On why dance is an allegory for life

Ballet pointe shoes get worn out after prolonged use, a clear depiction of the time, effort and dedication of the ballerinas who wear them. // Photo courtesy of Natalie Boutwell

In high school, I was a dancer, spending hours in the studio after school. In college, I would love to still be a dancer, but it’s hard to find time to take lessons between my classes and other activities.

I often think back to my days on the stage, however, and I realize how much dance has taught me about life.

Lesson one: The performance only lasts so long.

Even though rehearsals would take hours, dances and performances would always be over in no time at all.

The feeling of being on stage was always exhilarating, and I never wanted it to end; inevitably, the curtain always closed before I was ready to stop dancing.

After each performance, I would save the flowers given to me by my family and any pamphlets from the show to display in my room to continue remembering the experience for as long as possible. Like a dance that only lasts a few minutes, the majority of experiences in life will only last a short period of time.

As a senior whose graduation date is growing closer and closer, I can’t help but think about how my time at Tech will soon be over. I try not to think about “my lasts,” however, and simply enjoy the moments as they happen now.

We should all try to take advantage of every experience and opportunity and be grateful before the here-and-now turns to memories. While we are in the spotlight, we must dance because soon the theater will empty.

Lesson two: Beauty is not what you think.

When people think of ballerinas, they imagine graceful movements, poised expressions, and beautiful costumes. However, under all of that are blistered toes, sore muscles, and aching bones.

After practicing my dances on pointe for hours, my feet would always hurt and look incredibly beaten up. But, after hours of practice, my technique would be improved and my dance nearly perfected.

In Disney’s original, animated “Mulan,” the Emperor says, “The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.”

Beauty in life does not come from perfection, as many people would believe, but from overcoming challenges.

Lesson three: Expression comes in more forms than speaking

I was very shy in high school, but dance provided an opportunity for me to express myself. Afraid to speak up in class, I was unafraid to show my true self on the dance floor. At Tech, I am not as shy, but I still find that my prominent form of expression is not speaking but writing. Through my involvement with student publications, I’ve been able to share my voice and my opinions.

Around campus, I’ve been able to see many students express themselves through art, music, and even 3D printing and engineering. These other forms of expression should be celebrated by all as they offer a deeper look into the personality of individuals.

Everyone dances to their own music: the crescendos of nature, the steady beat of the city street and the rhythms of passion that push us forward through life.

Lesson four: Hard work, not inherent talent, will determine success.

As a young dancer, I had two things working against me: a natural inflexibility and a delayed start to taking ballet classes. However, I pushed myself by stretching day after day, slowly but surely improving my flexibility and by sweating through class after class, catching up on my technique. Eventually, I was able to perform solo dances at the highest level of my company.

To succeed in life, one does not have to be born with intrinsic talent. In fact, when most people try something new, success does not come easily. Putting in the hours, often behind the scenes, will more often than not lead you down the path towards success.

Lesson five: Dance is an allegory for life.

Today, I don’t remember the choreography for most of my previous performances. Years from now, I probably won’t remember the names of certain dance steps and how to do them. But I will always remember what dance taught me about life. More than just an after-school activity, dance taught me that in life, there are highs and lows which can be overcome with hard work, belief creates possibilities, and working effectively with others is necessary for success.

Because of these lessons, I will forever be grateful for my dance experience.