When Lauren Petersburg’s friends can’t find her, they just assume she’s at dance.
“I’ll just come home and be like, ‘Where is Lauren?’ said Michelle Christopher, Petersburg’s roommate. “A good guess is usually at dance.”
In total, Petersburg, co-founder and president of Carolina Dance Initiative, estimates she spends three hours a day dancing.
“I tell people I am physically addicted to dance,” she said. “I get tight and achy when I don’t dance. I feel like I am starting to get sick.”
But when she dances, all her pains and fears and aches and pains fade away.
“It’s a release from everything that is going on in my life,” she said. “It’s calming and focusing but also a release of emotion. It comes from a very base physical place and then it erupts and flows into something more spiritual.”
When Petersburg is not dancing, she is thinking about it.
Whether she is planning a spring showcase for Carolina Dance Initiative or peddling tap shoes and leotards at Dance Design, a local dance supply store, dance is always on her mind.
She even writes about it, constantly trying understand what is about dance that fuels her.
“I try to figure out what it is about it that is so attractive to me,” she said. “Usually when I am writing about dance it is poetry. It is more image-based and poetic. It’s just a different way of trying to express what it feels like.”
But she fears that focusing so much on dance may be fueling her addiction, and after graduating in the spring she may have to redefine what dance means to her.
“When I came to college, I planned on weaning myself off dance,” she said. “Now I am dancing more than ever.”
“I think it is really a stress outlet,” Christopher said. “It is something she can do and clear her mind of everything else. If she didn’t keep up with it, her joy would diminish a little bit.”
For now, Petersburg is focusing her attentions on helping other people dance.
This March, she coordinated a spring showcase of four dance groups. It was the first three-day booking since Carolina Performing Arts opened in 2005, said Mark Steffen, events manager.
Morgan Thompson, president of Star Heels dance team, one of the groups that performed in the showcase said Petersburg’s role as president of CDI is important because it is the definitive voice for dance on UNC-CH’s campus.
“Lauren has united dance groups across UNC's community to push toward the common goal of making dance at UNC a more valued activity,” she said in an email. “She publicizes dance activities to the whole community as well as holds classes that anyone can attend which brings all dancers together and expands the dance community.”
All photos provided by Lauren Petersburg