Illuminating lights. Thundering claps from the audience. Fingers quivering. Heart palpitating.
She walks onto the stage, sometimes alone, sometimes with a group of friends. She takes her starting pose and waits for the music to fill the stagnant air. The spotlight shines on her and she empties her mind of worries and fears, as she absorbs the rhythm and becomes the movement of the music. She starts slow, elongating her hands and making light movements with her legs. She picks her pace up as the music becomes louder and faster.
The thrill, the exhilaration. This is the life of senior Emily Lee.
Lee and dance have been inseparable for 16 years and counting. She still remembers the first time when she attended her dance class. Even now, she recalls her first interaction with the art form as a mere toddler.
“I was really young and I just got my ears pierced, and I wore my favorite dangling earrings,” Lee said. “Some girl accidentally hit my ear, and her finger pulled on it, and my ear started bleeding. I just kept dancing. That was my first experience with dance.”
Even in her first moments, she got lost in the motions of her dance. Losing awareness of what others are thinking or what is going on outside her movement and the music.
“My favorite memory – there was one time during an audition, I was really little, I forgot the choreography, so all I did was spun around.” Lee said. “And the teachers were like – it was just so funny – just laughed at me and told me to start the choreography.”
The Structure of DAUPC
Dance Academy USA, also known as DAUPC, offers classes that are split into two categories – recreational and competitive. Lee takes both types of classes and pointed out that the main difference between them was that the former focuses on dance in general while the latter focuses on technique and refinement of the same pieces.
On top of these courses, Lee also recently won a scholarship that allowed her to teach students and assist her teachers in out of state competitions.
“It was really tough to balance [my schedules],” she said. “ Last year I started [helping the faculty with competitions], but it required a lot of out of state competitions, so we have to fly to different states to assist every weekend. We had to bring our homework on the plane, and study on the plane, and in the hotel room after the practices. It was hard but you get used to it after a while.”
Under the spotlight
Standing on stage and dancing might leave most people in a cold sweat, but for Lee, it’s part of her everyday life. She spends most weekends experiencing this feeling, dancing on stage and competing. It’s a norm in her life.
“As a soloist, being on stage by myself is really nerve wrecking,” Lee said. “Any mistake that you make will be your fault. Dancing with a team, I don’t get nervous because I’ve been dancing with them since I was really little, so it’s really nice to be able to perform on stage with my family.”
With this skill and love of dance comes a high demand of time. Lee commits tremendous amounts of time to perfect and improve her dancing skills. Every day after school, Lee can be found in the studio from 3:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., learning new pieces and refining her technique. On Friday nights, she flies to out of state competitions, sometimes to assist her dance faculty in these competitions and sometimes to compete. Despite feeling drained and tired most days of school work and other commitments, she focuses on the joy that dancing has brought to her and perseveres to move forward.
“I guess with every athlete, or person, if you do something way too much you get burnt out,” Lee said. “The thing that keeps me going is that [dancing] makes me who I am. Every time I feel like I am straying away from my passion or dream of becoming a professional dancer, I just remember all the hard work that I’ve put into it and I just don’t think it is worth giving up on.”
Learning through the motions
Lee stated that she often finds herself in unpredictable and turbulent situations, regarding her dance schedule – and this often gets in her way of academics. Traveling
almost every weekend and spending most of her days in her dance studio leaves her little or no time to focus on school work or even hang out with friends. However, she learned to roll with the punches and dealt with finding her balance between dance and school as time went on.
“[Dance classes and competitions] teach you how to manage your time wisely,” she said. “The cons, [however] are that you get really physically drained and exhausted. I feel like my brain worked five times harder just to retain all the choreography like my whole life, just learning choreography every day is really tough, but it also in a way helped with academics.”