Dancing Through the pain
By Gwen Bowman
She was just a little girl, curled up and cowering in the back of the bus. The big fifth grader kept laughing at her tears, joking and insulting her. All the other kids sniggered when the mean girl stated that she was so ugly that her phone screen cracked. The little girl could barely get a word out before someone yelled at her, “Learn how to speak proper English!” The girl was smart enough to realize they pronounced the ‘sh’ sound wrong in English; she knew that it was made by the mean girl to make fun of her speech problem.
She just wished that it would all go away.
A girl was backstage, panicking inside. Her turn to dance was next, and it was to be the first time she did a solo in front of everyone. Not many people liked her dancing, except perhaps her teacher and her mother. And really, those two people didn’t count for a proper vote. She was dressed in a simple dress that flowed with her movements. Stepping into the spotlight, she began to dance to the slow notes of Bridge Over Troubled Waters. It seemed to be going well until the end. The girl leapt across the stage in a grande jete before realizing that it wasn’t time to do that step yet. She had skipped over at least six different other parts of the song. Thinking quickly, she adjusted her dance to make it seems as if nothing went wrong, and she tricked the audience into believing her.
Still, when she spoke to her dance teacher afterwards, she mumbled, “I messed up so badly…”
A mother’s advice: “I know there will be times you need to cry, but never let them knock you down. Stand tall and remember, I got your back.”
The girl was in middle school, and faring badly. It seemed as if everyone is laughing behind her back. Whether it was because she was a teacher’s pet, or she had “uncool” clothing on, or even just being the same old different kid she was, it all added up to having some new rumor about her. She found a couple of friends to eat lunch with, but otherwise, she had to keep to herself to avoid the bullies. The girl still didn’t understand why she couldn’t be part of the group. Wasn’t she just like them, but with a few quirks?
Whatever the barrier was that kept her from having friends, she hated it.
It had been years since her first dance solo, and now it was time to take to the stage again. However, instead of having a beautiful flowing dress, this time she had a dress covered in lights and, attached to the back, wings. In hindsight, the girl would see how this was a bad idea, as she had never really practiced in the costume before and it added a lot of weight to her. It was stunningly gorgeous, but unwieldly. Still, she stepped onstage to dance to a special song, one that was dedicated to her brother who was leaving for college that summer. The song was Fireflies, and the girl was leaping and twirling around happily. The costume hindered some of her steps, but the girl could make manage the change.
However, the girl’s favorite part of the night was when she walked onstage, and she heard a child gasp and say, “It’s a firefly!”
A mother’s advice: “Misunderstood. It happens to you, but remember: those that don’t take the time to understand you aren’t worth having around. And know I’ll always love you, even when I don’t like you.”
The girl had a single friend that stuck by her for most of the years of middle school. It wasn’t really out of great friendship, though; it was more of a necessity to stay together. Neither of them had any other friends, so they depended on each other. However, by the time they got to high school, the girl’s friend was becoming more and more hostile to her. The friend began to bully the girl, and refused to listen to the pleads to stop. Eventually, the girl had enough. She told her friend to go away, to stop speaking to her. She just couldn’t handle the taunting anymore.
For the rest of the year, the girl felt horribly guilty for simply trying to protect herself from a friendship that had gone wrong.
The next year, the girl rushed to get dressed for her dance solo. Scheduling issues caused her to have dances very close together. Hurrying backstage, she spent a few moments adjusting her vest and skirt. She looked like Janis Joplin, since that year she was dancing to Piece of My Heart. Although she didn’t like the song itself, the girl enjoyed the meaning and mood of it. Putting on big sunglasses to complete the look, the girl began to dance. It was a few moments into the song that she realized that her glasses were fogging up. She could barely see what was in front of her. The girl dismissed the notion of stopping the dance in her mind and continued on. That year, she got to throw in a lot of attitude in her dance, and it seemed to be a success.
Her friends ran up to afterwards, and pulled her into a huge hug while yelling, “That was awesome!”
A mother’s advice: “Like you, Disney Princesses have come a long way. Elsa may be my new favorite. She reminds me of you. You’re both strong, independent, and misjudged. But like Elsa, I hope you remember who has your back and learn quickly who to let go.”
The girl was not a good athlete. She was slow, fat, and even allergic to exercise. Despite all that, she still ran cross country. She still went up to the starting line with her team, knowing that by the time she came in sight of the finish line, everyone else in the race would have been long finished. Some spectators laughed at the girl for this, calling her a fat, ugly snail. Some kids would smirk when the girl run past them, knowing that the kid in second to last place ran by ten minutes ago. However, the girl refused to think about these people. She concentrated on the spectators, and even fellow racers, that encouraged her to reach that finish line, which wanted and cheered for her to succeed.
They were the ones that truly mattered to her.
That year, her dance was thrown together in a hurry. She had missed so much dance class that she had to learn her solo in only a little more than a month. Luckily, with the help of very simple dance steps, she was able to get onstage with her fancy feather boa and top hat and dance her heart out to Le Jazz Hot. She was pantomiming the song, making it easier for herself to get into the upbeat rhythm of the dance. She couldn’t stop smiling that year as she kicked and spun about. At the end, she threw her hat up into the air with the most dramatic gesture she could make, and she knew that the audience liked it.
That applause never felt more wonderful to the girl.
A friend’s advice: “If I had to describe you in one word, it would be courageous. Watching you grow up enduring and thriving through all of life’s curveballs has made me admire you and the way you always reach to try new things, and be part of things you won’t necessarily shine in. But by doing that, you shine all the brighter. No one has the right to tell you what you’re not capable of. Fly Gwen, fly!”
One of the girl’s most hated classes was gym. Not only did she have to show how bad she was at anything that had to do with spots, bullies in her class loved to make fun of other kids. Now that she was an upperclassman, people didn’t bother her too much anymore, but she still remembered how bad the bullying felt to her. One class, when her younger friend was in the changing room, she overheard a conversation between two ‘mean girls’ laughing about her friend. Taking a deep breath, the girl went up to them and told them to stop. One of the mean girls laughed and stepped closer to her. “You want to fight with me, bitch?” The girl simply stared back and quietly said, “I don’t think you want to fight me.” Uneasily, the mean girls backed away from her.
The girl didn’t hear anymore bullying from them for the rest of the year.
The big moment had finally arrived for the girl. This was the time to truly shine onstage. She had choreographed the dance herself, and although it was put together hastily, she was going to do everything she could to make it the best song she had ever danced to. It was called One Step Closer, a song about how dancing was a special language that brought people closer to becoming understood. She was dedicating her dance to her teacher, since the song meant everything her teacher had done for her. On the stage, she wasn’t in tune to what she was doing, but she did know that every little step she took expressed her emotions of gratitude and love. At the end, she jumped off the stage to give her teacher flowers, while the audience roared and cried around them.
However, the only thing the girl paid attention to was her dance teacher hugging her tightly and saying, “You did good.”
A mother’s advice: “I Hope You Dance. This is the song. If I had to pick just one song to let you know how I want your life to be, this is it. Dance like no one is watching, sing karaoke, climb mountains, travel, love, laugh, cry. Do it all. Never find yourself sitting alone and wondering what could have been. Promise to always dance…”