Columnist reflects on the end of her dance career


One of the only constants in my life has been dance. Some of my first memories involve me standing in a rec center ballet studio, wearing a stark white tutu that was way too big for me. I grew up in a family of performers, and was always surrounded by the arts. Music was somehow always playing and my parents tell me I would never sit still. I was even nicknamed “jumping bean” by my aunt because I always had so much energy and wouldn’t stop jumping around the house. My parents put me in a ballet class when I was younger, and it stuck. I spent two summers in Tennessee with my grandparents training in ballet, jazz, and musical theater at a young age that stemmed my early passion for dance.

I kept dancing throughout elementary school, expanding on the styles I wanted to learn and found a studio to really commit to. I remember I came out to my mom’s car one day after class and told her I wanted to audition for company, which was the competitive team at my studio. I had found my sport, my extracurricular activity, my thing, and I was so excited to see where it took me. 

One of the most important parts of growing up competing is conventions, which are three day events over the weekends (if my teachers are wondering why I miss every Friday from January through March, this is why), where you compete at night, and take classes all day Saturday and Sunday. You get to learn from incredible teachers from all over the world and have them judge your dances, and you also have the opportunity to win scholarships. My very first convention was in Pittsburgh, and I remember being so overwhelmed by everything. Nothing can truly prepare you for the first time stepping onto the convention stage, and the butterflies in your stomach. In the classes, it was my first time being in a big hotel ballroom with hundreds of other dancers from different states. I remember the jazz teacher calling me out for smiling while doing the combo he taught, and I felt on top of the world. I also received a scholarship to attend their nationals, and for it being my first competition I felt so accomplished in such a short amount of time for being on the team. 

I do want to cover my personal relationship with dance, because it is such a love-hate relationship in my life. There are some days where only dance can solve my problems and help me mentally, but other days it is the most damaging thing I could do to my brain and my body. I’ve dealt with many things involving body image, eating disorders, anxiety and burnout. There’s been days I just want to quit and never step foot in a dance studio ever again. I’ve also had to miss many important life events because of dance and how much time I spend at the studio. I might not know my exact schedule over high school, but I know at 6:00, I’m going to dance. There are also so many injuries that come with being a dancer your entire life. I’ve had hips and joints popped out of place, sprained knees and ankles, random fluid in my toes I have had to get removed, and thousands of cuts and bruises. Last year I even had to buy volleyball knee pads just to go to dance because my knees were so bruised. 

And now my dance career is coming to an end. On May 20, I’ll take my final bow as a competition dancer. It still feels not real; I can’t process not coming back in July for summer intensive. Dance is year-round, and it’s been like that for over ten years of my life. I’m not ready to say goodbye to my friends, the teachers or the art form that has saved me. I believe I’ll continue to dance in college, but not nearly to the extent I am now because I don’t think my body could handle 15-20 hours of dance a week for another year. I’m so devastated, yet excited for the future and to explore my other interests and hobbies that I haven’t been able to get to because of how busy dance kept me. I’m so grateful for everything that dance has taught me and the memories its brought me while I grew up. Dance, I will miss you, thank you for treating me well.