The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

Leaping into the Unknown

For 12 years, dance practices and recitals took quite the toll, but the lessons I learned were worth the anguish.
Sara Durzo
At four years old, I began taking ballet and tap lessons.

Two weeks ago, I quit the pursuit that defined me for over a decade. Since Kindergarten, I wanted dance to be my passion. I wanted others to see it as my passion. I spent countless hours in the studio and on the stage, but in the end, I knew it simply was not meant to be.

Whether you view dance as a sport or not, there’s no doubt that like any other physical activity, it can take a heavy toll on the way you view yourself and the others around you. 

I started dancing when I was four years old. I took Ballet and tap, and I grazed that dance floor as if I were a ballerina in The Nutcracker.

No, I didn’t. That’s a lie. 

Instead, I stood in the corner crying because I didn’t want to participate. So now, when people ask me when I started dancing, I tell them I started in 5th grade. I actually participated when I was in 5th grade, so it makes sense. 

The first class I took was Musical Theater. Now mind you, I was a 5th grader surrounded by a bunch of experienced upperclassmen who could properly do a triple pirouette (which I still can’t do to this day.) As torturous as the actual dancing part was, the warm-ups were just as humbling. Anytime our choreographer told us to go as far down as possible into our right split, I struggled to the point of embarrassment. It looked as if I was trying to pull some weird maneuver people do when they drop something and then go to pick it up. As I’m dying on the inside and trying my best to conceal the absolute physical pain I was in, I took a glance at the other girls. Every single one of them was able to go fully into their right splits, no effort required. They even managed to carry on a conversation while being in their splits.

How? How are they doing that? How am I supposed to do that? So many doubts and regrets racing through my head whilst holding back tears due to the fact that my hamstrings were about to snap. 

I later discovered that “traditional dance” wasn’t really my thing. You know, turning and leaping and all that. So I decided to take a new route and try Hip Hop. Though I still constantly doubted myself, I could sense some sort of a comfort in Hip Hop. Rather than doing la seconde turns or grande jetes, I realized that the pop and lock was a lot more my speed.

Don’t get me wrong. I still struggled — a lot. Again, my rhythm memorization was still horrible and I would never ask our teacher to review the move because everyone else had it down. Nevertheless, it felt as if I was in a class I actually belonged in. 

Of course, like any sport, there were good and bad days. There were days where I would get in the car and when my mom asked how it went, I would reply with “It wasn’t bad.” Those were the good days. On bad days, I held back tears until I got in the car and wouldn’t even let my mom ask me how it went before I would break down bawling.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I had more good days than bad days. I genuinely considered quitting dance altogether after my first Hip Hop season. However, I conjured up every shred of courage that I had and decided to continue into the next season. 

I found myself improving more and more with each new season of Hip Hop. By freshman year, I rediscovered my love for musical theater and decided to jump back into it. By that time, I had built a stronger bond with the girls I danced with and truly felt like I belonged in that class. We performed “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago and, to this day, it is my favorite dance I’ve ever performed in. Then, along with Hip Hop and Musical Theater, I decided to add Jazz, Contemporary, and Ballet to my repertoire.

My 9th grade troupe in a promotional photo for “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago. (courtesy of Monique Techniques Photography)

It didn’t even take me a week to realize how hard Contemporary and Ballet would be. There were so many terms that I didn’t know, so many people I didn’t know. I thought I had become very well-acquainted with the majority of the girls in my studio; evidently, I was very wrong. It was the same feeling 5th grade Gracie had when she was in Musical Theater. Inexperienced, unprepared, unknown, and just out of place. However, I didn’t quit Ballet for that reason, I actually kind of liked Ballet. It was the teacher who destroyed any shred of confidence I ever had. Which, mind you, wasn’t a lot to begin with. 

I walked into the second day of Ballet feeling pretty happy and confident, for I had just got done with my Hip Hop class. I headed over to the bar to warm up and stretch when the teacher attempted to get my attention.

“Gracie, what did you have for dinner today?” she asks with a welcoming smile spreading ear to ear.

“Grilled chicken,” I replied with no sense of suspicion whatsoever. 

“Hm, I can tell.” 

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to see the expression on my face when those words came out of her mouth. What was a 15 year old supposed to say to that? “Oh, sorry, I guess I’ll just skip dinner every time I have Ballet”? I had never been so embarrassed. The girls around me didn’t laugh as I’m sure the teacher was hoping they would. Instead, they just looked at me with the same expression I had on my face. Utter disbelief.

You can imagine I wasn’t staying in that class for another second after that. With my voice breaking, I quietly replied, “I have to go.” The teacher scoffed at my reply, which didn’t help the overwhelming stress and embarrassment coursing through my body. 

That year, I dropped out of Contemporary and Ballet. I was still enrolled in three classes I actually enjoyed: Hip Hop, Jazz, and Musical Theater. However, Musical Theater was one of the biggest disappointments in my whole dance career. 

Since there were not enough participants in Musical Theater to split the classes into specific skill groups, they decided to combine the middle schoolers with the upperclassmen. Now I don’t want to sound like a snobby high schooler who hates middle schoolers. I have absolutely nothing against the middle schoolers — they are still learning and figuring out what to do. It was just very hard as an experienced dancer to be put with younger girls whose skill levels were not up to date with the high schoolers. 

We performed a dance to “Gimme Gimme” by Abba, and the only word that comes to mind when I think of that dance is… embarrassing. I mean, I wouldn’t even call it a dance — it was basically just moving our arms around with pizazz. My parents later asked, “So what was that?” to which I responded, “I have no clue.” 

My troupe’s first day in costume during my 10th grade year. (courtesy of Rachel Muth)

Over the summer, I had time to reflect on my dance career. Even though I knew Hip Hop was really my forte, I still wanted to branch out and try new things. I then came to the realization that that may not be an option this year. I mean it’s my junior year, I’m in the school musical, and I’m directing NAI’s play, so I really didn’t have any time to branch out and try different things. I only wanted to do what I was best at: Hip Hop. 

Apparently, that wasn’t an option either.

Instead of only taking one class at the studio, my instructor informed me that it was now a requirement to take two classes instead of one. This obviously made me very upset. I had no interest in any other class besides Hip Hop, nor the time. I attempted to reason with my instructor, but she turned my request down and told me that I either had to take multiple classes or leave the studio all together. 

Anger, sadness, and confusion coursed through my head at this point. Hip Hop gave me confidence. I had come so far from not knowing what to do and just staying in the back so no one would see me mess up, to not being afraid to be in the front and show everyone what I could do. I was in a very rough position, but I went with my gut and decided to leave the studio altogether. 

It was a hard loss. I had made so many friends there, I had so many bittersweet memories, I am who I am today because of that studio. It was a hard sacrifice to make, but I know in the long run I will not have regretted my decision. 

Now you may be wondering, why after all that stress and embarrassment dance caused you would you even consider going back? 

Every sport comes with its disadvantages. No matter what you do or how good you are, you will always compare yourselves to the other people around you. You can’t compare yourself if it’s your first day ever of dance and the girl next to you has been dancing her entire life and can effortlessly drop down into her right split on command. You can’t be a seed who isn’t getting enough water and compare yourself to a flower who has had constant water and sunlight throughout the years. 

Dance has shown me that comparing yourself to others will not motivate you to do better. It will only tear you down and make you think you can’t do what the other girls can. 5th grade Gracie would have never thought in a million years that she would be able to do her right split. Now, 11th grade Gracie wants to go back in time and tell her “you did it.” To most dancers and even to me now, a right split really isn’t a huge accomplishment. But to 5th grade Gracie, her whole world would light up if she knew that less than 6 years later, she would’ve finally gotten it. I will forever be grateful to have known what it was like being a dancer. Even through all the hardships: the negative comments, the comparing, the constant fear of not being good enough and everyone around you knows it. All of that shaped me into the person I am today. I learned that nobody else cares what you’re doing because chances are, they’re thinking the same exact thing you’re thinking about themselves. I have never in my life met a dancer who always knew what they were doing 100% of the time. They may have looked like it, but no one ever thought about it. 

Dance is an art. An art like none other. It’s not about being great, and it’s not about being the best. It’s about being willing to put yourself out there doing your best.

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About the Contributor
Gracie Durzo
Gracie Durzo, Staff Writer
Gracie Durzo is a junior at NASH. This is her first year partaking in Journalism and she is very excited to begin a new chapter in her high school journey. She decided to take journalism because she wanted to put her writing skills into greater use beyond English essays. Gracie also participates in the NA musicals and is a past actress of the NAI plays. Outside of Journalism and extracurricular activities, she enjoys going out with her friends and spending time with her family. 

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