Let me out of the corner


The stark white street light illuminated the dingy outdoor basketball court. Seventeen pairs of matching tennis shoes shuffled around, but they weren’t playing basketball. Rather, the matching tennis shoes and the girls wearing them were dancing. The mosquitoes swarmed in the suffocatingly hot air, attracted to their sweat-soaked bodies.

Though past midnight, the blaring music started over and over as my team and I drilled our dance. We had only learned the dance three hours prior and were expected to compete it in the next 36 hours; nerves squeezed within each and every girl. But, this was dance camp: three days of pushing beyond your limits to help your team beat other teams doing exactly the same thing. 

This camp, however, was different. Not only was almost half of my team made of up rookies, but it was my job to lead them, a feeling that was completely foreign to me. I’ve never been the person to look up to, someone’s athletic idol or role model. 

Most of my life, I’ve been a back-corner dancer. Typically, the back corner is reserved for the weakest dancers, those who struggle to find the spark of indescribable individuality that flows through every flawlessly executed move of front-row dancers.

The back corner has been my hiding spot; I could shamelessly indulge in my passion without the scrutiny of those more accomplished. I never understood how that safety held me back until I had a teacher bring it to my mother’s attention. He was the first person to help me see my potential waiting to be released if I could learn that dance is all about taking risks. 

Risk and dance aren’t typically associated. But if you want to be a good dancer, a front-row dancer, you have to readily expose the most secret, purest part of yourself.

A robot dancer with good technique is tantamount to knowing grammar rules. A writer understands how to use grammar to uniquely convey meaning, and a dancer understands how to add their own expression into a set of moves. Like every writer has their own style, so does every dancer. 

Discovering your style is no simple or lilliputian thing; essentially, it is discovering the rawest way to express your soul. It takes years to understand the way your body naturally moves and to find where that converges with your personality. As I emerged from the back corner, I took everything that made my dancing an awkward, clumsy expression and used it to enrich my own style. I ditched my shy, apologetic persona in the corner and emerged as a more authentic expression of the person I am, the person I hope to be. 

That confident front-row dancer now led her team with undying positivity as the heat sweltered in the night. After the three days expired and with it our energy, the camp’s staff had one last surprise in store. For two girls, a world of opportunity opened up with the invitation to apply for the camp’s staff.

The back-corner dancer in me couldn’t believe she heard her name called. Nothing compares to the elation of knowing I was chosen not just for what I could do on the dance floor, but also for who I am as a person and who I can be to others.