Coming into college, I had no idea how much my life as a dancer would change. Retrospectively, I was completely unaware of how lucky I was to create the most special bond with my peers and my teachers. Little did I know, that doesn't happen everywhere. But in the midst of blood, sweat, tears, discouragement, exhaustion, broken bones, pulled muscles, losing my faith, and lots and lots of Bengay and bandages...something beautiful and magical happened. We became more than a company, we became more than a team, we became more than a class. We became a family.
I firmly believe that people can grow, shine, and thrive best when they are comfortable in their environment. My dance room at home was just that...it was my home. The way the light shone through the tall windows in the early morning and hit the mirror, the way the sprung wooden floor felt underneath my feet in the brush of each dégagé, the way the sound system surrounded me booming with more than just music, but with bursts of encouragement from every inch of the room...that felt like home. What I didn't realize, as obvious as it sounds, is that home just isn't everywhere. I couldn't find that feeling of home in every dance studio I'd ever been in. Quite frankly, I haven't felt that at home anywhere else.
That place was where I choreographed state championship pieces and meaningful senior solos. It was where I met my best friends and my biggest fans. It was where I did my first fouetté, broke my arm, and got asked to prom. It's where I lead a team for three years and a company for two. It's where I turned a talent into a passion and my dreams into a reality. It's where I became a leader, a winner, an artist. You can hold memories like that in your heart, but you can't ever tangibly take them out of that dance studio and bring them into another one. You have to leave them behind. I realized, after feeling so at home in that one room, that I would never feel that way in any other studio ever again.
After successfully auditioning for a dance company in Oxford and being cast for a piece, I realized that something was not right. I wasn't feeling motivated and uplifted by anyone else in the room the way that I was encouraged in my dance room at home. After giving it a try for a whole year, I still never found that feeling. A combination of serious knee injuries, personal emotional struggles, and simply not feeling challenged enough led me to quit. Once again, I was without dance.
So here I am, as I wrote in one of my other articles, "out of shape, nostalgically distracted, and creatively lost." I'm struggling to find the "at home" feeling anywhere else. The feeling of being at home allowed me to grow as both a dancer and as a person. I improved so much on technique, movement quality, and the artistic ability to choreograph and interpret. I learned how to effectively lead a group of people and to be lead by others. That room allowed me to shine and to thrive. When I performed, for an audience or just alone, I danced with my heart. I was beaming. I felt amazing inside and out. That comfort zone makes miracles happen, and I will never stop looking for it. I don't feel whole without it. There's no other way to put it: that room is my happy place.
The good thing is, the lessons that dance has taught me are things that I can take anywhere. Dance taught me to see the world as a bigger picture than just going through everyday, mundane motions. It gave meaning to each tiny movement, creating a whole at its completion. It taught me to look beyond the surface and see things for all that they're worth. It taught me never to give up, to never settle for less, to never let rejection consume you one bit. Dance opened an intellectual being in me that never would have existed if I didn't open my heart and soul to that dance room and give it all of me. Because of dance, I am incredibly loving, passionate, and confident in all that I do. Knowing that I have one true comfort zone is my reason for putting myself out there in anything I do and taking a step outside of those boundaries. I know that I'll always have a home and a place to come back to.
I think it's amazing that even after a few years, the people I spent all day with in that room are still the people that I talk to every day, peers and adults alike. They've become such a part of me, and I've become such a part of them. It's incredible how a shared comfort zone can allow people to be the best versions of themselves when brought together, and how that kind of sheer, honest positivity led us to involuntarily uplift each other. While we were expressing our frustrations, nursing injuries, cheering for successes, crying for sorrows, moving through the music, and just sitting still...we were creating self-defining memories. That is powerful.
I truly, absolutely believe that God created that special place to bring the best out of all of these people. I learned so much in that room that has made me so inspired to never give up in my quest to find another place that brings me so much joy. Will I ever find it? I don't know. But I do know that no matter where I am, and no matter where my teammates are, that room will always welcome me (and us) with open arms. Anytime I step foot in there, it really feels like I never left. I'm at ease, I'm happy, I'm whole. In the most sincere way...I am so thankful for the feeling of home.