A day in the life of a student dancer

Talia Winiarsky, Staff Writer

Skilled student dancers turn, jump, and leap through each day. Dance is an activity that, when pursued on a serious level, requires a significant time commitment, which can be challenging to balance with the rigors of school and other activities.

Student dancers practice their passion during the school day by participating in dance physical education (PE), followed by dance after school at dance studios.

Although Nisha Sahgal (12) is eligible to sign a sports contract to be exempt from PE, she opts to take dance PE, she said. “It’s a welcoming community that I don’t want to miss out on,” Sahgal said.

After a long day of school, Ella Franco (9) looks forward to dance each day as a method of relieving stress, she said.

“Dance is a way to express myself,” Franco said. Avery Lin (9), who has been dancing since she was a toddler, agrees, adding that dance is a part of her identity. “Dance is the perfect balance between an art form and a sport,” Lin said.

Most weekdays, Lauren Song (9) attends dance practice, which may consist of ballet, theatre, modern, jazz, contemporary, and ballroom genres. Song also participates in competitions, she said. “When I perform, I feel as if I have accomplished something,” Song said.         

Balancing school and dance is manageable, because Lin is able to apply the discipline that she learns from her ballet class to her schoolwork, she said. Song always completes her assignments in advance in case her schedule changes, she said.

“Knowing that dance is in your life is very important because for all of your life, that’s all you want to be doing,” Sahgal said.

Sahgal conditions and builds core strength and stamina for long competition days. Dancing requires mental strength, Sahgal said. “When you are tired or stressed, you still need to dance full out,” she said.   

This also puts dancers at risk for injury. Yana Gitelman (10) has pulled several muscles, as well as developed Osgood-Schlatter’s disease, due to the pressure of turing out her legs, which is a repetitive-use injury that causes a painful lump below the kneecap.

Gitelman enjoys dancing recreationally despite her injuries, she said. “I’m stronger in lot of ways, physically and mentally,” she said.

Mikayla Benson (10) has also been injured, tearing cartilage in both of her knees, which causes her pain during daily activities, such as walking up the stairs, she said.

However,  dancing has increased her bodily strength and intellectual capacity to learn quickly, Benson said.

Not only is dance physically challenging, it is mentally demanding as well. Allison DeRose (12) has sacrificed sleep for dance, she said. During the school week, practices run late, and competitions on the weekend can last through midnight, DeRose said.

DeRose has also suffered sprained ankles, cut feet, torn ligaments and tendons, in addition to constant soreness. When a dancer suffers an injury and must take time off, it can lead to setbacks in progress, she said.

Although dancing has its risks, DeRose enjoys dancing because she gets to spend time with her friends doing a hobby she loves, while getting a workout. “I can’t imagine my life without dance,” she said.