CULTURE & ARTS
12/18/2014 10:39 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

39 Of The Country's Greatest Dancers Explain Why They Dance

"To dance is to be out of yourself," Agnes de Mille famously proclaimed. "Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking." Although the iconic 20th century dancer and choreographer makes it look easy, it can be difficult to accurately put the allure of dance into words. By nature, dance is a wordless form of expression, translating emotions and thoughts into physical movements. But we wondered, is there a way to explain why we dance?

We turned to some of the world's most talented ballet figures -- and few aspiring ones too -- to find the answer. Dancers from across the country -- from the American Ballet Theatre to Ballet San Jose, the Kansas City Ballet to the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Nashville Ballet to Abraham.In.Motion, the San Francisco Ballet to a children's studio in Hawaii -- sent us their reasons for taking the stage. We compiled their responses in a campaign, aptly titled #WhyIDance.

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The campaign is simple. Inspired by dance programs around the world like South Africa's Dansazania project and Brazil's House of Dreams, we asked dancers to complete the sentence "I dance because ..." Each participant wrote his or her response on a piece of paper and posed for a camera holding each proud statement: "I dance because it brings me joy, strength, and life!" said Misty Copeland; "I love sharing a piece of my soul with the world through movement," said Kayla Rowser; "I dance because I like to challenge my body to the limit," said Diego Cruz.

Together the portraits tell a visual story of the power of dance in the 21st century. Take a look at the entire #WhyIDance portrait collection:

"I dance because I enjoy expressing my feeling and emotion in many ways. And it makes me happy." -- Maykel Solas, Ballet San Jose

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"I dance because I get to be something different everyday." -- Alexandra Basmagy, American Ballet Theatre

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"I dance because I love sharing a piece of my soul with the world through movement." -- Kayla Rowser, Nashville Ballet

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"I dance because it is my passion. Dance enables me to find different facets of my inner self, yet allows me to lose myself at the same time. Overcoming challenges and the feeling of self-fulfillment is why I love to dance." -- Ommi Pipit-Suksun, Ballet San Jose

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"I dance because it brings me joy, strength and life!" -- Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre

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"I dance because it makes me smile." -- Mona Meng, Kansas City Ballet

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"I dance because I can become someone else on stage." -- Duncan Lyle, American Ballet Theatre

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"I dance because I'm still excited by it when I wake up each morning!" -- Katie Vasilopoulos, Nashville Ballet

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"I dance because I like to challenge my body to the limit." -- Diego Cruz, San Francisco Ballet

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"I dance because since I was a little boy I was inspired by my wonderful parents who were both professional dancers with the Ballet National of Cuba. I love the beauty, elegance, complexity and magic of dance. I knew since a very early age that ballet was my destiny." -- Rudy Candia, Ballet San Jose

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"I dance because if I have a stressful day, I look forward to getting to dance and letting it all go." -- Grace Branham, dance student based in Hawaii

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Tammy Steele of Manamotion Photography

"I dance to be alive. Mind. Body. Spirit. And transmit that to others!" -- Tempe Ostergren, Kansas City Ballet

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"The intention of perfection gives me persistence while I stay fixated on my goals. Optimism about the artist and person I would like to become has a growing presence in my life. I dance because it completes me!" -- Gabe Stone Shayer, American Ballet Theatre

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"I dance because I want to make people FREE." -- Connie Shiau, Abraham.In.Motion

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"I dance because every time I go I leave feeling stronger." -- Laulea Noche, dance student based in Hawaii

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Tammy Steele of Manamotion Photography

"I dance because I have to." -- Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye, Kansas City Ballet

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"I dance because it's how I express myself best without words." -- Kelley Potter, American Ballet Theatre

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"I dance because I want to take the audience on an emotional journey." -- Mollie Sansone, Nashville Ballet

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"I dance because sometimes it's the only way I know how to speak." -- Amanda Trusty, dance teacher based in Hawaii

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Tammy Steele of Manamotion Photography

"I dance because it brings me happiness." -- Lamin Pereira, Kansas City Ballet

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"I dance because I [heart] it." -- WanTing Zhao, San Francisco Ballet

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"I dance because I want to express more than words." -- Charles Martin, Kansas City Ballet

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"I dance because I can let all of myself go and live in the moment!" -- Alison Stroming, Dance Theatre of Harlem

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"I dance because it frees me." -- Jill Marlow, Kansas City Ballet

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"I dance because it feels good. Also, applause." -- Helen Phelan, freelance dancer

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"I dance because I love to inspire and bring out the best in people's heart!!" -- Ingrid Silva, Dance Theatre of Harlem

"I dance because I can channel my emotions into something creative." -- Ashley Murphy, Dance Theatre of Harlem

"I dance because I love to be a character." -- Samuel Wilson, Dance Theatre of Harlem

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See more of Amanda Trusty's students (below).

PHOTO GALLERY
#WhyIDance


Let's keep the campaign alive. Post your own photos with the hashtag #WhyIDance and we'll share them on our Twitter, @HuffPostArts.

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BEFORE YOU GO

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Ballet Dancers Changing the Landscape
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