But why do I even dance?

Sophie Au

What do you like to do for fun?” My answer was always dance. It was my simplest, go-to answer that loosely defined me. 

However, I often questioned my answer during endless lessons, exhausting barre combinations and the constant struggle to be perfect — is dance a sport I genuinely love or has spending 14 years dancing been the only thing hindering me from quitting?

In a typical studio dance class, I follow my teacher’s instructions and perform each exercise, barre combination and combo. I perform some skills with ease; others are a struggle as my eyes stray toward others, envying their perfection. Performances and competitions blinded me from struggles, letting excitement shine through and become the highlight of every dance season.

With performances and competitions canceled due to COVID-19, my only dance opportunities left were online dance classes. As I logged into my Zoom dance studio every Friday, I wondered why I continued to exhaust myself when there were no exciting opportunities. My reluctance to attend class was barely overcome with loyalty to my studio — it was a waste to give up on a talent that I worked so hard for.

The first few classes were tough; my teacher pushed the class to our limits while I accustomed myself to the rigor of a class I hadn’t attended for months. Training virtually with more than 20 students, it was easy to cut corners, but the guilt that cheating would bring me convinced me to push through pain.

For five months, I repeated the same training routine. Though I couldn’t see progress at first, I had promised myself to not cheat. Months later, I started to see improvements. In the comfort of my home studio, without self-deprecation and distractions of envy, I achieved skills that had once been dreams: double turns became triple turns, 120 degree leg extensions became 160 degree extensions and scorpions became needles.

In each subsequent class, the set of exercises were the same, yet I held myself to a higher expectation. The list of skills I needed to maintain increased weekly, but my increasingly lofty goals motivated me to push myself.

Realizing my full potential, I began endlessly chasing to beat the best version of myself. Knowing that goals could be within my reach and having the fear of losing previous achievements motivated me to push myself week after week. There was no one around to remind me that I wasn’t good enough. Seeing what I could do and not focusing on what I couldn’t do, I grew eager to push my abilities. 

Now, when someone asks me, “what do you do for fun?” I know why I answer with “dance.” The satisfying feeling of achieving my goals and appreciating what I can do when hard work pays off brings me joy and inspires me to keep reaching further.