I’ve always found it interesting how so many dancers personify their teams.

They most often refer to them as their “family,” and for my own teammates and I, 220, as our “woman.”

But I guess it’s not surprising- that, the group you spend so much time with, share so much with, an entity you hold so dear to your heart, would come to embody something like a real human being.

And this ‘being’ inevitably becomes one of the most extraordinary people you could ever have in your life. Someone you build a relationship with, someone you come to cherish and love, someone who evolves and grows with you, touches and inspires you. There is a quote that says, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” I feel that your team is so influential and significant a ‘person’ because he/she/it is a combination of the 30+ people closest to you. Imagine a hyper-condensed creature, jam-packed with talent, passion, and character. Damn, what a woman.

Not only is there power in numbers (dozens of people making up this one unit) but in quality as well. Because, not only do we share with each other, we share the purest, most real and genuine parts of ourselves, with each other. Through dance, we let ourselves be vulnerable and naked, and express the thoughts that are beyond words, the feelings too tremendous to articulate. Forget angry, jealous, happy, heartbroken. There is no ‘good or bad’ material to judge when it comes to dancing- the feeling you convey is real. And when it’s real, it’s the best. It seems like an impossible task, (especially to those as guarded as myself) but we take the things we would otherwise hide, bolt up, and surprise even ourselves by ripping off the “Caution: Fragile” tape to lay it all out in front of this group of people. We reach into the core of our hearts and let our secrets jump out of our skin in the form of movement, as our interpretation of the music that stirs up something that cannot be quieted.

And of course such raw expression inescapably creates intimacy within this network of seemingly very different people. Our willingness to be sincere through dancing offers us a common ground (aye), a bond that’s too substantial to label as ‘friendship’, that ‘family’ is the only word that can do it justice. A real family goes through unthinkable amounts of both good and bad together; these extremes are seldom known outside of the walls of their homes. In the same way, the struggle and sacrifice and joy and laughter we share is impossible to truly identify by anyone outside of this ‘family’. And specifically for 220, our relationship with “her.” “This is ours. What we have, what we share- this belongs to us.”

But how blessed are we to have the unique opportunity to showcase everything we stand for! While it would be the understatement of the century to describe the 5 minutes on stage as the ‘tip of the iceberg,’ it’s such an impossibly enticing mission: to try and compress the complex and amazing relationship we have with the fam/girl into a short performance. Challenge. Accepted. “Leave it all out there, always.” It’s the least we can do to pay tribute to ‘us.’

While I’ve only ever really known the dynamics of 220, and I’m sure every team has their idiosyncrasies, I can’t help but believe that there are some things that are universal to every team or project. I can sense it in their chemistry, in their passion, in their obvious love for each other. It thrills me to know that what I feel for my family isn’t just me, isn’t just them. It’s all of us, within each team, and with each other, as a whole community.

Thank you all, my family, and the larger dance community, for creating an environment where I constantly feel inspired to grow while being provided the tools and guidance to help me do so. A place where I feel comfortable- yet challenged. Content- yet hungry. Humble- yet filled with pride. Thank you for showing me that these good feelings do not always have to be mutually exclusive.

And I can say that I’ve been humbled not because I am timid or lack confidence- but just the contrary. It’s not that I don’t believe in myself. It’s that I believe in something bigger than myself. My team, the trust we have in each other to make a vision come alive, this whole community that I’m a modest part of- this is all bigger than my body, too elaborate for a video, too great for a trophy, too much for words.

Life ultimately boils down to 2 things: 1) What you do, and 2) Whom you do it with. 220 came to me at a time when I was confused about both. Thank you for being something that I never doubted, never questioned, a relationship that has never failed to make me undeniably, overwhelmingly, inexplicably happy. 1) I love dancing, and 2) I love dancing with all of you. Reflecting on all of this has enlightened me to a lot of things- as a dancer on this team, and as a dancer in general. I’m continually reintroduced to how precious it all is. I’m sure anyone from any team, can agree that this love is irrelevant to a trophy or score sheet. What we do is more than that. Who we are is more than that. What we share transcends anything physical. I hope you treasure it as much as I do.

All my heart,
Jessie Ma
220 Second To None. “Stay Hungry, Stay Humble”

How do you feel about your team or crew? Do you like to refer to it as something else? Leave a comment below!

Sometimes, our dance families can help get us through anything, including these 7 embarrassing moments.