A mentor of mine once told me that dancing professionally is not just a career that someone chooses to pursue, but rather being a professional dancer is better described as a calling. It’s something that a dancer feels pulled to, knowing that he or she does not have any other choice but to pursue it.
I suppose that was my problem. I’ve felt that pull, but I never described myself as a dancer. I was a gymnast, an athlete, but never a dancer. I started gymnastics when I was six years old and continued for the majority of my life. Like any other young gymnast my dream was to be in the Olympics. When that didn’t work out I decided to work towards a collegiate scholarship. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen either because when someone is consistently injured and has to start over and over again in recovery they have the tendency to become unmotivated. Regardless, I eventually decided to try out for a division III school. After a month of tryouts little ol’ me, 30 pounds heavier and extremely out of shape, got the letter of shame telling me I didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t going to let that stop me. You see, despite never being naturally talented at gymnastics it was an escape for me. I enjoyed the feeling of flight, the feeling of swinging, the ability to do things that my friends couldn’t. Even though my peak was two years earlier than this particular tryout, I worked hard to get to the level I was and I wasn’t going to just throw it away. I decided to continue gymnastics recreationally and about two weeks later my body protested as I broke my ankle on a tumbling pass I’ve been competing for six years.
I felt like a gross, out of shape failure. I wanted to end gymnastics on a high note, but it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. After weeks in a cast I decided that I needed to find another sport. I might’ve not been a gymnast anymore, but I was still an athlete. I tried taking an ice hockey class, I tried running, I tried just going to the gym and working out but nothing was fulfilling that feeling that I had when I did gymnastics. That’s when I decided to join the dance company at my college, a decision I look back on the starting point of this journey.
Though gymnastics was my sport of choice and didn’t leave time for much else, I did have experience dancing. I started dancing when I was four or five years old. Eventually I decided to give it up to do gymnastics. But gymnastics and I had a love/hate relationship. I’ve quit several times out of frustration and found myself going back to dance. Even in gymnastics, one of my biggest strengths and compliments that I would receive most often was the fact that I had a dance ability. Growing up the fact that I could dance was something that I frequently got complimented on. It came really easy to me and, but I never paid much attention to it. Gymnastics was the only thing on my mind…until now.
Over the past two years I have experienced something with dance that I have never experienced with gymnastics. There’s this passion burning inside of me that I never had with gymnastics. About four months ago (Sept. 2013) I started to feel this pull towards dancing professionally. I denied it…I’m not a dancer, I just dance. But it was there and it was not going away. I was too scared to tell anyone in fear that they would laugh at me or think that I was crazy and dumb for feeling this. I couldn’t even say “I want to dance professionally” out loud because I had so much self-doubt and fear. Finally, in Dec. 2013 I had the courage to tell some of my friends and surprisingly they were quite supportive. Several people started dropping this idea in my head that this was more than a change in career or a decision I had to make. Some of them started telling me that I had no other choice, but to take the risk and go for it. I started to think that they were right.
It wasn’t until I started working with one particular dance teacher that the weight of this so-called “calling” to dance started to sink in. She told me “It is something you know you must do in some capacity to feel whole.” That is when I started to fully admit to myself that I had no other choice but to pursue dance, no matter how impossible it seems.
There is a difference between pursuing a fantasy and pursuing a dream. When I was a gymnast in hopes of being in the Olympics I was pursuing a fantasy. It was something that I enjoyed doing, but it wasn’t my calling. I didn’t feel that same instinctual pull that I feel with dance. Now with dance I believe that I am pursuing a dream. No, I do not know what the outcome is going to be. I don’t know if all my hard work will pay off and in a year I will be dancing professionally in a dance company. But I do know that if I do not follow this calling then I will look back and feel like I missed out on a major part of my life. If I do not give it my all then I will always be wondering “what if?”. And in the end if dance is a calling, what choice do I have? It is my responsibility to follow it.