A picture is worth…

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.

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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.

2 Comments

  1. Charlotte | livingwellonthecheap

    Love this! I tried out for both dance and cheerleading in middle school and never made either, but you obviously are way more dedicated than me because I never thought to lube my teeth or put glitter in my hair! I’m impressed that you were able to work your way to team captain without any formal dance training. I love to dance but am not so good with, ya know, following a routine. Totally jealous of your dance team experience right now.

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