My mom says I’ve been dancing since before I was born. She says she felt turns in the womb. My mother also has an active imagination. But there is some truth to her statement: I have been dancing a long time.
I started dancing at the age of five. Well, dancing may be an overstatement. I jumped around and tried to follow the teacher as best as I could. Every May, I’d pile on the makeup, squeeze into a sequenced dress, and dance for all my fans (you know, my mom dad and aunt. I knew she really loved me because she drove almost an hour out f her way to watch me). I loved those night. It was my chance to show off everything I’d learned in dancing school that year, and impress a few of my non-dancing family members.
But as I got older, it became more than an excuse to wear a cute costume and perform for hundreds. During the darkest times of my life, be it a fight with my family or feeling like I didn’t want to live, dance kept me going. It was a way to express my emotions, free of others’ opinions. I’d lock myself in a room, press play, and just move. Most of the time, these sessions resulted in a therapeutic release. But once or twice they turned into amazing pieces, which were eventually brought to life by other dancers.
When I graduated college, one of my biggest concerns, in addition to finding a job and a place to live, was if I would ever dance again. I never wanted to make a career out of it, and also knew I wasn’t capable. Since New York is the city of dance (Broadway!New York City Ballet! Rockettes!), I found some classes here and there. But none of them filled the void in my 8-count heart. Until last year.
One day at work a co-worker told me about DanceWorks New York City, a performance-based dance organizations for trained dancers who want to perform after college. The company was based of a Syracuse University dance organization and founded by an alumna, Lisa Mara, in fall 2011.
I was hesitant. I auditioned for DanceWorks my freshman year at Syracuse and was rejected. While it was for the best (I met some of my best friends through Orange Pulse, a non-audition group I joined), I always doubted my dancing abilities after that. However, knowing how miserable I was without it, I decided to take a chance.
But I lucked out. There were several non-audition pieces, where all you had to do was sing up.
“Thank God,” I thought, as I looked around the room. “I can’t compete with these girls.”
So on Sunday, I spent six hours stretching, turning, and leaping in hopes that someone who take notice and think, “I need her in my dance.” I walked away on blistered feet feeling good about my auditions that day, but still not totally confident. I kept thinking back to freshman year and how I failed. I just wanted someone to validate me on something I’ve done my whole life.
I spent the past two days biting my nails and taming the butterflies in my stomach, waiting for the results. At work today, I continually refreshed the page to see if the lists had been posted. Just as I was about to walk away from the computer, a tweet told me that the lists were up. This was it: make it or break it.
I scanned the list, skipping over the pieces I didn’t audition for. When I came across the first number, I didn’t see my name. I released a sigh and my shoulders fell. I thought that was the end.
But I scrolled to the bottom and there, under the final number I saw it: Leah Rocketto. Finally, I knew all the training and passion I’ve put into dance had paid off.
So of the two pieces I auditioned for, I got into one: a huge victory in my book. I also made it into two non-audition pieces, which I’m equally excited for.
I realize that to some this may not be as big as being selected for the Rockettes or the New York Knicks Dance team. But to me, it’s a big deal. And it proves that hard work does pay off, it just may take 20-something years.