I’m what you call a Tom-Boy. I’ve been playing football with the boys (in the rain!) for as long as I can remember. I was the only girl on an all-boys soccer team. I’ve been bruised and landed myself in the hospital a time or two.
You wouldn’t exactly call me “graceful” or “delicate.” Not unless grace comes in the form of barreling down a field, wiping sweat and dirt from your body. I’ve carried these stories about myself for years. I don’t deny them. It’s who I am.
Grace is something I’ve never claimed.
Fast forward to my college years, I was still playing soccer, running track, and my football games morphed into late night rollerblading and puddle hopping. Then, for some reason I decided to sign up for a dance class. Considering I hadn’t taken any form of movement art since the age of four [see photo], I was dangerously out of my element.
I must say the dance class in college was a blast. True, I was awkward and I mostly focused on trying not to trip over my own feet. It was bizarre to have such finesse in a full contact sport but yet taking three steps one way and two another would spiral me into some sort movement that resembled a seizure.
It wasn’t hard to figure out that this body was not made for artistic movement.
At the end of the semester, our class was assigned a final dance, where we had to partner up and perform a piece we choreographed (from scratch people!) that would go toward our final grade. Having essentially no dance background, I was freaked. Then, my very intelligent(?) instructor paired me with a girl who had probably been dancing since before she could walk. The word panic cannot touch the terror I felt about this arrangement.
I’m certain I apologized profusely to the poor girl.
After a few weeks of absolutely no rehearsing or preparation for our final dance (it’s possible my partner couldn’t bring herself to work with me and my malfunctioning body), my partner and I finally got together the night before our performance would take place.
To say we crammed for this final is putting it mildly. We slapped that dance together (like securing construction paper with old, dried-up glue sticks) and shoved it down our throats so fast I was sick over it. The following day, I had absolutely NO IDEA what to do when I walked into that studio. I didn’t remember a single thing. Not one single thing. I contemplated talking to my professor and backing out – taking the F, if that’s what it meant.
Instead, I watched*. And I watched.
I watched people who had been dancing forever, pour their hearts out through their routines. I watched my classmates – mesmerized by the movement. I watched the music come alive.
And then it was my turn.
As I walked over to my position, it was like a fist had gripped my heart. I couldn’t breathe. My hands were shaking. My head was fuzzy trying remember something – anything. The words “I can’t do this.” played on my lips and I wondered what it would feel like to speak them out loud.
Suddenly, the music started…
That’s when I went on autopilot. My brain checked out and my body was hijacked by the music. “Magic” feels cliché but it’s a word that has frequently come to mind because if anything felt like magic (or a miracle!) it was in that moment. Every single step of that routine was in place. Every extension. Every pointed toe. Every uplifted arm. In fact, I was so mesmerized by the music and the movement, I didn’t see that I had run out of room.
Fortunately, my triple spin ended with my nose mere inches away from that pale yellow wall. And (thankfully!) the music ended right on time. I had successfully completed the final with no clumsiness and only one (one!) close call.
Who said I wasn’t a dancer?
Oh, right. That was me. I spent every dance class that semester thinking I didn’t belong and that I was way out of my league. And you know what? I was. These people had been training for years and this class was a breeze for them. But here’s the funny thing, I was part of that class. I belonged there just as much as anyone else.
I wanted the experience and that’s exactly what I got.
I doubt my partner was thrilled to have me assigned to her but the look on her face afterward was pretty awesome. I had others approach me at the end of class, congratulating me on the effort and we laughed about the “near fatality.” In the end, my instructor excused the near wall-collision and gave me an A.
In what ways have you completely surprised yourself?
*FROZE. Instead, I froze. (That’s more like it.)