For as long as I can remember, dance has been a part of my life. My parents are both musically inclined, so naturally there was always music playing in my house. Even when I was very small, I was always moving to that music—or maybe it was moving me. 

When I was five and a half, my parents decided it was time to find me some different, better-equipped walls to bounce off—maybe in a place where my exuberance wouldn’t lead to broken glass—and signed me up for dance classes at a local studio. So began my now 14 year-old love affair with dance.

At the studio, it became clear to my instructors very quickly that I was not going to tolerate any horseplay. After a brief stint in some kind of “dance for five-year-olds” class, I moved into a class of all boys. Though I loved (and still love) moving fast and big—something that we did a lot of in this class—I wanted no part in any of the goofing-off that my fellow seven-year-old boy dancer friends were so fond of. My instructors moved me out of that class, and into a more traditional ballet class, comprised of mostly girls. I never looked back.

Through high school, I was a ballet dancer. As I grew up, those elementary school kids in that first ballet class became some of my better friends. We spent hundreds of hours together, during rehearsals and classes that ranged from feeling excruciatingly long to blink-and-you’ve-missed-it short, I’m pretty sure that in my junior and senior years of high school I spent more time with these people than anyone else (including my family). Together we learned to trust each other, take risks together and perform together. Our relationships extended beyond the studio, so when it came time to leave after graduation, it’s no wonder we were all crying.

After I graduated, I couldn’t really imagine dancing with different people. I knew so much about the dancers I grew up with. I knew how they moved, their tendencies, where they needed support in partnering, where they were strong, which way they usually fell while turning. Knowing this information helped us to work together as a team, and helped me to improve as an individual. 

I was so used to this intimate level of knowledge that finding a new group of people to dance with seemed intensely daunting. I knew it could never be the same. 

My graduating class’s final performance together, our individual farewell solos and our subsequent goodbyes to the teachers who had played such a huge part in our lives, had a note of beautiful, bittersweet finality, and I didn’t quite feel comfortable messing with that. To be entirely honest, I wasn’t sure if I would dance again.

I didn’t dance the summer after high school. When I arrived at Bowdoin, I explored the idea of joining a dance club but never actually got involved. They weren’t really doing what I was interested in, and I honestly wasn’t committed enough to dance to invest the time. 

I tried other things, kept somewhat active and thought I was doing fine. So imagine my surprise when I discovered I had a space in my schedule spring semester and the thought of taking dance again filled me with overwhelming joy—so began the next phase of my life as a dancer.

My dance experience at Bowdoin has been very different from my time in high school. Back then, the work I was doing focused mostly on performance. I did very little choreography, and though I found creative expression through the steps that others choreographed for me, I had little influence over what I did. Here, I am beginning to explore my ability to create.

Even in the intense academic environment that Bowdoin fosters, the hardest thing I do here is choreography. The amount of insecurity and self-questioning that goes into making performance art is ridiculous—sometimes I wonder why I even bother. I want to make things that look good, but I don’t want to pander to my audience. I want to make things that I like to do, but I want to reach people as well.

But what do I struggle with the most? Believing that the work I do deserves to exist. The dance world is filled with incredible work, and to believe that I have a shot at making something that has a place there is not easy. It takes a kind of arrogance to honestly think that your art is meaningful and important, yet it takes intense self-criticism and reflection to make anything good. 

Artists of other mediums understand, I’m sure, but my dance is made even more vulnerable by the fact that right now I am choreographing for myself. I have to literally stand and answer for my work every time it is shown. There is no hiding.

I don’t know how dance fits into my future, but I know that I am not satisfied. The thought that I may have walked away from dance after high school is now horrifying. There is something deeply meaningful in movement, and I do not feel I have come close enough to figuring out what that is for me to stop. 

As the end of college approaches, I, like any artist, am encountering more and more pressure to set myself up for a career—something I always assumed would not involve dance. But now I’m not so sure. When I first walked into a dance studio, something happened, and it’s still happening today. I don’t know if I will ever really be able to stop.