Hi everyone! Just a quick note before this post: this piece is something I put together for my honors seminar on movement and dance. So, there might be a couple of quotes and also a works cited at the bottom of this. Haha sorry but plagiarism is no joke! I also have to cite myself to avoid self-plagiarism. What a world! Anyway, we were asked to reflect on our movement history and for this, I focused more on dance. Honestly, if I involved everything, this would be a 400 page novel. I hope you enjoy!
At the age of four, my parents enrolled me in ballet classes at the School of Ballet Nouveau Colorado. It was no surprise that I began ballet classes at a young age considering that my mom also took ballet classes until she was fifteen. Ballet has always been a passion of my mom’s and tennis and volleyball have always been my dad’s passions so there was absolutely bound to be activity in my life. My mom wanted a place for me to be active, make friends, and develop good posture and flexibility, so ballet was the first activity for me to try. I was always on the move as a child and so my mom figured ballet would be the perfect place to become connected with my movement and experiment with the different, more graceful movements associated with ballet.
As a toddler I excelled in my basic, baby ballet classes. My teachers praised me for my long legs and posture and quickly advanced me. I soon found myself working on tendus, battements, and pliés at the barre with the six year olds, which was quite intimidating considering that some of the girls were a foot taller than me. I feel that I was at an advantage because of how my parents raised me. I was a very sheltered and protected child who received a lot of love and care from both of my parents. The love, care, and attention from my parents, all “environmental factors”, contributed to how aware I was of my body as a four year old and helped me pick up ballet and all other activities I participated in easily. The attention and support from my parents allowed me to understand that I was taking ballet classes for fun and to enjoy being a kid over anything that some ballet school or society expected of me. I danced at Ballet Nouveau until I was six and then I wouldn’t dance again for another four years.
When I turned ten, I began taking hip hop classes at a local dance studio. The new loud, different music and quick, sharp movements proved to be much more challenging for me, but I stuck with it. This time around I was much less afraid of the older kids and I used being the youngest to my advantage. When we first began learning dances, I acted as a copycat to the girl standing in front of me. Her movements became my movements and her expressions became my expressions. The hip hop world appeared to be quite different from the culture and background I was accustomed to but it was fresh, exciting, and fun to explore. Like with the girl in my hip hop class, I became a mini replica of the hip hop dancers I watched on the internet, following their every move. This technical approach allowed me to “copy a dance technique that [was] identified and valued as worthwhile for training” and once I became more confident in my abilities, I added my own expression and personality to my movements. After my first hip hop performance on stage at my studio’s recital, I felt so invigorated and proud. I knew that I wanted to continue dancing. The following dance season, I made the competition hip hop team at my dance studio and loved every second of it. That team went on to win gold and platinum for both of our dances at two of the three competitions we competed at in the spring. I competed with the same hip hop team for another dance season and even added tap to my repertoire.
After those two dance seasons, volleyball and dance overwhelmed my schedule so I was unable to dance with my studio’s competitive teams, but I was able to perform a solo at the recital. As “Dancing Shoes” by DEV played at the recital, I gained more air off of each leap that I performed. My heart pounded to the beat of the music as I looked out past the bright lights to find my parents and sister in the crowd. As my solo came to an end, I could really do nothing but smile. I had truly missed dancing for a year and so having the opportunity to perform a solo I had worked so hard on was incredible. Dance was no longer just a hobby to me, but it had become an art form. Dance had meant something special to me with my past competitive dance seasons but it had become something powerful after my solo. Dance had evolved to become a celebration of experience and progress. Dance could “function as entertainment [or] therapy” for when I felt bored, sad, angry, or even happy. This gave me a deeper appreciation of the sport and art that I had spent hours practicing and dedicating my life too.
The next competitive dance season, I was able to join my studio’s competitive teams again. I had added jazz and lyrical to my list of classes too. In addition to all of these classes and training, I was also taking ballet and technique classes in order to strengthen my muscles and perfect every little movement to appear flawless onstage. One of my most vivid dance memories was from my Thursday night technique class when I had already been in the studio for three hours and was finishing my night. I was exhausted and my teacher had us working on tours en seconde. I was struggling to get the rhythm down and kept losing momentum. All of the other girls in my technique class were executing tours en seconde beautifully and I was not. As I was getting ready to leave the studio that night, my teacher pulled me over and we had a conversation about my struggles. She noticed that I was frustrated and talked with me about my tours en seconde. My teacher told me that I shouldn’t compare myself to the other girls or stress about the situation. She helped me feel much more relaxed and less worried about how I danced in comparison to others. Society often builds us up to compare ourselves to others when looking at flawless people in magazines and on TV and social media, but that is not the real world. Realizing that the only person I need to compare myself to is me was enlightening. This helped me realize that I need to let go of my tensions when dancing and working on new skills. I learned that the mind will “guide the body through the imperfections of the movement” and this idea enabled me to feel more confident in my dancing abilities and allowed me to grow my passion for dance because I was dancing for myself, not for the approval of others.
Unfortunately, that competitive season of dance would be my last. During competitive season, I injured my foot either in ballet or jazz class. I performed all season in pain thinking that the injury was no big deal. My injury was unfortunately no pulled muscle or overworked joint but a bone fracture that eventually wiped out my possibilities of ever going on pointe. (Those of you that have been around know about this one!) It also made dancing competitively at the level I previously danced at practically impossible because of all of the strain and impact my foot and ankle would suffer. So from that point until now, I have danced but not like I once did. I have worked to come back to dance as best I can but even through training, my ankle will never be the same. I’ve learned to accept that “some differences between [physical capabilities] need to be celebrated rather than fought” and I’ve come to appreciate the experiences and opportunities dance gave me while I was still a healthy dancer.
Through dance, my mom was able to live through me and my dad was able to experience a sport he’d never dealt with much. My sister was able to have a friend to dance alongside and I was able to share my passion for dance with my family and friends when they asked me to perform for them at family get-togethers. While I may not be able to dance as well as I used to, I still play tennis and maintain the high level of activity and discipline that dance instilled in me. I still enjoy the sense of rhythm and ability to explore movement as well as the many wonderful cultures dance is associated with. I may no longer be the little Polichinelle I once was or ever become the Clara I could’ve been, but I can still watch both girls on old videos and the internet and love the movement and music and art for what it is.
Horvath, A. (2019). Every Body Has a History. Unpublished manuscript, Colorado State University
Nadel, Myron Howard, and Marc Raymond Strauss. The Dance Experience Insights into History, Culture, and Creativity. Princeton Book Company, 2014.
Schrader, Constance A. A Sense of Dance: Exploring Your Movement Potential. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2005.