We become who we are because of the passions we hold and the people who believe (and sometimes those who don't believe) in those passions.  Those people help ignite the spark that takes your passions from a flame to a fire, and they push you to become greater than you had ever been before. 

Dance is my passion.  I have always had a rhythm inside of me; and dance, especially tap dance, allowed it to flow from me with force.  Much of this love and passion can be attributed to my tap teacher, Justin, and his wife, Tara.  Justin taught me for four years, pushing me and challenging me and never letting me give up. 

And when the time came for Justin and Tara to move and for my studio to close, Justin pushed me once more to do something bigger than I had thought to do.  He told me to teach, to take over where he was leaving off.  Needless to say, that freaked me out.  I mean, I was a student. I had always believed I would be a terrible teacher and was just overall terrified to step into a new role.  

Justin and Tara, the best dance teachers ever

Nevertheless, two weeks later, I started my own tap-specialized studio called Tappin' Town.  I had eight students, three classes, a dance floor in my sister's art studio, and a pair of tap shoes.  I started teaching Justin's old choreography while working my way into being comfortable in my own artistry.  Then in December, I taught the first section of a dance that would end up becoming the symbol of my success.

We signed up for a competition in April.  I choreographed two of the pieces we were bringing: our group dance, Cups (When I'm Gone) and my solo, Get Out.  Between January and April, I spent over two hundred hours on the dance floor, teaching classes, making up choreography, and sending it all back to Justin for his input and advice.  He and Tara poured support and encouragement into me, and my imagination soared.  When April came around, we were ready.  

We showed up at the competition carrying copious amounts of costumes, makeup, and an undeniable excitement.  We crammed into our place backstage and let the moms fuss over our makeup and hair.  

Cups would go up first.  We stood in a circle backstage, held hands, and prayed over our performance.  Then it was time.  I remember standing on the stage, waiting--and then a rush of movement, a big smile on my face, lights in my eyes, having the time of my life.  And then stillness and applause.  It was wonderful.

I waited nervously in the wings for it to be time for my solo.  I ran through it in my head, making sure I knew it by heart; and then I was waved on stage.  I let a smile make its way across my face, waited for the music to start, and then—I flew.  I felt the energy flowing through me, and then . . . I forgot everything.  Every step I ever choreographed. 

Every. Single. Thing. 

I just kept moving until I could find my place again.  I could feel my smile like it was physically pasted on my face.  I fell off my choreography again and improvised my way to my finale.  As soon as I was in the wings again, I felt tears come to my eyes and momentarily thought I was going to hyperventilate. (I did not.)  When I explained what happened to my mom, she said, "You messed up?  You're kidding right?  I didn't even notice!" 

I was shocked and relieved.  Maybe, just maybe, if she didn't notice, the judges didn't either.  

Then it was time to announce the awards.  My solo was given a High Gold, only two points away from the highest score of Platinum.  The only note the judges gave me was to relax my face.  I improvised one-third of my dance, and they didn't even notice!  All I could do was thank God I had spent the whole year getting comfortable in what I could do.

Cups was also given a High Gold, and then it was given an award I had never expected: The Choreography Award.  If you aren't in the dance world, a choreography award is huge.  Our High Golds were scored on our performances alone, not rated against anyone else's.  This award, on the other hand, could have gone to anyone; and they gave it to me--for the first dance I ever choreographed.  It was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.