I would love to say that I began dancing after I saw an inspiring performance of The Nutcracker when I was four, that I was enthralled for all two hours, even during that Sugarplum pas de deux that goes on forever; and that I whispered to my mom at the end, “I want to be a ballerina,” and the rest is history. But then I’d be lying.
In reality, my mom asked me one average day when I was four, “Do you want to take ballet classes?” and I said, “Sure.” I think my reply would have been the same had she asked me if I wanted to play ice hockey or baseball, so I’m very fortunate that my mom knew me so well! It appears she had been observing me for a while, and noticed that every time she would play music (especially the 1997 song “How Bizarre” by OMC--strange) I would just start moving, almost as though I had to move the instant I heard music. It didn’t matter if we were in public at a kids’ Christmas music concert or at my friend’s birthday party--I would be dancing.
I took my first dance class in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s Creative Movement class in January 1998, and just kept coming back. I always enjoyed my classes, but I don’t think it was until the ripe age of nine that I knew, this is it; this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I remember standing backstage at the Benedum Center during a Nutcracker performance in a hot, sweaty sheep costume and looking at the regal back of former PBT dancer Maribel Modrono in the beautiful pink Sugarplum tutu. All I thought was I’m going to wear that someday. From then on, when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say I wanted to be a dancer, shoving the old dream careers of being a school teacher and a crossing guard to the wayside.
There were a few times of course when I seriously thought, is this actually what I want to do as a career? Dance is horribly unforgiving: I’ve never had beautiful feet, a big extension, great turnout, and my knees don’t straighten easily. But I learned early that if I worked hard enough, I could still improve these things and make this my career. One day when I was around ten, I got a correction from a teacher about how my ankles were pronating, and that if I kept standing like that, I’d have bad knee problems down the road. I panicked, and when my friend called me that evening to ask if I wanted to play, I replied, “No, I really need to practice ballet, or I’m going to get knee problems.”
At times though, I would realize that I’d have to work twice as hard to catch up to dancers with a lot of facility for ballet, and this would make me discouraged. Dance often meant comparison: I would compare myself constantly to other dancers in my class, dancers in higher levels, and professional dancers, trying to gauge if I had what it took to make it in this art form. I still struggle with this as many dancers do, but there did come a point when I realized there was no way to change my anatomy; I’d have to learn to work harder and focus on the good qualities I did have, such as musicality and artistry, or quit.
I obviously didn’t quit. I love moving to music, the challenge of learning new choreography, and the fulfilling feeling of performing too much to give up just because it’s going to be hard! In fact, I’ve realized that dance means more to me because it often doesn’t come naturally--hard work is truly rewarding. I’ve always daydreamed about being in a company, thinking, how cool would it be to get paid for dancing all day long, something I’d pay to do! That doesn’t even seem like a job! Last summer when I began dancing with Texture for the Blur show, I found out it’s really cool. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.