I have always had big dreams but felt too trapped by my own insecurities to let the fire in me escape. The day I became a dancer changed that forever. I took my first dance class at the age of twelve, while most of my peers had started lessons as soon as they could walk. Since then, I have been surrounded by the rhythm of tap shoes, the texture of smooth vinyl floors, and the sight of elegant ballerinas leaping from every corner of the room. My studio became my safe haven when I needed it most. My path to becoming a dancer was unconventional, but it taught me the power of following my passions, staying true to myself, and showed me what I am capable of when I dedicate myself to something I love.
My mom had always encouraged me to try dance, modeling, and acting. I was intrigued by the idea of performing, but I felt too trapped by my fears to try. It wasn’t until I found dance that I truly became a performer. My earliest memories of the dance world are of a style I have never danced: Irish Step. Growing up in a predominantly Irish community and attending a Catholic school, most of my friends were Irish and trained in Irish Dancing. I resented this for many years because I only viewed it as the reason my friends arrived late to my birthday parties. They always had the same excuse: “Sorry, we have dance.” At the same time, attending their competitions sparked my interest in dancing, but Irish Dancing didn’t feel like the right fit. Coming from a Brazilian background, I never felt like I would fit and I knew that I couldn’t check the boxes of the traditional Irish Step dancer. Additionally, their dance came with many restrictions and no room for creativity. I knew I had to find my own direction.
One evening, I stumbled upon a TV show called “Dance Moms.” I was mesmerized by a group of dancers practicing a combination. My eyes were opened to the world of dance as I had never seen it before. I discovered that dance could be about self-expression. The show ignited a fire in me, and I immersed myself in this new world. I was drawn in by the talent, love, and
diversity I saw. My mom and I searched for dance studios and we found ourselves at the front door of “All That Jazz Dance Studio.” We loved the sense of community and focus on the art of dance over competition. I finally felt that I had found “my thing,” my reason that I was late to a party, and there was no looking back.
My late start to dance put me at a disadvantage, but it fueled my passion and pushed me to work twice as hard to improve my skills. My teachers noticed me gaining flexibility, strength, and confidence, and I was chosen as a leader in performances. It wasn’t always easy: some of my life-long dancer friends didn’t take me seriously and made condescending comments. It was tempting to give up, but I learned to ignore them and focus on staying true to myself.
Dance is about self-expression. When I dance I am acting, portraying a character, and my studio lets me infuse acting into every performance. Dance has been an outlet for me to express myself and escape the reality of being a teenager. It will take a special skill set to succeed in the performing arts, and dance has prepared me for that. I have learned to overcome my fears, deal with rejection, and dance for myself and not for the external validation of awards. I believe that dance came into my life at the right moment, and I know that no matter what path I take I will always be a dancer.
Sophie Rego, class of 2021