Marissa Bertocchini finds solace and a savior in dance


Abby Wright, Editor in Chief

Abandoning years of fear, judgment, and self-doubt, sophomore Marissa Bertocchini steps into a new life every time she gets into costume. Like shedding a layer of skin, Marissa is not herself when she dances, and she is okay with being someone else for that short period of time. 

As someone who has endured her fair share of mental health struggles, Marissa is no stranger to negative thoughts, negative feelings, and an overall negative mindset. This is why playing characters, putting on costumes, and dancing—all aspects of musical theatre—is so transformative, so imperative to her state of mind. 

“You’re seeing the world through another person’s eyes,” Marissa said. “When you’re in musical theatre, you are that character. You’re not yourself anymore—you’re playing someone else. Being that character, you take part of them with you; you start to pick up parts of that character, and that really is impactful to your own personality and happiness.”

Growing up with dance as a hobby, her passion for musical theatre only grew as she entered middle school. Through those tumultuous teenage years, Marissa lost her sense of happiness but gained a true passion and a true escape. 

“[Dancing] was my escape from reality for just a temporary [amount of] time,” Marissa said. “I [was] so happy by myself just focusing on myself. And it’s not just dancing itself, it’s the friends there turned into family, having your studio be your other home, [and] having the freedom to express your body in ways you didn’t know you could before.”

Finding a home, a community, and an outlet in a time she needed those most, Marissa spent the better part of middle school, in simplest terms, going through it—and the escape that dance provided, in a way, saved her. 

With outlets like dance and musical theatre, along with other forms of therapy, Marissa was able to overcome her treacherous middle school years, and can now speak on the growth that has occurred since. 

Admitting that, initially, she wasn’t willing to get help, but soon realizing that it was the only thing she could do, Marissa is open and honest about her struggles. Using her past to inspire both herself and others, Marissa is no stranger to working on herself, and she wants everyone to know that it is okay to do those things—in her eyes, there is no shame. 

“Eighth grade was such a hard time for me,” Marissa admitted. “I was going through the motions, and at first, I refused to go to [work on myself] because it was so hard for me to admit [that I was struggling]. I thought I was broken and weak for not being perfectly happy all the time. Now, I’ve grown and realized that it’s not a weakness.”

Fully understanding how truly difficult it is to acknowledge personal struggles, get help for them, and learn and grow from those experiences, Marissa prides herself in being an open friend to all. 

Never wishing those negative feelings upon anyone, Marissa is passionate about opening up to others, being an open friend to all, educating others about mental health and the stigma surrounding it, and, most importantly, finding those pockets of joy amidst dark times. 

“I want people to know that they’re not alone,” Marissa said. “[Mental health struggles are] a normal thing that a lot of people go through, and they shouldn’t have to feel like they’re gonna get criticized [by] anyone about who they are or what they’re dealing with.”

Her own biggest critic, Marissa has spent years—with the aid of her outlets such as dance and musical theatre—bettering herself, for herself. 

Reflecting on her middle school experiences, and the years of growth that followed, Marissa is attempting to normalize mental health issues, but above all, just be the person that she once needed most. 

“I really want almost anyone—I don’t care if you’re a stranger or not, if you are struggling, or feel like that [at] any point in your life—to feel open enough to come to me and talk to me about it,” Marissa said. “Because I will not turn you away, regardless of whatever is going on between us. I want you to know that you have at least one person that you can come and talk to about stuff like that.”

Because, if Marissa could tell her past self anything, it would be to seek out the help that she offers so abundantly now. 

“Please, please, please, speak out sooner,” said Marissa, to her eighth-grade self. “You are not alone. There are so many people out there who are willing to support you and will support you. Please reach out; you are not weak by getting help. It’s going to get better. This is one part of your life, and it’s going to change.”