I have been a dancer for most of my life. 16 of my 24 and ½ years on this planet were spent in endless practices, competitions, and recitals. And while I won’t deny that dancing took up a lot of time when I was younger, time that I sometimes would want to be doing something else, now that it is gone… I miss it.
Mike took me to the Nutcracker for Christmas, and I knew every song by heart and even remembered parts of old routines that I had performed in the production year after year. In those couple of hours it was like I was reliving all those practices and all those performances. It’s peculiar how an experience can come back to you just like you had been continuing with it all along.
I started dance classes when I was 3 years old, which if my memory and photographs serve me correctly, it mostly consisted of ballet and some tap classes. When I was 8 years old I started going to competitions with my dance group where we competed in jazz, tap, and ballet. When I was 11 I started taking pointe and seriously studying ballet. By the age of 15 I was burnt out with the 4-5 hour long dance practices every night and decided to take a break, but I still never went very long without practicing some moves and old routines around the house. The next year I went back to classes full force with every type of dance you can imagine. I started teaching classes to the younger students and even choreographed a few routines. By my Senior year of high school I was competing every weekend with 7 different routines including a contemporary solo. When I went to college my options were the dance team or a modern dance company. I opted for the modern dance company and performed with them for the entire year, and continued to choreograph for sorority programs. But that is where my dance story stops. At the time it didn’t seem so abrupt, as if it were something I would come back to and just pick right back up any day I decided to.
Now it has been 5 years since I’ve even stepped foot into a proper dance class. At this point, my feet don’t sit in my pointe shoes the way they used to, nor are they strong enough to hold me up for more than a few seconds. My flexibility is all but gone and the idea of doing a split is almost laughable. Sure, I could probably start taking classes again and slowly work my way back into it. But the fact of the matter is that I was dancing 5 hours every day, and at some point that didn’t make sense anymore when I had no intention of pursuing it professionally. It ended up being a decision of making time for the things that I wanted to continue with as a career, and while I loved dancing, I didn’t live for it like I did my art and music.
Another thing I considered is that if I had pursued it, dancers’ careers rarely continue into their 30’s and 40’s, because their body can’t take many years of stress and strain. So my best dancing years would either already be behind me or currently happening. Either way, not a long timeline. And there is truth in that even now. My best dancing years are now behind me. For the rest of my life I will only get to experience dance from the crowd and possibly from admiring a child of mine in the future if they choose that path as well.
But I’m not sad about that fact. I loved dancing. And I still do. Even though I can no longer leap in perfect splits or turn on and on, I learned so much from studying technique for all those years, and the discipline will never leave me.
At some point we choose to leave things we love to make room for other wonderful things. Life is all about give and take. While it can be sad or difficult at times, you have to know that leaving one thing behind can open up a world of possibilities. And I am grateful for my time dancing, for the strength and determination it taught me, and for the fond memories of performing. I’m grateful still that dancing exists as an art form and outlet for so many.
And I will continue to dance, if only to have a fun night out with friends or to slow dance in the living room with my love. That, for me, is enough.