My earliest memories of dancing are to the credits of Disney movies and Bill Nye the Science Guy. My mom put me in a ballet/tap combo class in 1st grade, and I hated it. I begged her to let me quit before the spring recital, saying "I just want to make my own dance."
I spent the next 5 years begging her to let me go back. I finally wore her down.
When I tell people I've been dancing since 6th grade, I imagine it brings a certain image to their minds: nice girls in pink who dream of being ballerina and who love princesses and isn't that just precious! Nothing could be further from the truth. I started dance classes again right after my parents' messy, lengthy divorce. The divorce brought out the worst in my dad, and as a preteen, I had no idea how to set boundaries with my own dad.
Dance was how I worked through shit. As soon as I found modern dance, I fell in love. It could be raw and emotional. It could be heavy and grounded. It didn't have to be pretty like ballet. (I spent all of my teen years explaining how I like beautiful things, but hated pretty things.) Dance became my punching bag. I was drawn to movement that was athletic, hard-hitting, and powerful. I always tried to jump as high as the boys, hating that ballet was so gendered. (The guys get to do all the fun stuff!)
As soon as I know dancing could be a job (I'm from Iowa, I didn't have many examples in front of me) I know that's what I wanted to do. Everyone around me wanted me to be a dancer too.
Everyone was excited when I got into my dream college, and everyone knew I'd be great. And then my depression hit.
I questioned everything about dance, didn't think I was cut out for it, but also didn't know what to do with myself without it. I wanted to quit, but I was too ashamed to say that. So instead I transferred schools. I sunk further and further into my depression until I wasn't sure I'd finish that semester. As I was on the phone with my mom one day, sobbing in the middle of a cafe, she said, "I'll do whatever it takes to get through this semester." I said, "I want to see your therapist next week."
I'd had a growing knee injury and the week after I started therapy, I had surgery. I got my wish, and I quit dancing for two years.
The fall of my junior year, I went to a concert and saw the looks on the performers' faces. I thought, "I know that feeling..." and I missed the joy of giving the creative parts of myself to other people. The next semester I took ballet and improv. I got an email from my dance advisor that if I took an extra semester, I could still finish my dance degree. I thought she was crazy, and I still had no desire to dance after college. But I did it, because the tiny voice inside me wanted to. Not knowing what I wanted was a huge relief. A professor would say something intimidating about the professional dance world and I'd check out. "Oh, this doesn't apply to me. I don't need this much pressure." For the first time ever, I didn't care about anyone else's expectations or rules. I set me own standard for myself.
After college, I went to a couple auditions in Ohio on a whim. They fit into my schedule nicely, I was offered a contract, and moved to Cincinnati two months later. I fell in love with the city, and I've been here ever since.
I've been anxious my whole life. When I think about great things I've done, they always start by setting aside my anxious thoughts, listening to the quiet whisper, and saying yes.