Last week, I spent countless hours in a theater with 17 girls, preparing for our spring show. Saturday night, before our final performance, we stood in a circle backstage, holding hands (right over left). Each one of our six seniors said something to the group. I knew that this moment would come, and I had expected to be sad. I did not expect the waterworks that I produced however. It’s strange: I’ve known these girls for less than two years, and yet, the thought of them leaving breaks my heart. I can’t imagine not seeing their beautiful, tired faces each Sunday morning, or never learning their choreography again, or never taking a pre-sow selfie again.

I am overwhelmed by how dance–no matter where I am–always connects me to the most amazing people. I recently told another girl in Groove how I would be insane without dance. Being able to go to a studio and just forget everything else for a few hours each week is invaluable to me. But more importantly, the time I get to spend with people who love the same thing I love is invaluable to me. Where would I be if I had never taken my first dance class?

I’ve written a lot of essays about how much dance has taught me. But that is misleading. Because as much as I love dance and appreciate it for being such a beautiful, challenging, and cathartic part of my life, it has not taught me all of the things I am so grateful for learning. Dance has not taught me to be kind or generous. It has not taught me to always have an open mind and to accept people for whoever they are and to look for the good in everyone. It has not taught me to look at myself and like (love) what I see. Dance did not teach me these things; but it did lead me to the people that did.

I am so lucky to have always had a strong dance community to support me, encourage me, and inspire me.   And that’s exactly what all of the people I’ve had the privilege of dancing with do, from my high school dance team, to my studio family back home, to the girls in Groove. They inspire me to be a better dancer, and more importantly, a better person; the kind of person who inspires others to be their best selves too.

So when I talk about how dance has made my life better, this is what I mean. The people that I have met because we share a love for dance; they have made my life better, and they continue to do so each day. And I am so, so grateful.

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