Sophomore dancer rediscovers her rhythm after snowboarding accident

January 29, 2017 — by Amy Tang

My screaming alarm blares at 5:30 in the morning. My dance bag for the upcoming day, which contains enough food to last about a week, sits on the hardwood floor of my room. My uncooperative hair forces me to spend 17 minutes combing it and drenching it in hairspray, in a desperate yet fruitless attempt to slick it back into the required, tight ponytail.  

Another 11 minutes pass, and my arms begin to lose circulation. I cringe at my unsuccessful, bumpy ponytail in the mirror as I hear the car engine start, my dad behind the wheel, half asleep with a bagel in his mouth. I hop into the car, and we’re off to the Santa Clara Convention Center for a long day of classes and competition.

At this point, this hurried yet inevitable process has grown routine to me, but before I started competitive dancing, I underwent years of technical training.

I started dancing when I was 5 at a Chinese dance studio, Yao Yong, and stayed there until I was 12. The teachers were ridiculously strict to say the least, but the intense training improved my technique before I moved on to Dance Academy USA, an American dance studio in Cupertino. I was there for three years, and danced on the competitive team for two more.

My progress in dance went smoothly until last February. The reason: I broke my shoulder in a snowboarding accident, and was unable to dance for months. I was devastated. I had to drop out of 11 different classes as well as the competition team.

My doctor told me that I would be able to dance in three months, but that it would be a year until I would fully recover. About a month after the accident, I could lift my arm up without feeling much pain. Two months later, as I attempted to raise my arms for a leap during dance team auditions, I discovered, quite painfully, that though my arm could go up past a right angle, I could not yet reach directly up.

Six months later, I was practically back to normal. However, it’s been almost a year, and when I hold my two arms up at 180 degrees, my shoulders don’t quite look the same.

Even during my recovery period, I never stopped dancing, because I knew how a few months off from the sport could take a toll on a dancer’s flexibility and skill. So as I watched dance videos on YouTube, I would sit in the splits to maintain my flexibility or do ab workouts to stay fit.

During my months off dance, choreographing became my favorite pastime — though most of the pieces I choreographed in the shower or in my bedroom will never see the light of day.

When trying to choreograph, the melody, as well as subtle beats in the music, became ingrained in my head. Though I will never be compared to talented choreographers Travis Wall or Chris Martin, making a dance that’s unique to only myself is something that I still love to do.

Though the quarter of the year off dance that I lost to my injury was frustrating and painful, it allowed me to discover new passions and made me even more determined to improve once I could dance again. Being away from dance made me appreciate the times I was fully able to do what I love.

This year, on the school dance team, I have seen myself grow as a dancer and have formed friendships with my team members.  My setback helped me realize how much of an impact dance has had on my life, and how much I, as a human being, depend on it.