My Love-Hate Relationship With Dance

For nearly a decade, I ate, slept and breathed the art of dance.

I always found an excuse to sit in my splits, choreograph routines and watch endless hours of dance videos on YouTube.

I was always at the studio for competition rehearsals, training and eventually teaching younger children.

But this also meant I was constantly in front of a 10-foot-tall mirror-- scrutinizing the way I looked and comparing myself to others.

In dance, your body is your instrument. It’s vital to know where each and every one of your limbs is placed at every second.

Point your feet harder. Elongate your arms. Chin up. Abs engaged. Knees straight.

The precise nature of being in tune physically and mentally is what made the best dancers great.

But it also meant that young, teenage me became self-conscious about the way I looked from a young age.

Dance truly is a field that should be relished.

I’ve met fantastic people, traveled across the country and am able to express myself more than words can explain all thanks to this field.

However, constantly looking in the mirror, wearing pounds of makeup and putting on costumes that showed off my biggest insecurities weighed on me internally-- even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

For a girl who naturally carries an athletic body type, with muscular legs and a square torso, I was far from close to the ideal physique for a lanky, petite ballerina.

Why couldn’t I look like her?

My 14-year-old mind wasn’t able to comprehend that people have different body types and not everyone carries weight the same way.

I convinced myself that I could place better at competitions if I could have a flat stomach or leaner arms like the girl who beat me.

What I didn’t realize is that there wasn’t anything wrong with my appearance, I just convinced myself that there was all because I didn’t look like the small, petite girl who stood next to me.

It wasn’t a healthy way to view myself.

Looking back, I’m incredibly grateful for the life skills dance taught me.

I learned how to take criticisms at auditions as well as from my teachers and apply it to my art. I was able to create and immerse myself in musicality and use nothing but movement to portray a story of happiness or misery.

I love to dance, but I hate the way I felt about my body because of it.

It’s been nearly a year since I danced at the rate I once did, and although I definitely miss the feeling of being at the studio to a late hour and experimenting choreography with varying music, I can say with confidence that I am not as self-conscious as I once was.

Because I am more than a shadow in front of the glass. I am a human with emotions, drive and deep love for the art I dedicated years toward.

Leaving behind the 10-foot gaze that once towered over has made me realize an important truth: A mirror doesn’t reflect everything.