hard work pays off. Now this is something I’ve always known, but dancing has really emphasized it. With hard work and a lot of determination an awkward 5’7″ girl who trips when walking can glide gracefully across the floor in ballet. It’s what got me into the best shape of my life and it’s what will continue to make me not only a better dancer but also a better writer.

Always finish. It doesn’t matter how good you do if you give up before the end. In dance we always emphasize that when you finish it should be a statement. Everyone watching should be able to tell that you are done. Giving up partway through is never an option and honestly I don’t know why anyone would want to. There is a certain sort of satisfaction that you achieve after finishing something, it’s a great feeling that not many others can compare to.

Dancing has made me much more confident and taught me to take pride in everything I do. Through it I have come to know some amazing people and had the opportunity to be a role model to some of the greatest kids I’ve ever met. They daily inspire me to be a better dancer and a better person.

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