03/05/2013 03:45 pm ET

Becoming A Dancer?

This is a teen-written article from our friends at Teenink.com.

By Jennifer M., East Providence, RI

Standing in front of the mirror one day, I came to the harsh realization that I fell short of the requirements of my dream. The reflection that stared back was of a skinny brown-haired girl who stood a mere five feet tall. My entire life had been about dedication and striving to be the best dancer in my studio. I'd always had elaborate dreams and high aspirations. I never noticed how hard it might be to achieve something that you really want. Most people spend their whole lives searching for their calling or their nitch, but I've known that I was born to be a dancer since the first time I stepped into Thoroughly Modern Dance Studio at one and a half years of age. I've devoted sixteen years of my life to helping my dream come true, and also taken time out of my personal life to be a dance teacher at my studio.

Last summer I attended what is called an audition class in Boston taught by a highly respected Broadway dancer. At this seminar he explained the procedures for getting into a dance company or production. While I was listening and taking notes, I was thinking that I certainly had the experience, but there was one area in which I didn't quite measure up. He informed us that at most auditions all dancers under 5 feet 6 inches are automatically eliminated or simply overlooked. He said that most casting directors are looking for the stereotyped dancer with long legs, a long neck and a size one waist. Standing half a foot under this height, I felt my heart drop to the floor.

It really is hard to listen to someone basically tell you: "Sorry, but you've been working really hard for sixteen years for nothing, so find a new dream." Unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way. Dancing isn't just some hobby for me; it's more like an addiction. My complete heart and soul are exhibited in every step. Through dance I find a sense of pride and satisfaction that I don't think anyone could understand or appreciate. To have all that I've ever wanted instantly shot down created a sick feeling in my stomach.

Furthermore, I knew that at that moment I could do one of two things. I could settle for a second choice, or I could commit myself to the tedious uphill battle to come. Well, I've never been known as a person who gives up easily, so I've been working even harder to make up for in skill what I lack in inches!

Nevertheless, it really doesn't matter how high the odds are against me, for I will rise above them. It's time for me to "put my nose to the grindstone" because, despite what anyone sees, the only direction my life is going is up. Whether I end up becoming a professional Broadway dancer or open a local dance studio is irrelevant, because I will do one or the other by choice, not because I wasn't qualified. I'm comforted in knowing I'm not alone in this battle. My mentor, Lorie Bernier, who stands at 5 feet 1 inch and has taught me everything I know, always inspiring me by saying: "You have to believe you can reach the stars before you can actually touch one of them."



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