I was never someone who felt comfortable in school and girls were never receptive of me or who I was. Even as a little girl, I was always confident, outspoken, and different. I grew up differently than the girls I knew, surrounded by dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, and other animals that my mom and I rescued. My mom’s an artist and I grew up surrounded by art, knitting, sewing, bright color, and an unconventional parenting style. My parents never pushed me or judged me and I was always allowed to be who I wanted to be, do what I wanted to do, and explore what I wanted to explore. I didn’t have boundaries. I also lived an only child lifestyle, because my brother is much older than me, and he only lived in the same household as me when I was a baby, which forced me to be creative, independent, and fierce.
I went to a private preschool, a public kindergarten, and then I was in private school again until entering into middle school. I decided I didn’t want to go to a private high school. My parents and I figured it would be easier to transfer into public school in middle school, rather than high school, but it wasn’t easy at all. I was always treated like the new girl who wasn’t accepted or understood and I just never felt as though I belonged. I went to a school that in my opinion, was very polarizing towards many of the students. I’m a social butterfly and I can get along with anyone, but in a school environment, I never felt like the best version of myself. School was suffocating, scary, and unremarkable to me. I learned more outside of the classroom than I ever did sitting behind a desk. But, I was respectful towards my teachers and the other staff, I got great grades, and I pushed myself to do my absolute best while I was in school. I was accepted into all of the colleges I applied to, including The Savannah College of Art and Design, which I was thrilled about. Unfortunately, after enduring more than one trauma during high school I wasn’t emotionally able to go away to school.
During my elementary school years I was suffering from a stomach ulcer, which went undiagnosed until I was twelve years old. It was finally treated and by age fourteen my stomach began to normalize, but I still get horrible cramps now and then. Your stomach is a muscle and it remembers the pain and the trauma. It was hard as a child explaining to other children and adults that I was in excruciating pain and no one believed me. Even my teachers thought I was lying and making it all up for attention, which never made any sense to me. I remember in third grade my gym teacher, who was really nasty, had us running laps around an outdoor track. I began to cramp so badly I couldn’t breathe. I told her I needed to go home and she called me a liar to my face and made me sit in the corner away from the other kids. I missed so much school and I’m convinced that’s why I’m horrible at math. I missed too many of the basic math components to ever truly catch up. Oh well, I was never meant to be a math guru, but it made it harder for me to feel normal in school when all of my peers understood math and got good grades and I was constantly struggling in that subject area.
When I was in first grade I joined my private school’s after-school dance program and I fell in love. I had an amazing dance teacher, the girls and I meshed well, and I was good at it. We did a little hip-hop and Jazz, but mostly we learned and focused on ballet. Ballet was so beautiful to me. I loved being able to express myself through body movement, the sparkly tutus, and the feeling of the lights hitting me when I was on the floor. Every day after school I had dance class and then every month we had our dance recital on a Friday night. I’ll never forget going with my dad to buy my leotards, ballet slippers, and tutus and feeling so excited to dance. Dance was the only time I ever felt absolutely comfortable at school. As soon as I stretched and stepped foot onto the dance floor I was home. My teacher was incredible, sparkly, and had been dancing her entire life. She instilled in us motivation, teamwork, and hard work, but she also was so kind, realistic, and easygoing. She never made any of us feel bad about ourselves, which isn’t always the case in the dance industry. I will never forget stretching every dance class to Jesse McCartney, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears…oh, the music of the early 2000’s. Take me back…haha.
I wound up switching private schools, a couple of times after my favorite school closed its doors. I was in the same dance class at my favorite school from first grade until third grade and I learned more than I ever could’ve imagined. I’m so thankful for those days and the experience. In fourth grade I went to a private school in Princeton, NJ and they offered a competitive and advanced ballet class. They also offered mandarin and french classes (fancy, huh?). The first week in the ballet class was all about impressing the teacher and actually placing in the class in order to continue with ballet. Anyone who didn’t place was able to choose a different elective and pursue a different passion, but after days of stressing and pushing myself, I placed in the class and I was able to continue dancing. We focused on ballet, but our dance teacher had a contemporary dance background, so we learned a lot of different techniques and I did two shows at the school during my time there. The shows were terrifying and very different than the dance recitals at my old school, which were casual and laid back. All of the girls I danced with were equally talented, or even better than I was in ballet and many of the girls planned on pursuing ballet professionally. A couple of the girls were already eating differently and trying their very best to be as small as possible, which was never my goal. I always wanted to be healthy. I was small to begin with and never believed in dieting or starving myself as a young, growing girl. I still don’t believe in any of that. I’ll never forget sitting in the ballet room in the fancy private school, admiring the light that flooded through the large floor to ceiling windows, the expensive hardwood floors, and the mirrored walls. I felt as though I was in a fairytale (or a Barbie movie) every time I entered that room. Dance makes you feel like magic.
I stopped dancing after I left private school in sixth grade, but I still danced in my room and choreographed little routines. I’d spin around and fall to the ground gracefully, with the lights dimmed and a favorite song playing loudly. When I was in my early twenties I finally exited from an abusive relationship and I found myself going to a Valentine’s Day dance at a ballroom dance studio that my mom danced at. I watched two talented dance instructors in a room across from me doing a sexy, dramatic, Argentine tango and I said to myself, “I’m going to learn how to do that.” and I did. A week later, I started ballroom dancing and I’m so thankful for the art form because it truly saved me at a time in my life when I needed some sparkle and distraction. I’ll never forget the first time I did Argentine tango and my previous dance instructor/partner looked at me, smiled, and said,”That’s your dance.”. I fell in love with tango (American and Argentine) and I excelled at it, but I explored other dances, and by the time I found out I was pregnant I had performed in countless showcases (the sparkly, holiday shows were my favorite), received recognition and awards, and had learned so much. My previous instructor/partner taught me that it’s never too late to become who you really are. Sadly, my previous instructor/partner left the studio, which is the absolute worst for a dancer, because you connect with a certain dance partner over anyone else. You need that connection in order to perform at your best and to show off your passion. I danced until I was about five months pregnant (with a different instructor/partner), but my equilibrium was off and I felt exhausted after my sessions, which made me realize I needed to focus solely on becoming a mom. I left the studio and after becoming a mama to the most beautiful boy in the world I took a little break from dance and didn’t return until right before COVID-19. I was actually accepted into Stockton Universities (New Jersey) dance program, but I decided to focus on fashion and marketing, which is my life by getting my certification in Fashion Business at Parsons School of Design-The New School (this year). I’m currently finishing up my first course, Fashion Merchandising. Who knows though, in the future maybe I’ll get a dance degree and open my own studio (which I used to dream of), but I’ve always seen myself sticking to fashion as a career. I have years of fashion and marketing experience under my belt and I can style an outfit better than most.
I decided to go to a different studio in 2020 and I met my now dance partner/instructor and I’ve enjoyed every minute of being back on the dance floor. My new partner/instructor is incredible and I’m so glad we have that connection. I danced through 2020, the pandemic, and our new normal. I try to go to the studio at least once a week, but as a busy mama (with other passions) sometimes my priority isn’t dance (that’s life as a mama). I’ve grown so much as a dancer over the years and I’m really proud of myself. I look at all of my dance costumes, photos, and videos and I smile. Dancers don’t dance because they want to…they dance because they have to. They can’t stay off of the dance floor and that’s always how I’ve felt. When I step foot onto the hardwood floor in my ballroom dance shoes the world falls still and I feel so alive. I’m so focused when I’m dancing and for that period of time, while I’m on the floor, nothing else matters. It’s therapeutic, beautiful, and a true commitment. It’s an expensive commitment to lessons, shoes, showcases, and costumes. It isn’t something you do on a whim. It’s something you do because you love it. Dancers watch what they eat, what kind of physical activities they participate in outside of dance, and they need to be careful not to push themselves too hard, or far. I’ve never hurt myself ballroom dancing but I have hit/kicked my partner accidentally (it happens) and I’ve done complex tricks that could’ve ended badly, but that’s why we practice over and over again. It’s a lifestyle, just like iceskating, horseback riding, and swimming. I don’t eat anything before dance because its always better not to dance with a full stomach, but I drink an abnormal amount of water. I don’t like to run because it’s bad for your knees and I have incredibly strong legs. which dancers need. You don’t want a knee or leg injury as a dancer. I love the feeling of pure bliss after a dance session, knowing I rocked it. I’m currently learning nightclub two step and as a country girl, I’m in heaven. During my last dance session I finally nailed the steps, which always feels great.
The dance industry isn’t always welcoming, comfortable, or pleasant. As a girl who used to do ballet I know that the dark side exists and I’ve witnessed various issues. Girls literally kill themselves to be the absolute best, the prettiest, and to make it to the top. Body image issues are a huge problem in the dance and gymnastics world. There have been studies and books published about the dark side of the dance industry, dance addiction, and social isolation due to dance. Studies have shown that many dancers are incredibly isolated and lonely people. Some women spend too much money on competitions, travel, and over the top costumes. Others starve themselves, recreate their image (spray tans, hair, and nails), and become a dance addict. But, many like myself dance because we love it and it’s never become an issue in our lives. I will admit that at one point I was spending way too much money on costumes, shoes, and showcases, but now that I’m a wife and mama my priorities have shifted and that’s not who I am anymore. I save my money and I’m careful with any purchases. Dance will always be a part of me and I cherish every routine, song played, and moment on the dance floor. I’m that girl that hears a song and immediately goes, “I did a dance routine to that song!”. Dance lives within you and dancers aren’t born…they’re taught. I’m thankful for my connection to dance, for hardwood floors, and for glitter