Dance has been part of my life since I was two years old. As a little girl, I fell in love with the tutus, pretty pink shoes and sparkles. My Saturday mornings were dedicated to dance and soon enough my life became consumed with practicing multiple times a week at the studio and competing every weekend.
I enjoy the intense physicality, the discipline and the endless joy dance provides me with. I have always considered myself an artistic athlete and argued that dance is also a sport.
Regardless of the genre, dance is both physical and mental every step of the way. Much like athletes, dancing requires rigorous training, mental concentration, stamina, drive, perseverance, flexibility and endurance.
After undergoing spinal fusion, I had to train myself like an athlete would in order to dance again. During my recovery, I had to continuously work through the pain, exercise, and stretch my body, so I could regain my range of motion and strengthen my muscles. I took my weaknesses and made them my strengths, by doing what needed to be done and, as a true dancer should, trained my body in the pursuit of elegant, precise movement.
As an “athlete,” I encouraged myself to focus on improving my physical skill and flexibility.
As an “artist,” I was driven to find the joy again that would allow me to become the dancer I once was.
Although there are many physical attributes that align with athletes, it is important to remember that dancers are artists.
Growing up in the dance world, I began to realize that this weekly activity was so much more than some fun fitness. There are so many elements beyond physical agility and strength dancers need to possess.
With every beautiful pirouette and arabesque, dancers appear effortless. They have rhythm, grace, balance, technique, beauty and passion. Dancers have the ability to draw the audience in and speak volumes through their movement. There is a great need for expression, musicality and creativity. These are the key components that pair with individuals’ physical capabilities that form a well-rounded dancer.
Dancers are masters of their work. They create emotional experiences with their bodies that come from deep within their souls.
“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion,” Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer said.
I believe that we cannot just stress the physical musculature and virtuosity required for dancing. A true dancer is someone who delves beyond the surface of their technique and creates an emotional connection with their audience through their expression.
As dancers we cannot limit ourselves to being labeled as just athletes.
Our passion for creativity, giving meaning to movement, making a story out of a song, our attention to detail and emphasis on expression and soulful choreography makes us artists.
“It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer,” Shanna LaFleur said.