By: Marlee Billiter
I’ve been holding off on writing this article all semester because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to execute my thoughts accurately or expressively enough. I worried I wouldn’t have the energy to write something as meaningful as this–I still worry. I’m looking past this fact–this overbearing fear–and writing to my best ability how I somehow lost, but found the utmost aspect of my identity…dance.
Considered to be a joke amongst the many other sport options, dance was the more feminine choice when growing up. It’s supposed to act as the placeholder until you evolve into greater things, or that’s what a majority of society thinks. Instead, I danced all the way to age 15, competing, practicing, making it one of the biggest dedications in my life.
I switched studios when I was 10. It was known for being one of the best in the area, and you had to audition just to get in. You weren’t even allowed to be there recreationally. I came in and was honestly jealous of the other dancers; I thought there was no way I’d be good enough or eventually get to their ability. I ended up understudying the Juniors, one of the best teams the studio had, and they were only 11-13 years old. Somehow, some of the youngest people in the place were the most talented. Of course, I wasn’t at their level yet, but I continued to grow throughout the year. It was after a competition that my teacher told me she wanted me in the jazz dance. I was so uplifted. It was the start to five years of improvement, competitiveness, drive, the growth of an everlasting love. It was my sophomore year where I felt my life start to fall apart.
The year started off normal, but there was hesitation in how normal. The owner was setting an extreme absence policy saying we could only miss two nights out of a semester. If we missed more and didn’t have a very viable reason as to why we missed, we’d be put on probation, having to take extra classes to make up for the missed ones. This was only the beginning of a million other reasons to leave the studio.
These reasons clouded my judgment and perception of the studio. I began to lose my passion for dance. Every time I thought of going, I dreaded the amount of drama and lack of energy awaiting me. It was genuinely one of the worst feelings ever. I sat and watched as my world crumbled.
Allow me to go more in depth with this world I’ve been describing: dance is so much more than just an action or hobby. It was a lifestyle. I gave everything to it because it held such a large place in my heart. It was my therapy, way of communication, expression…One of my newest ideas about the form was its interpretation. I hear music in the way someone understands a second language. Upon hearing it, I interpret in a way I can think for myself. I’ve grown a great connection to music because I hear it as dance–my passion, soul, love. I see music as the thing I can connect to most because of the connection I have to movement–like how musicians interpret other sounds technically based on what they know about instruments. I happen to hear it through dance.
It’s the ability to connect every thought, emotion, and event to a movement that leaves me in such awe about the so-called ‘hobby.’ There’s a list of thoughts going into each move for example, just moving a singular finger up and down holds enough emotional power to impact an entire auditorium. It’s breathtaking.
After my last recital in May of 2022, I felt lost. For about two weeks, I regretted my decision to quit. I spent every waking moment thinking about how much of myself I had just lost. I tried to uplift myself with the positives like getting a job, having free time, doing things after school for the first time in my life. My biggest hope was I’d finally feel relaxed and my mental health could improve without so many stressors; instead, I stressed about leaving, still longing for dance. I still stress over this. I find myself dancing around my room all the time. I look back at old competition videos and think, “What have I done?” I really don’t know what I did. I’d like to say I’ve improved over the months of break I’ve had from dance, but I’d be lying. I feel the same. Maybe a little less physically miserable, but more miserable over the fact that I have no real meaning without dance.
I wish I could wrap my head around all my thoughts about this subject, but the main one I can grab is the idea that what you love will never leave you. Dancing in my room, I realize I have the same ability as when I left almost a year ago. I contemplate going back to the studio next year because I’ve heard the amount of issues there has decreased in the time I’ve left. It’s a big wonder; I don’t know how I’d be able to get back into the groove of things or find as much drive as I once had. That’s part of the reason why this topic is so controversial to me. There’s enough pros and cons on both sides to keep me stuck in this frustrated state. My hope is to overcome this dread and choose a real answer, but that’s something I have yet to accept.