As you walk onto the floor, your heart is pounding out of your chest, your palms are sweaty, and your body is quivering. You gaze out to see thousands of eyes staring back at you, but find comfort in knowing you have a bunch of best friends going through that same nervousness in this very moment. You kneel down in your beginning pose, take a big breath, and wait in silence for the music to turn on. Once that first beat comes flooding into your ears, your body takes over. You fill the music with every inch of your being, beaming with the confidence you’ve been building up with so many months of practice. You exchange emotional glances with your teammates throughout the routine, encouraging each other as you move together. The dance seems to fly by, and before you know it, you’re breathing heavy- walking off the floor with that teary-eyed, grinning face and the knowledge that you put everything you had into that last performance.
Any dancer reading this can resonate with that feeling. That feeling that comes after the blood, sweat, and tears that are invested into dance team over the course of a season. That irreplaceable bond between teammates. Nothing can compare.
I’m lucky to have had this experience over and over, for so many years of my life. From being on a successful high school team, to the privilege of dancing on a Division 1A collegiate team, my 8 years of dance team have given me some of my most memorable, cherished experiences. I recently made the very difficult decision of ending my dance team career in order to prioritize my collegiate academics and career path. With that, I feel it’s necessary to offer a formal thank you to these experiences that have made me who I am today.
Thank you, dance team, for showing me what hard work truly means. Dancers invest hundreds of hours into practicing for just a few incredible minutes on the performance floor. People have always asked me why dance team practices are so long, because they don’t quite realize how much work it requires… with conditioning, cleaning, and drilling, three hours often feel like it still isn’t nearly enough time to get everything done. After all that time and all that effort, however, the feelings you experience are nothing but triumphant. Dance team taught me the importance of putting everything into what you love, and the satisfaction that effort is sure to bring you. Dance team taught me that life isn’t about winning; it’s about going to bed at the end of the day without any regrets, knowing that you did everything you could.
Thank you, dance team, for teaching me that I can always find ways to improve and grow every single day. With dance, there isn’t a finish line or a point of perfection you can reach. You keep going, always finding things you can work on and strive to get better at- whether it’s a specific skill, memory, leadership… you name it. There is always room for improvement.
Thank you, dance team, for teaching me to be humble and take my failures with grace. Growing up, my coaches always stressed the importance of keeping a smile on your face regardless of how awards turn out, and the importance of congratulating others for winning (especially when it is a win over you). Building off of that, dance has taught me the value in learning from those who are better than you, rather than spiting them… that gets you no where. Take your failures in stride and celebrate your victories (big or small).
Thank you, dance team, for giving me lifelong friends that I know I will carry in my heart forever. There is nothing comparable to the relationships you build with the girls who spend those countless hours with you. They see you at your best and your worst, support you on good and bad days, and laugh with you over the stupidest things (especially when you’re delirious at the end of a 6 hour practice). When I look back on all the friends I have made over the years, my teammates are the closest friends I’ve ever had.
Thank you, dance team, for teaching me to get the most out of every opportunity, and to never take those opportunities for granted. It is too easy to not remember how wonderful an experience is until your time is running out… or until it’s over. I can’t describe with words how much I would give to re-live the MSHSL state championships I’ve won, the first time I ran out of the tunnel at Camp Randall, or simply some of the hilarious moments I’ve had with my teammates.
Ultimately, dance team has taught me to stay true to my goals and never stop chasing them. It is because of this philosophy that I must let dance team go; I am approaching a time in my life where my long-term goals are becoming more and more defined. I am going to miss dancing on a team with all my heart, there is no doubt about that. However, just because dance team is over does not mean I’ll ever stop living my life like a dancer. The lessons dance team has taught me, the relationships it has given me, and the character it has built within me are what will stick with me as I take on these next chapters.
So thank you, dance team. Thank you for everything.