From my earliest years when I had to find my own ways to pass the time I had a love and passion for dance and performance. Skating performances on my grandmother’s front driveway took weeks of preparation to ensure that every person on the “ice” was in sync with the group. One week when my cousin Tiffany came to visit, my sister, our neighborhood friend, and I spent hours upon hours coordinating our moves for a roller skating performance to Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.” We made sure there were refreshments, outside seating, and we even brought out a chalkboard to give our guests a list of who would be performing in the matinee show. In 1994 I spent nights and weekends practicing a “cat circus” where my grandmother’s cats were the main feature- jumping through hula hoops, leaping over laundry baskets, and with coaxing by the use of a rabbits foot on a string they could even climb up doorway walls. I should also note since I am a huge Britney Spears fan, that although she created her sixth top-selling album in December of 2008 and began a 2-year world tour for her “Circus” album, I in fact was a ring leader way before she was.
I call it my dance envy and this began while being best friends to a busy little girl, who to me, seemed to have it all. I was envious of her functional family life, having two loving parents, money for dance classes numerous times a week and the fact that her dad built into her bedroom her very own dance studio so she could practice at home. She and her family were always so extremely kind to me and I remember the Fridays that her mother was able to talk my grandmother into letting me spend “TGIF” with her. I would tag along with her mom to pick her up from dance practice and get to watch the end of her routines while I stood peeking through the class window, wishing so badly that I was in there with them. I would rummage through her trunks of dance costumes and beg her to show me all the routines she had been learning the previous week. She was a true dance princess, and from her I can look back and recognize that her dance success is clearly a result of her dedication and the support from the ones who wanted her to fulfill her dream.
My grandmother not only loved to watch me be daring in the circus, but she often found ways to get my sister and me involved in activities that would not cost money since she did not have the funds to support a hobby with a price tag. There was an opportunity in elementary school to be a part of free once-a-week clogging class, and as funny as it is to my friends that I was once a clogger, it was my first introduction to a regular weekly dance practice. Since then, I’ve continued to look for opportunities to teach myself dance. For an elective credit in college I challenged myself to take a “beginner’s ballet class” and completely embarrassed myself every single class. I was the only true “beginner” in the class, and looking back now this class was definitely an eye opener to how hard a ballerina works (and needs to continue to work) year after year. Also in my freshman year of highschool, I decided to try out for freshman cheerleading, but I spent each practice fighting back tears of embarrassment as I tried to block out the laughing and judgment of the other girls in the group. Although I let the actions of others squash my dreams of being a cheerleader and dropped out of try outs, I wasn’t going to drop my ballet class and let not only the money I spent go down the drain, but the hours I had already endured as well. I had to be strong and continue to stay inspired by my own vision of learning dance to get myself back to class every day. I was doing this for myself and not for them, so I continued to work at my own pace and celebrate my small victories.
I am not an intermediate dancer now by any means but I am confident enough in myself to get to a dance class every day. I am able to laugh at myself and just have fun with the moves I do understand and be patient with myself when I cannot pick up new choreography. The only way I will get better and learn the challenging moves I come across is to continue to practice. I never would have thought as a little girl looking in my friend’s dance class that I would be a regular at Alvin and Ailey New York Dance Theater, or become the friend that is begging others to come to hip-hop class with me! You have to understand that although you are told you can do anything you want in life, you still have to work hard at whatever that is. Dance moves won’t just magically come to me overnight – I have to continue to focus on becoming a dancer! Regardless of all the girls I thought I wanted to be when I was little, today, I can confidently say, “the girl that I am is the girl I always wanted to be.” You have to learn to work hard for every dream and to not let others be a reason to not believe in what you can accomplish.