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I dreamt of the crowd in the darkness, a single spotlight shining down on me as I graced the stage with my movement, a sparkling array of costumes, and the feeling of soothing, crisp air. From the moment I stepped into my first dance class, I knew that dance was what I wanted to do. Through hard work, patience, and perseverance I advanced through the different levels each year, eventually performing with a ballet company. Going to school in the morning, then training each afternoon: I quickly learned that ballet was not strictly a physical activity but a mental undertaking as well.

The most common illusion dancers harbor is their confidence in themselves, whether it be maintaining strong posture or the stunning smile they hold as they fly through the air. Little does the audience realize that dancers have thousands of thoughts running through their minds: what the next step is and what it will take to execute it, both physically and intellectually. While performing the Kitri variation, I was constantly thinking of the twenty pirouettes I had ahead of me and of how I would be able to make them travel across the stage. I quickly learned the ‘fake it till you make it’ method; that if you project confidence in what you’re doing, others will believe in you, and eventually you will, too.

One of the most difficult things I had to face while training for dance was the struggle to be ‘perfect.’ I wanted each and every move to be the best it could and also to gain the praise of my teacher. To gain that praise, I would have to work for countless hours, even months to get it right. I remember my first pointe class, barely being able to stand on my toes, let alone dance across the room. I finally came to the realization that nothing will ever be ‘perfect.’ I had to have faith in what I was doing, and in myself. If you continually compare yourself to others you will only be putting yourself down, but if you compare yourself to where you were when you started, the growth is unbelievable.

Despite all the challenges I faced in the studio, performing the same steps over and over, trying to get it perfect, and building my confidence slowly, it was still the one place I felt the most like myself. As I stood at the barre doing tendu, all the worries and problems of the day vanished into the background. I could express myself in my movement or take on a new character, a princess or a slave. For just a few hours, I could be someone completely new.

Though I eventually fell out of love with my dream of pursuing dance as a full career, the lessons I learned along the journey are ones I will keep with me throughout my life. Continuing to live through the stage with musical theater, I take on the persona of new characters with the same confidence I learned so well through dance. While developing a growing passion for leadership, I take the lessons of hard work, developing confidence, and aiming to do my best with me in every situation I face. No matter what ‘stage’ I face next, I know that I can use these skills to approach whatever challenge life may bring me.

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