A few nights ago, I got a Facebook alert that I was tagged in a comment by an old friend, Katie. When I looked at the tag, to my surprise, it was a picture of Katie and I, along with our high school dance teammates.
The picture is nearly 12 years old.
There, in my grown up apartment (pay no mind to my Bieber collection), I was 16 again and I remembered being in that stairwell.
We were practicing a routine for an upcoming performance, I was dating my very first boyfriend, and I had just proclaimed (minutes before the picture was snapped) that I thought I actually loved him.
Ah, love. I didn’t even know what it really meant. But I knew he gave me my very first kiss that made my knees weak, with an additional feeling of drunkness, and I hadn’t even tasted alcohol yet.
All I really knew was that I loved to dance. I loved being a part of that team.
My first dance experience was at a small athletic club when I was in 6th grade. It was a jazz class, and my teacher always wore black leotards and matching tights. She loved “Sweet Dreams Are Made of These.”
In class, we learned a dance routine to Ertha Kitt’s, “Santa Baby,” in which we mysteriously were supposed to pull red boas out of our partner’s back during the performance.
Naturally, I fucked it up, and it took me an extra yank to get the boa out (pre hashtag fail moment).
When I got to 7th grade, I tried out for the middle school dance team, the Spirettes. I know my audition wasn’t perfect, so I wasn’t surprised when my name wasn’t on the list. I was devastated and I watched in envy that year as the beautiful Spirettes took the court at halftime.
I had to be on that team. The following year, I confided in my friend Betsy, asking her to help me nail my audition. I practiced. Hard. And when audition day came, I wore lipstick, slathering vaseline on my teeth so I would constantly smile. I put glitter gel in my hair and dabbled it on the corners of my eyes. I smiled like my life depended on it.
And I fucking made that team.
When I got to high school, I tried out for the Pepsteppers, only to get “alternate” on the team. I was upset, but my mom told me to be the best alternate there was.
So I did. I never missed a practice. And I went to dance camp. Five grueling days of intense training and competition, I walked away with superior ribbons. And my coach gave me a full-time spot on the team.
The following four years on that team were some of the best memories of my life—I learned to be a leader as team captain. I learned about fitness and hard work. And it served as some of the best therapy when that boy I “loved” eventually dumped me, and when my parents got divorced.
And I learned the value of a team when our beloved coach unexpectedly passed away during the season. It is a lesson I carry with me today—that even though dancing these days usually only happens in my kitchen—I have learned that I can always dance in my heart.