Today I’m going to tell y’all about my experience dancing competitively and why I decided to finally quit. It’s been a long journey and I can’t wait to share.
Dance has always been such a huge part of my life. I’ve danced since I was four years old and grew up wearing tutus and tights, dreaming of being a ballerina in a big company. In six grade, my passion peaked, me going to another studio in addition to my home studio to start pointe work and also the year I started dance team. It was my home studio’s first time having a competitive program and I joined it, making it on the mini team. That first year was golden. I was in one dance, a sweet lyrical piece and it wasn’t hectic or even that much commitment, while I still got the “team experience.” Since it was just year one I wasn’t super close with the girls but I started to make friends. There was zero drama because there were only group dances, no solos, duets etc, and they were small groups so everyone felt included and important in each dance.
Year 2, I quit the other studio and focused more on team. Now I was in two dances, a small team and line dance. That was also the year I started my blog and started to post on this blog about my experiences. I’ll link some of my dance posts at the end. Anyway there started to be a tad bit of competitiveness building up as in our dance, there seemed to be some more featured moments and I started to feel like I was sinking into the background. In line there were leads and I wasn’t one of them. I started to feel badly about myself.
Year 3, I was barely cast in any pieces compared to my friends. I was sad since I was in no small groups but was uplifted since I was a lead in line team. Finally I wasn’t just one of the kids in the back. By then I was growing closer to my teammates. I really enjoyed the “team” part of team as I felt like I had a friend group. I looked forward to dance every day. This was also the year that this girl “M” was getting the most featured. Since the first year she was already the teacher’s favorite but this year… oh my goodness. She was in a duet with my friend “A” There was a very specific and strict rule that only fi you were a junior or older, then you could compete a solo. No exceptions. But when “A” had to leave because of her anxiety, our teacher let “M” compete a solo at age 12. This was a huge controversy as our teacher just broke her own rule. “M” was an exception, she was special, and above us. She had a solo. Our teacher began to brag as she won at numerous competitions even lying on social media that she won first when she really won second, to a folk dance (,our teacher said folk dance was not an actual type of dance *eye roll). This favoritism made team less enjoyable. Our teacher also made a new rule that if you get a scholarship at a convention you get a solo no matter the age.”M” was the only one in our division to get a scholarship. Many girls cried because even though they tried their best, they didn’t get noticed. and while I was working hard, it seemed like all the attention was on M. I kind of knew I wouldn’t get a scholarship so wasn’t too affected because I got a call back during the audition so I felt happy that I was somehow noticed though not completely.
Then this year. I was in a small group dance, large group, duet, and got thrown into a trio last-minute. This was when all the drama really happened. The pain and sadness broke out into a terrible moment and I almost decided to quit dance completely. But let’s go back. The small group dance was contemporary number that I hated from the start. Why? because “M” was clearly the lead. The rest of us stood in the back doing gestures while “M” got to turn and leap and roll. This dance made me so angry because I knew I could do all the things she did, I was just not given the opportunity. It was all about “M” once again and it really annoyed me. I was just a background dancer in the shadows of her.
I was also thrown into a trio last-minute after a girl got kicked off. This lyrical trio strongly featured me and I worked hard on it. We competed against “M”‘s duet with a girl named “S.” And we beat them to everyone, including our teacher’s surprise. We beat the stars and the favorite. But instead of people congratulating us, people didn’t really mention it. It was like everyone refused to believe that “M” could be beaten. Fast forward to our last competition. Our teacher put “M”‘s duet in the highest division, Advanced, and our trio into the lowest “Novice.” This made me so mad since we beat them and I worked just as hard as them, yet she thought were still much below them. I approached her about it and she just gave me excuse after excuse. I realized she just didn’t believe in us. This was so discouraging. So discouraging. (BTW: the trio got 1st place and the duet got 4th, out of 4 people). The feeling that our own teacher didn’t believe in us and expect us to do well made me feel worthless and beaten down.
The scholarship=solo rule still was put into play and this year I really wanted a scholarship. I worked the hardest I’d ever worked. Yet I still didn’t get a scholarship. But “M” did, and so did some of my other friends this time. I went home crying, the longest and most terrible cry I had ever had. I sobbed the whole way home feeling like a loser and terrible dancer. I was done with dance. I thought everyone wasn’t worth it, that I would never win or succeed.
The bad experience I had this year along with school commitments and the crazy amount of money competitive dance takes, caused me to quit. This was no easy decision as I was so close with all the girls and I truly will miss the team bonding, cheering, and competition memories. I know I will feel left out as the girls wear their team jackets and start to make inside jokes without me. But it was the right choice. I look back on these years and the pain, anger, and sadness I felt. I felt beaten down and worthless from my competitive experience and extreme favoritism. I felt that my hard work was for nothing, that my teacher didn’t care for me. I wasted several hours practicing for a dance that I was a mere background dancer for. I almost quit dance because of one convention, a supposedly fun and enjoyable learning experience. My passion was destroyed because of team.
I think if you aren’t happy somewhere then you just need to leave or at least take a break. And that’s exactly what I did. When I emailed my dance teacher saying I wouldn’t be back next season, you don’t understand how FREE I felt. As free as a bird. I will continue to dance and work hard because even though I’m not competing I will still strive to be the best I can be.
Thanks for reading,
some dance posts: