How a Dance Class Made Me a Better Performer and a Better Person

Rikki Ziegelman

Going into college as a musical theatre major at a liberal arts college, I wasn’t afraid of taking academic classes or of struggling with grades- I was afraid of dance.

Since I was younger, I always distinguished myself as a singer and an actress, and the last thing I would look at myself as was a dancer. In fact, I would constantly joke about the fact that I was the worst dancer in the world and that I had no sense of rhythm or direction. I was hoping to turn into the dancing queen when I turned 17, but I soon realized that Mamma Mia lied to me (maybe that’s why it’s closing) (I’m totally kidding).

But all of this was probably because I had never taken a proper dance class in my life, and because of my self-doubt, I really didn’t want to. Honestly, I felt unworthy of even being part of the musical theatre program because dance is such a pivotal part of being a performer and I had never indulged myself in the activity. But I had to remind myself that I was at this school for a reason, and that I was paying money for training, which is exactly what I needed. 

The first day of dance finally came and I definitely debated not showing up, but I knew this is something I had to do. I put on my brave face and danced in front of basically strangers, and I ended up having an amazing time. Maybe I wasn’t doing all of the steps right, but I was sure as hell trying and having a great time doing so. From that day on, I fell in love with dance even more every single day.

More than anything, I think I learned that dance isn’t just movement with background music. Dance taught me a lot. First and foremost, it taught me to never judge something if you’ve never done it before. I regret all the times in high school when I would say I “hated” dancing, because in reality, I had no idea of the thrill and the happiness it could bring someone. Dance is an excellent form of physical activity, and most definitely waking up at 8:00am worth it. I would walk into dance class exhausted, but walk out bursting with energy from the insane work out that my body experienced, and that energy would last for majority of the day! Dance exposed me to an amazing support system and some incredible friends. Maybe I just got lucky, but I don’t think I would love dance half as much as I do if I didn’t have such wonderful people surrounding me and helping me each step of the way.

Dance gave me a new sense of self-confidence that I didn’t really know that I lacked. Dance just has a way of making you feel wonderful about yourself. And most importantly, dance taught me that it’s never too late to face your fear and start something new. Whether you’re 19 like I am, 109, or anything in between- you can always learn something new. 

This isn’t advice from one performer to another; this is advice from one person to another.

Even if you’re not a student in school anymore, you’ll always be a student to the world. There are new things for you to go out and explore every single day. Don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from something you might actually enjoy. And once you find something new that you like, don’t stop! Keep looking, keep exploring. There’s always something new.

And above all else, keep dancing through life. (Yes, the Wicked pun was intended).


Photo: Oksana Dance