Dance: From dance studio to school team – Reporter changes for the better

January 22, 2017 — by Caitlyn Chen

“Dancers, please return to your spots,” the judge said.

As I hurried back to my place among 12 other dancers, I noted the talent around me. I wasn’t near to being as technically gifted as these dancers, some of whom I’d seen on TV commercials or professional videos. But as amazing as it was to share the room with such inspiring dancers, I couldn’t help but feel out of place.

This was how I spent many of my weekends as a sophomore, learning combinations and auditioning at a variety of dance conventions, as a member of the competitive, audition-based senior company at Studio 10 Dance.

But as I was spending so much time outside of school at my dance studio and at competitions, I realized I had only attended one football game in my first two years at SHS. I had barely contributed to Homecoming, only performing with my class in the finale.

Every day, I went home right after the bell rang, finishing as much homework as I could before I headed to the dance studio for class at 7 p.m. As part of Independent Study P.E. (ISPE), I was required to dance more than 10 hours of week at the studio — and I loved it.

Yet spending so much time at the studio made me feel detached from school activities: Friday nights were reserved for homework and sleeping — never football games — because on Saturday mornings, I was up at 6 a.m., driving to another convention. Tuesday and Wednesday evenings were spent at the studio, taking ballet — not at school preparing for Quad Day performances.

As time went on, my studio team became extremely competitive, as many of my teammates were looking into pursuing careers in dance. Compared to them, I was not serious about dance — I wasn’t planning on pursuing it as a major in college or relying on it for a career path. I was doing it for fun. And as competition got more intense, I felt overwhelmed. Instead of being a relief for me, dance became a burden.

Going into junior year, I realized I wasn’t looking to become a professional dancer. What I wanted was for dance to make me feel happy and to find a way to be a part of the school again — to be a part of my class, helping with events like Homecoming and attending football games and rallies.

So in May of my sophomore year, I auditioned for the dance team. I was nervous going to rehearsals at first, especially as the only junior on the team. But I quickly found out that there was no reason for my worries. Our team has become incredibly close, closer than my competition team ever was.

One of the reasons I think we bonded so well is that, whereas in a studio team the instructor runs practices, in a school team, the officers have to lead practices — leading warm-ups and cleaning competition routines. Our coach is mostly there to oversee and make sure we get things done. Because officers have to lead practices ourselves, we’ve developed a level of trust in each other that I don’t think my studio team reached before.

Also, being an officer of the team has forced me to push the boundaries of my leadership skills. At the studio, I would always hide in the back, unconfident with my ability to be a leader on the team. Now, as an officer, I have to know the counts for the routines; I need to know how to teach combinations, in addition to cleaning competition dances, instead of relying on an  instructor to lead me. Although it’s hard at times, being an officer has taught me so much and instilled within me a confidence in my dancing that I couldn’t find at the studio.

As I write this, we have yet to attend our first competition, so until now, my favorite moments on the team have been at our school performances. The crowd is incredibly supportive (even if you mess up, which I do a lot), and it’s amazing to have so many opportunities to perform.

It’s one thing to perform at conventions, where everybody is competing against each other, but it’s another to perform in front of all your friends and family, who are rooting for you.

Whether it was at the studio or on the school dance team now, dance has always been a huge part of my life. Whenever I feel overwhelmed in school, dancing helps me forget about my stress for a few hours, and just makes me feel happy again. I’m so glad I’ve found another safe place in the SHS dance room to do what I love, with the wonderful support of my team.