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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nanyang Tech chapter.

If you’re a freshman in university, you’re probably thinking about joining some co-curricular activities (CCAs). But you’re wondering if it’s too late for you to pick up a new hobby in university, especially since your peers may have had years of prior experience. 

One such hobby is dance. The barrier to entry seems high for shy and introverted folk like me, who never had the confidence or the right social circle to attend open dance classes in their younger days.

But I managed to do it! I had lots of fun in the process: making new friends, learning the basics and getting to perform on a stage. I hope that my positive experience joining a dance crew in university can help assuage some of your fears of stepping out of your comfort zone and taking the leap.

How I started out

Year 1, Semester 1. I moved into hall not knowing what to expect, but wanting to make the most out of my freshman experience, especially since COVID-19 dampened much of it. I considered many different CCAs: badminton, volleyball, netball, chess. But none of them piqued my interest as much as hall dance.

I was hesitant to join on my own, but I found out that one of my new friends from freshman orientation was keen on joining too. She had heard that my hall’s dance crew was good, but it was also where new dancers had a safe space to develop their abilities without the pressure of having to excel. These two factors helped to ease a lot of my discomfort and apprehension when I first started out.

The initial disillusionment

We kicked off our very first session with a healthy bout of intense warm-ups. It felt like physical training to me, since I hadn’t exercised for close to a year prior. I also felt out of place among the seniors in my group, several of whom were seasoned dancers with years of experience.

I had gone in with the expectation that everything was going to be a lot more beginner-friendly. Basic choreography was the focus of our first few sessions, but it was still a lot to take in for an inexperienced dancer like me. I also assumed, childishly, that I would be in the same group as my friend, but I was instead placed in a group of total strangers, making me hesitate to open up initially.

If you’re starting out, it’s nice to know that you’re being guided, but always remember that you shouldn’t expect to be spoon-fed. Everyone is here to grow as a dancer, even the more experienced ones. It’s more important to try your best and not lose heart even when you’re struggling to keep up.

Warming up to the community

In the hall dance community, it’s a well-known fact that most club members build bridges as the Hall Olympiad Closing Ceremony (HOCC) draws near. It’s an annual competition where each participating hall puts together a dance performance to mark the end of the yearly Hall Olympiad.

In the previous semester, we met up once a week for just one and a half hours. But things changed in Semester 2. In the early stages, we trained two to three times a week, for three to four hours at a time. As we approached the competition date, the training was amped up to daily five-hour sessions.

I found myself naturally getting closer with more people in my CCA. We had frequent supper sessions and HTHTs (Heart-To-Heart-Talks) that really helped me get to know them better and find people to get along with.

I also found out about other dance CCAs in NTU that are more beginner-friendly, such as Lindy Hop and Salsa Dance. Some of my friends joined these CCAs to explore different genres and found that these were great launchpads for people who are new to dance.

Becoming comfortable in my own skin

As time went by, I found myself getting stronger physically and becoming more at ease with the movements. I started to look forward to dance sessions, instead of dreading them. And I felt better about myself too — I was becoming more confident and I liked how dance was a fun way to stay in shape. I also found some great friends through dance that I could confide in and hang out with.

Dance ended up becoming the highlight of my entire semester. I had never tried anything like this before, much less committed to it for such a long time. I was pushed to my limits, yet I found great fulfillment in it. Though I won’t be dancing forever, I learned so much from my short journey in dance that I would gladly do it all over again. In the future, I’d probably be a lot more willing to attend open classes with my friends too, instead of staying in my cocoon, too shy to dance in front of strangers.

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Dance can seem very intimidating, because everyone else seems so experienced compared to us beginners. But we all have to start from somewhere. After university, you’d be hard-pressed to find any other safe place to start. So go ahead and waltz into something new!