Seeing Dancers in a New Light

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Tae Corkill

Dancers Haven McKernan (11) and Elle Mcauley (11) getting ready for Highland High Dance 2020-2021 dance concert.

Bella Mendez, Reporter

We tend to idolize athletes for their dedication, grit, and love for the sport they play. But, some other athletes, like dancers, are often overlooked despite their hard work and passion. People should know what dancers actually go through physically and mentally to realize that they do put as much effort into their sports as other athletes. 

Competitive dancers at Highland, like Elle Mcauley (11) and Haven McKernan (11), explain how time-consuming and stressful dance can actually be, especially if you are on a competitive team. In fact, Haven McKernan (11) explains how she would train in the studio for sixteen hours a week as well as on Saturdays from nine to five. Although Haven mentions how dance can feel like “it’s a job”, she discusses how the long hours of training are necessary to succeed during the competition and convention season.

When it comes to competitions and conventions, Elle Mcauley (11) explains that “Competitions and conventions are so hectic because they usually last the whole weekend which includes seven to nine hours of convention classes starting at seven in the morning, and then the rest of the night is dedicated to the competition itself”. Regardless of the long nights, stress, and commitment, Elle and Haven are passionate about dance and are determined to succeed; not very different from many other athletes at Highland.

Despite their passion for dance, dancers like Elle and Haven mention how dance can affect their mental health at times due to their fear that they aren’t good enough, or how being surrounded in an environment that can feel too stressful at times; struggles all athletes tend to go through.  For Elle, she explains how the dance community can feel “… too competitive and toxic, and it doesn’t get better, if anything it ends up getting worse”.

By constantly being around an environment that makes dancers feel drained, it can affect how they perform during rehearsals and competitions, ultimately creating a continuous cycle of feeling inadequate. But, Haven mentions how, ¨once you find your place in it, it starts to feel like home, but you just have to find a place where you fit in¨. After their years of experience, Elle and Haven both mentioned how they felt out of place at one point as dancers. But once they spent monumental moments with their team, all of those negative feelings regarding dance were turned around because they finally felt like they were surrounded by a supportive community.

Elle Mcauley (11) one stage in the 2020-2021 Highland dance concert. (Tae Corkill)

Like all athletes, the feeling of being inadequate and alone may arise, but once they are integrated into a team, they end up feeling inspired and special. 

Even though competitive dancers spend hours on end training for competitions and conventions, Haven mentions that “Everyone assumes that dance consists of little easy things, but it’s not… so when people act like it’s not a sport, it makes you feel like you’re not doing enough”. However, we learn that due to their long hours of training, competitive nature, and dedication, that they are not different from many athletes, and that they deserve recognition that many other athletes get.