By Shen Wang ||Contributing Writer

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Driven by a desire for me to follow in her footsteps, my mother always dreamed of me being a dancer. The day I lost my first tooth—a sign that bones are strong enough to begin dancing—was the first day I walked into the dance room. Not inspired by a story in a movie, I chose to dance, simply pushed by my mother.

Facing the task of mastering the age-long movements of traditional Chinese dance, I struggled at first. I still remember the early years of this practice vividly, my teacher often talking privately with my mother after class. Although I could not hear what they said, I could sense it was a criticism of my talent on dance, as a forced smile on my mother’s face showed. My heart ached, young though I was. There was a strong impulse that made me want to prove that I could dance well. In eight years, I perseveringly locked myself in the dance studio and started repeating the same arm movement or circle over and over, sweating heavily on the floor. I lacked rhythm, so I practiced the piano for two straight years to prove that I could teach myself musical timing. I was weak in control, so I have practiced to handstand, pirouette, and cartwheel for four years just to complete all the tricks perfectly. Around my 10 grade, I had even won national traditional dance competitions, heard thunderous applause, and spotted my mother with emotional tears and genuine smiles.

But I was more confused inside. Although audiences spoke highly of my dancing skills, I felt my dance lacked a soul or a spirit because I was dancing less from what I really love. I had been practicing the nuances of classical dance for so many years, simply eager to prove myself to others, circumscribed myself in a frame, and washed away all the unique characteristics my dance used to have. I gradually found out that I was experiencing what is called “pao fan” in Chinese; it literally means your style has run away. After realizing this, I start to reflect on the meaning of dancing for me and pursue the actual enthusiasm and joy in dance.

In the year I searched for an answer, suddenly, Isadora Duncan came into my life. I was “shocked” by her La Marseillaise: she dressed in a gown, barefoot, moving like the seas churning. She transcends the traditions to show the beauty of freedom unexpectedly. I subconsciously imitated her to start dancing. I felt love for life from her moves and lights in her eyes. Written in water, I caught that the soul of dance should come from my own spirit, and every movement was born from my heart, instead of the applause of audiences. I realized through dance how to express the beauty of life, apart from perfect skills. A huge power from my heart drove me to be avant-garde like her, abandon shackles on my heart and body, and mature emotionally and spiritually.

I never understood until that moment. I used to prove myself to people around, and prove my mom’s choice is correct. My dance is just to get the audience’s approval, not to dance out of the beauty I want to show. But from that time on, I started dancing for myself. 

When I rekindled my love for dance, I broke my knees. I fell from the stage when I was performing in Edinburgh. The doctor once said, “Without the accident, you can never go back to the stage again.” My dream seemed to be broken completely at that moment. Even if I can walk or even run later, my former dance group never want me anymore. With despair, I went to college. I saw the audition of the dance company in Gmail. I clearly knew that this was my chance. Fortunately, I succeeded.

I have always been running on the road of self discovery and pursuing dreams through the ups and downs. I am always full of power as long as I am seeking something I love inside.

In November, our dance company will have a Fall Dance Concert, all are welcome to see it!

First-year Shen Wang is a Contributing Writer. Her email is