Why am I here..?

An essay beginning to answer the simple yet layered question, “why are you here?” posed by Professor Brown.

What I get from dance is more than joy from performing, exhilaration from sharing, or thrill from creating.  Dance is more than a hobby. Dance is more than a passion. It wasn’t until I actually had to think about things like my artist statement, my specific style of dance, and why I’m here that I realized that dance has been so much more to me than I was aware of. Sure, it’s fun and my way of expressing myself, but my drive to dance is so much deeper than that.

I’ve always felt as if dancing wasn’t a choice for me. When it came down to deciding what I wanted to major in and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I simply couldn’t find a reasonable or “practical” replacement. I didn’t have the facility or desire to really explore why it is I couldn’t chose to devote myself to something other than dance, but I am glad that I went with my gut and really fought to be able to be where I am today. There are always doubts about being an artist. How will I make money? How will I make it in the industry? What are my back-up plans? I had no answers to any of those questions while I was pleading with my parents to let me follow my dreams.

Looking back to a little over a year ago, I had no idea what I was doing when I was applying to college. I had no idea who I was. I had no idea what I wanted. I’ll be honest with myself, when I don’t know what to do I tend to follow the crowd until I figure it out. When I first started researching schools I would potentially be interested in, I was taking stabs in the dark. I thought looking at “top dance program” lists and sticking with the programs I knew was the way to go. At the time I thought I was using my friends’ reasoning and ideas as resources but I was really using them as crutches. We applied and auditioned for a lot of the same schools, some schools that I really had no interest in. I was confused as to why I had no desire to go, but in a sea of unknown emotions during this college application process I was confident that I knew I wouldn’t fit there.

Because I didn’t know which mold I fit into, I found myself trying to squeeze myself into what I thought were my only options at the time. Every dance major needs a back-up, why not go into physical therapy? I’m not a fan of science at all, but I knew that I wanted to always contribute to the dance world. As far as I know, every dancer needs a physical therapist. I was riding this wave for so long that I convinced myself that I loved Indiana University because they had the perfect program for doing dance and physical therapy. It was nice and safe and my friends approved.

Things were completely different with Ohio State. Sophomore year, I was browsing through potential universities and came across OSU. I fell in love with the school on paper, nice location, decent distance from home, and great school spirit. At a college fair my junior year, I was going from table to table asking about the dance programs at the different schools. Many representatives either didn’t know much about the program or told me that there wasn’t one. I didn’t know anything about the dance program at Ohio State at this point, but when I went to speak to the representative from the school and told him that I wanted to major in dance he blew my mind with two lines. First he asked me if I knew anything about the dance program and when I responded with a no he stated matter-of-factly “Ohio State has the number one dance program in the country.”

I was in awe, and kind of in denial as well. How could a regular ol’ university like Ohio State have such an amazing program? How could a regular ol’ university like Ohio State seem so perfect for me? The good times kept on coming when I visited the university for the first time in the fall of my senior year for my audition. The atmosphere was everything that I thought it would be. What captured me the most at the time was the idea of creating “well-rounded” dancers. It seemed perfect for someone like me who just didn’t really know what I wanted to do with dance. After my audition, I was getting my things to leave when my friend and I ran into Susan Hadley. Susan asked us how we felt about the audition and what other schools we were applying to. The casual conversation went so well that it ended with Susan telling us that she would love it if we were in the program next year and to contact her during our decision process. Of course, my friends weren’t as crazy about it as I was but at the time I was set that OSU was my school.

By the time spring break rolled around my OSU enthusiasm was gone. Even after traveling all over for my auditions and getting my acceptances, I was stressed about everything because none of the universities I wanted to attend were giving me any money. Just as I was positive I would have to stay in Chicago and go to community college, I received an email from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion here at OSU that notified me that I was a recipient of the Prominence Scholarship that covers the in-state tuition and the out-of-stage surcharge. Ironically, I was wearing the only OSU t-shirt I owned at the time. It was this day that I realized that I was meant to be at this university. I loved the school from the beginning, I loved the program from the beginning, and although I was so caught up in trying to make what was right for everyone else right for me, I had no choice but to come to what was my first choice all along.

I’m a skeptic, so I wasn’t convinced that this was legitimately the perfect institution for me until the end of my first day of class. I finally let myself fall in love and all was good in the world. It wasn’t until I got here that I realized that this was the time to start defining myself. I was in a totally new environment with no friends and no previous notions of who I am or what I believe in. For once I didn’t have to worry about pleasing anyone but myself because I had no one to please. I made my first decision based on me when I decided to attend this school. Now that I’m here, I can continue that.

The freshman class of 2017 in the Department of Dance is honestly one of the most eclectic and amazing groups of people that I have ever had the pleasure of being of part of and growing with. For the first time I am surrounded by people who are different from me with different experiences and are totally content with being themselves. I see that in each person’s personality, but I also see it in their movement. It makes me feel prided in the fact that I come from a different place in life but people are willing to listen to me share, whether it be verbally in friendships or via movement. Everyone here is different and that’s okay. There isn’t a mold to fit into. For the first time, I feel comfortable enough to make choices for me.

I’ve always wanted to rid myself of the stress that comes with trying to fit into a mold but was never in an environment that really cultivated that. I’m in a program that gives me the freedom to explore anything I could have possibly imagined. I’ve always loved writing and in Freshman Seminar last semester we were assigned our e-portfolios. I’ve always wanted to run a blog and I finally had something to talk about. It turns out that I’m actually sort of good at blogging because my blog got me in touch with a woman from a website geared toward helping high school juniors and seniors with the college process. Because of my blog, my e-portfolio will be featured on the website.

My favorite part about Freshman Seminar thus far has definitely been our work with things like Photoshop and Final Cut Pro X. In high school I was interested in photography. I never took classes because I never had the time, but I’ve always been told I had a good eye. Early into last semester I decided that I wanted to minor in Video Arts since there isn’t a Photography minor. This was before I really knew about dance film.

I loved our first dance film assignment, and even though I had no idea what I was doing, I had a blast. The hours just flew by while I was editing in the media lab and I didn’t even mind it. I was more than happy with how it came out. Mitchell Rose came to speak to our class a couple weeks ago and his most recent film brought me to tears. It wasn’t because the video was sad at all, it was actually very joyous. I cried because for the first time I actually felt a burning desire to create work like that that could make people feel the way I did. I never got that feeling with dance because it was something that I’ve always done. Falling in love with dance film was my choice. I was truly taking a step in my direction. It was an amazing feeling because it was exactly what I hoped it would feel like. No one else influenced my decision, just me.

No matter where I may have ended up going, I was mainly excited to go to college and start something new. I needed a new environment. I wanted to create myself without having to deal with people’s preconceived notions. I wanted to finally be able to immerse myself in studying something I was actually interested in unlike high school. I was eager to find myself and grow. I’ve already grown so much in such a short time in both my art form and my life in general.

So why am I here? I’m here for just that. All signs pointed to The Ohio State University and without even knowing what I really wanted to get out of this experience until now, I’ve been embarking on a journey of the self this entire time. I’m at this school because it’s where my heart was set. I’m in this program because dance is how I learn about life the best. I wanted this to be my chance to finally make decisions for myself without worrying about others’ opinions first through dance, but it’s already shining through in all parts of my life. I’m here because this is the only environment that I feel could cultivate the best version of myself now and in the years to come. I’ve needed the chance to step back and realize that I have a unique voice, and that it matters. This is everything that I’ve wanted and needed, and I’m here to take advantage.

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