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Dance Your Heart Out

Crystal doing what she loves best.A little girl discovers the thrill of performing before an audience – a feeling that is priceless.

 Published in the Nashville Eye Column of The Tennessean, September 12, 1993.

 “If I were a dancer, I would twirl on my toes…”  That was the way my 8-year-old daughter began the paragraph she was instructed to write as a school assignment.  Below it she drew a picture of herself in her favorite tutu.

In that one paragraph, she explained her dream of one day becoming a dancer.  And now, for one night, her dream was coming true.  It was time for the annual dance recital for Mrs. Cathy’s Dance Studio.  After an entire year of practice, sweat, and frustration, it was time for Cathy’s stars to shine. 

And shine they did.  From the tiny 3-year-olds to those girls graduating from high school, the stage was full of shimmering costumes and glistening smiles.  Every student’s eyes were sparkling with price in their accomplishments and anticipation of their futures. 

The night was full of triumphs for these young people, despite the occasional miscues and embarrassing moments.  The hearts of the audience were won by the 3-year-old who left the stage crying because someone else danced in her spot. 

The production was dazzling at times.  Some groups had entered many competitions, and the result of their commitment was obvious.  It is truly a pleasure to sit and watch someone who is amazingly good at what they do.  What looks effortless to the spectators is actually a consummation of hard work and a belief in what can be accomplished.  There is only one word to describe the outcome: awesome.

The highlight of the event was the sentimental moments shared between the students and their parents, both on and off the stage.  The tiniest pupils danced with their fathers to the tune of My Guy.  “Nothing you can say can take me away from my guy…”  The number perfectly depicted the charm and devotion that exists between little girls and their daddies.

Letting Go was the song that some of the older girls danced to with their mothers.  “She’s had 18 years to get ready for this day.  She should be past the tears, but she’s got some anyway.  There’s room enough to fly…letting go.”

The graduating seniors danced with their fathers to I Will Always Love You.  The song described precisely what these girls were feeling as they were about to promenade their way into the next phase of their lives, a phase in which independence would detach these  dancers from their fathers.  

As for Crystal, she twisted, pranced, smiled and danced just as she had rehearsed.  Any fear she had o being on stage was overcome by the simple thrill of performing; of being a part of it all; of setting out to do something and then doing it well,  She was radiant with the pleasure of the experience. 

 It was clearly worth the money invested in dance lessons and costumes.  Not because her performance was so prominent that she stood out above the rest.  Neither was it because she was destined to grade the stage with the London Ballet.

That night, just for a moment, Crystal knew what it was like to be good at something, and was appreciated for it.  She knew what it felt like to do your best.  It is a feeling that is rare in life, and when it strikes, it is priceless.

If I had the power, I would have frozen that moment in time so she could carry it with her always.  One day in the not-so-distant future, she may discover that many people spend a lifetime in a continuous search for that level of pride.

 Whatever Crystal ends up doing in life, I want her to bring with her the confidence that she felt on that night.  Whether it be dancing, singing, teaching, managing, or becoming a wife and mother, I want her to know what it feels like to shine.  My hope is that she can go to bed each night knowing that she did her best.

But for now, I just want her to believe that anything is possible, and dreams do come true.  

So dance, ballerina, dance!

(Grimes, of Antioch, is a dispatcher for the Metro Police Department.)

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