Photo Credit: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock.com
Dance is my catharsis: when I dance, the rest of the world fades away.
I could not be more grateful for my dance education—it has propelled me to unimaginable heights and unexpected friendships. I’ve traveled the country to better my dancing, and in the process I’ve befriended people from all over and from all walks of life, giving me a much wider perspective in my understanding of the world and prompting me to pursue an unexpected path as a writer in New York City.
I began taking ballet classes at age five, when my center of gravity seemed to be the middle of my forehead and my parents worried I’d give myself a concussion from falling over and running into things. My mother determined I needed some “poise and grace.” As she so lovingly told me as I was writing this piece, “Heck, you were the girl who ran into a pole at school.”
I haven’t stopped dancing since.
Dance let me travel the country, making me a more independent person at an early age. I received a scholarship to a workshop in Las Vegas when I was 12, and my dad decided to make a whole trip out of it. Turns out you don’t have to be 21 to have fun in the Gambling Capital of the World. I traveled the world through the strip, enjoying views from the top of the “Eiffel Tower,” screaming on the New York, New York’s rollercoaster, and giggling as the living statues in the Venetian tried not to sneeze. I stayed at the Flamingo Hotel and gawked at the perfectly balanced pink birds over breakfast. And sure, my dad and I were chastised a few times for him allowing me to choose which buttons to press in a Star Wars-themed casino game. I still think the only reason we were scolded is because I’d chosen well.
I began attending various summer programs shortly after my Vegas experience. I studied in Durango, Colorado first, then later in Phoenix and Philadelphia. But my most formative experience was a couple weeks in New York at the Joffrey Ballet School.
That was all it took for me to be sold on the dream of being a New York artist.
At age 16, I decided to attend Joffrey’s year-round trainee program. I packed my bags and moved across the country alone to become a professional dancer. That year presented challenges the likes of which I’d never seen before—whether it be flooding toilets, navigating going to the doctor alone or learning how to live with a roommate in an apartment the size of a walk-in closet. But it also provided an abundance of opportunities and room for personal growth, and I flourished with my newfound independence.
One of my favorite memories is walking through the Times Square subway station with my friends after a long day of dance classes and hearing a beautiful singer who was performing on the grimy mezzanine. The three of us began spontaneously dancing to the music, gathering a sizable crowd.
I had chills—I knew that feeling, of performing at the center of one of the most important cultural centers in the world, could not be replicated. When I moved back to California for my senior year of high school, I was dead set on moving back to New York for college.
And here I am, on the verge of graduating from The New School. I couldn’t be happier—not just about being in New York but about the path that brought me here.
I’m sure it wasn’t my parents’ intention 15 years ago, when I quite literally kept falling on my face, for their monthly ballet class purchase to evolve into a core component of my life and set me on a path that would lead me across the country. But parents don’t know what such casual decisions will result in, and I am so grateful that it did.
Dance has completely shaped my life. It’s given me the grace I so desperately needed at age five, and life lessons of determination, ambition, and the idea that there is always room for improvement, which sustain me to this day. And while I’m no longer pursuing dance professionally to the extent that I did as a teenager, I still dance. It’s a part of me that will never leave, even as I pursue a creative career as a journalist.
I have learned so much from dance as an art form beyond the technicalities of movement. I know the importance of listening to my body, how to rapidly absorb information and integrate criticism, and the creativity which can stem from collaboration. All these qualities have set me up for success, both within and outside of the dance world.
And do you know what the best part is?
Dance brings such joy to my life.Whether it’s taking open studio classes, twirling around in the kitchen as I cook, or boogieing with my dog as the city shuts down again from Covid-19, my days are full of dance.
No matter how I’m feeling, no matter what’s going on in my life or in the world, dance will always be there for me. Whenever I need to get out of my head, or just escape reality for a moment, I can put on some music and groove.
Katherine Huggins is an editor at Public Seminar