The music blares while my heart races terrified of being seen yet jealous of the movements around me. I’m excited, eager, and nervous. I want to prove myself. I want to prove that rhythms this sensual and beautiful exist within me. I want to prove my talk. Yet I stand, watching. I scream at myself inside my head. I know I can move better than her. I know the same steps as him. Why am I being so scared?
I glance to the side and swallow my tears. I’m swallowing my pride. Somewhere, in between dance schools, instructors, clubs and boyfriend’s personal strip teases, I’ve lost my confidence in movement. I’ve lost that piece of myself. Somewhere, I’ve closed down that part of me that truly allows freedom. Now I’m trapped. I’m a wallflower who’s too embarrassed to dance and too embarrassed to leave. I’m trapped.
It’s a privilege to dance competition. It’s a privilege to be on stage, solo. It’s a privilege to help student teach. It’s an honor.
It’s all money. It’s all about popularity. Whose parents push them hard enough to fulfill a dream they once gave away?
To me, it is everything I ever wanted. It is everything I gave away. Who keeps dancing when everyone’s stopped watching?
It used to be about escaping. About stretching and flexing and feeling every beautiful strong muscle in my body. It used to be about floating, swiftly, elegantly. It used to be about getting crunk. I used to practice. I danced in the supermarket, at work, at home, at school, at basketball practice, in my sleep. Dancing was every element that I breathed.
I could escape mom and dad. I could escape homework. I could escape sisters and boyfriends and girlfriends. I could be instantly happy or at home with a few pirouettes or step-heel-digs. I used to feel beautiful and confident once I finally let myself lose myself in the music.
Then it became a competition. It stopped being about the music and became about who would look sexier in the skimpy outfit. Who would be able to push up their boobs and look erotic? Whose parent had the most money to keep the students traveling?
It’s not easy to give up something you love. It takes years of thought, months of reconsidering. It takes countless nights of crying after class and thinking “I’ll never be good enough” or “I don’t have the right body”.
I used to feel beautiful when I danced. I used to escape.
Now, dancing takes on a new scene. Its cool late-night clubs of grinding and sweating until sobriety. It’s not sexy. It’s thrusting and bumping to no beat. It’s about being cramped in a smelly room where boys creep around picking the hottest girl whose privates they plan on getting a free grope of.
It’s not an escape. I still don’t feel beautiful.
There are late night dances, crazy Missy Elliot dance parties to shake off studying and stressing, with the girls. It’s wearing heels and panties and jumping around to your own beat. It’s private. It’s beautiful. It’s completely not sexy. It’s now my only escape. Where has all the music taken me?
I stand against the wall feeling nervous. I laugh at my friends who look completely ridiculous. I am secretly jealous they are fearless.
I like to try new things. I like to explore. I’m too afraid to explore this. Why?
I wasn’t a cheerleader. I wasn’t on the dance team. There wasn’t one cheerleader who wasn’t on the dance team. There wasn’t one year that I didn’t try out.
I swallow the final beats of the song blaring around me. I look at the odd couples, all different, having an amazing time. How they form their own beats to one universal beat. I let the music fade and shut my eyes. I swallow my tears. I regurgitate my pride. I let him lead me to the floor.
I’m nervous. I don’t want to be seen, but I try. I swallow my tears. I swallow my years of comparison. I swallow the ugly and not-good-enough thoughts. I breathe.
With time, I escape. I can shake, twirl, two-step. It comes back to me. Eventually, I want people to see. Later, I forget people are there. I sing, move. I dance.
There are no assigned shoes and tights. There is no glittery costume and extravagant makeup. It is me and him. We are beautiful. I am beautiful. We can feel each other’s strong muscles moving to each rhythm. We can feel the beat. We can feel the music. We let ourselves go.
I can’t even imagine being a wallflower. I love every moment of this night. I love my feet. I love my legs. I love my hips and thighs and waist. I love every piece of me that I dance.
As the night ends, I’m laughing and smiling and still shaking. I haven’t felt this happy in a while. I haven’t let myself feel this happy. I didn’t believe in myself. I lost my escape and my passion. I lost a huge piece of who I was.
Something that is so much a part of you can never fully disappear no matter how much you attempt to hide it. I love to dance. I love music. I love costumes and makeup and competition and being the center of attention. I love shaking, and stepping, and I love the lights.
The music blares while my heart races. I’m no longer terrified, just anxious to finally perform again. I have no more tears to swallow. I just smile. I let myself be consumed slowly, and then quickly. It’s my passion. I am moved. I am escaping. I am dancing.
Let the beat go on.