Turn, turn, turn, turn, and stop! I started breathing quickly and wanted to quit, but my dance instructor yelled, “Emma! You wobbled! Do it again!”
“Fine,” I said, knowing I was defeated.
It’s not that I didn’t want to dance. I loved dance. Just not this. Not this kind of dance where you have to be perfect. Not that kind. The kind I was forced to do.
I looked at the waiting room to my mom.
She was not happy.
My mom was a lot like me when she my age. Her favorite food was mac ‘n cheese. She had a pet Yorkie. And we both lived for dance. My mom was top of her elite competition team, just like me. Her family moved so she could be on one of the top teams in the country, just like mine.
We only have one difference when it comes to dance: She loved the pressure of everyone counting on her. The pressure that if she did not get first, nobody would be happy. She loved the pressure of her having to get first.
I didn’t like that pressure.
But it was for my mom. At least that’s what my mom told me. She always wanted to go professional, but broke her leg when she was 17 and was never able to dance again. So I am basically here to complete what she couldn’t.
I don’t know how I feel about that.
I was in the middle of daydreaming about my dancing life, when my dancing teacher, Miss Mandy, yelled,” Emma, do you want to win the competition this weekend or not?!”
And then there was Miss Mandy.
She was a good person at heart. She just had a tough outside.
A very tough outside.
But she was an excellent dance teacher. Her competition teams always won. Only the best of the best got into them. And those who fell behind got cut.
Miss Mandy was especially nervous about the big competition this weekend. That meant more yelling than usual. Which was a lot.
The competition was the day after tomorrow and I was cleaning up my solo. We were leaving tomorrow though. It took 14 hours to get to the dance competition in Nashville. That’s a long time from New York City.
But then again, whatever it took to win.
“Emma, Emma, Emma! C’mon!”
“Ok, Miss Mandy.”
I ran my solo again.
I ran that solo until I felt like my lungs were going to burst. I couldn’t do this anymore, I just couldn’t.
“Finally, Emma! You didn’t wobble! Now go home and be ready for tomorrow!”
“Ok, thank you, Miss Mandy,” I said, exhausted.
I trudged out of the dance studio into my mom’s suv.
As soon as I got into my seat she complained,”You wobbled.”
“But doing 8 turns in a row is difficult-”
“I don’t care.”
“You’re going to practice more when you get home.”
“But Mom! I’m exhausted.”
“I don’t care. You have to be the best.”
“Why do I have to be the best?!” I shouted. I was close to tears at this point.
“Because I didn’t have the chance to!”
I didn’t reply, I just stared at her hardly. Trying to remain strong. Trying not to cry. But no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t hold my feelings in.
I started to sob.
The rest of the car ride went in silence.
As soon as I got home, I threw my dance bag on the floor and trudged down to the basement, my own small personal dance studio, it was my only escape from competitive dance. My mom wanted me to practice the solo Miss Mandy gave me, but I didn’t want to. I never really liked the solos I got. They were always not what I really wanted. All of the lyrical she gave me were too slow. All of the jazz she gave me were too fast. Nothing was really how I wanted it. So I decided just to practice on some moves and not do the routine. I started doing some pirouette while humming to some music. Then, I added in a front ariel. After that, I did a fan kick. Then, I added a few more moves, and had soon made a beautiful routine. I danced a lot better than I did in any routine Ms. Mandy gave me. Maybe because someone wasn’t yelling and shouting at me the whole time.
I practiced the routine I made until my mom came down and said it was time for bed. I hurried up to my bed and as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was fast asleep.
The next thing I knew my mom was shaking me gently saying,”Emma, time to get up. We have to go to the competition.”
“Okay, Mom,” I said groggily.
I got up, put on my dance studio sweatsuit, and next thing I know, we’re boarding the bus to go to competition.
Even though 14 hours might seem like a lot it went quite quickly.
When I was walking into the competition, I gasped. I didn’t think it was going to be this huge.
There were kids everywhere, all of them waiting in line to get checked in.
And this wasn’t even all of them.
There was still the kids who haven’t come.
And the kids who are already in their studio rooms.
But that doesn’t matter, I said to myself, just follow the choreography Miss Mandy gave you and you’ll be just fine.
We got signed in and as soon as we got into our room I had to immediately get into my costume, and do my hair and makeup for the group dance. We were running a bit behind due to the long wait, so Miss Mandy was very impatient.
The typical competition.
We got everything ready in time, and did the group dance without any problems.
My solo was the last routine of the competition, so I had some time in between the group dance and the solo.
I was just sitting there when my mom come up to me and says,” So Emma.”
“Do you like your solo?”
“Eh,” I replied. My mom asked me this question at every competition. And I replied the same thing every time.
Which was true. I never really liked my solos. They were always just okay. Mediocre. Never great. At least in my personal opinion. Just eh.
“ Well no matter what, just go out there and be the best. Blow everyone out of the water. I know you can. Because you’re like me. Because you’ll be me. Got that?”
“Yeah, Mom, I do,” I said looking at the floor.
“Oh my, look at the time, you should get ready,” she said as she looked at her phone.
She handed me my costume, and whisked me into the dressing room.
Next thing I know, I’m backstage, waiting for the number before me to get done.
I was going over the steps of the routine in my head.
Telling myself not to wobble.
Telling myself I have to be the best for Mom.
Then, I hear my name being announced and my mind suddenly goes into competition mode.
I do my dancer’s walk onto the stage, and get into my beginning pose.
The music starts to play, and I go.
I start telling myself the moves and the dance goes great.
For the first ten seconds.
I was doing the eight turns in a row.
On the last one I wobbled.
And my mind went blank.
I stared at the audience.
I didn’t know what to do.
But then I started to do some pirouettes.
Then a front ariel.
Then a fan kick.
Soon I was doing the routine I made up in my basement. The one I loved doing. The one I enjoyed making.
Did the dance go with the music?
Was Miss Mandy or my mom going to be happy?
But I didn’t care.
I was doing the kind of dance I loved. The kind I’ve always wanted to do. Not the kind where you’re perfect. Not the kind where you’re getting yelled at all the time. Not the kind where if you don’t get first nobody will be happy.
I was doing the kind that if you mess up, nobody cared. Everyone would still say you did a great job. The kind where you didn’t have to be at the dance studio for seven hours. The kind where you could go to sleepovers and family things without worrying about missing practice, and being punished for it. The kind where you could be a normal kid.
And I loved that.
So I danced. Danced like I never had before, and when that song ended, I beamed. I smiled a real smile.
I walked off of the stage, but was only there for a few moments, because after that they called everyone out on the stage for awards.
And as they went through the solo division, they didn’t call my name once.
I didn’t even place.
But I didn’t care.
Because when they asked everyone to stand up and take a bow, I saw my mom. She had a mad expression on her face. But when she saw me stand up there, at the awards, and have a real smile after I didn’t place, her expression softened. And I knew that she found out, that I enjoyed that. That that was the kind of dance I wanted to do. Not the dance I’m doing now.
Maybe now we would move back home. Where my family and friend’s lived. Maybe I could start going to parties now that I didn’t have to practice so much.
But no matter what, I would still dance. I would never give up dancing. I would just do normal dance, not competitive dance.
Just normal dance.
And maybe I could stop being so much like my mom.
I will stop being my mom.
I will be me.
Author Notes: If someone is making you do something uncomfortable, call someone trusted quickly!
This is my first time publishing something on here so please comment and review! Thank you!