As the dance season starts back up again, I am struck with equal parts nostalgia and excitement of seeing my dance family at various events. Competitions and shows are like family reunions. Everybody shows up. You have your immediate family that you currently dance with. You see them regularly, and they are your anchor and the people you call home. Then you have your extended family, which is made up of people who you’ve danced with on other teams or projects, people who you’ve taken classes and workshops with, people who you’ve gone to school with, people who you’ve worked with, people who you’ve partied with. You run into each other backstage and get to revel in your inside jokes and reminisce on your favorite memories together. You perform and get to cheer each other on, marveling at how far the other has come. This is your family. And as our families continue to grow and flourish, so do we.

We find not only a family through this dance community, we find ourselves. On top of the many valuable life skills we gain from dance, what I am most appreciative of is that I’ve been able to grow into my own skin as an individual, without shame and without judgment. Dance is an outlet for us as artists to channel our energy and emotion and personalities through movement. You can be a little outside the box (or Inside the Box) and you can be a little different or a little too loud or a little too quiet or a little too this or that. Stepping into a studio or onto a stage allows us to leave a bad day behind us and escape the confines of reality. None of it matters when you’re dancing. What matters, at the end of the day, is that we are passionate about our craft, and that we are willing to share it with the world. Dance excites us and challenges us to be vulnerable and motivates us not only to become better dancers, to become better people.

It is a time in our society when the idea of community has never been more important. There are times when planes disappear and freedom of speech is jeopardized and the world is in uproar over social injustices. There are things I don’t understand and things that don’t make sense. But at this moment in my life, what does make sense to me is this dance community, and how infinitely grateful I am to have found it and how honored I am to be a part of it. So thank you to the dancers I know, and to all the dancers I have yet to know. Thank you to my teachers and thank you to my inspirations. Thank you for being yourselves and for allowing me to be myself.

This dance community is a special place. And it may not be for forever. Parents will tell us not to dance. Colleagues and classmates will not understand why we dance for little to no money. Life will tell us there are more important priorities to focus on, like work or school or growing up, whatever that means. But we love it, and so we keep doing it, and – most importantly – we’re all doing it together.