Growing up, we were never the kids that got to go to the concerts or big events that we saw on TV, heard on the radio, and our friends were going to. Back then, nothing came south of Houston, and that was just too much for us to try to do. I never really regretted it or anything, but I kinda wrote off in my head that things like that were impossible.
Well, last night the impossible happened.
If you know me, you know I’m
mildly obsessed with So You Think You Can Dance. I’ve always like it, but this season in particular was one that I followed closely; making notes throughout auditions on who I thought would go far, claiming favorites early on, watching those favorites make it into the top 4, and my other favorites past the top 10. I wanted so badly to go to the US Tour the top 10 does, but the Houston show was the same day as Bailando, and I knew I couldn’t miss that. They had a show in San Antonio, but it was on a Monday. It didn’t seem feasible to go and drive back the same night so I could make it to work on Tuesday, especially since I am notorious for falling asleep with my eyes open. Yeah, that’s not a good mix for driving.
I had a viewing party with two of my dance friends for the two-part finale. (Mainly because Directv doesn’t get Fox, and I really wanted to see this live, so, I mean, Andie wasn’t sad.) The first Wednesday night, another dance friend was texting me over how amazing the dances were. She told me that they were going to see the tour in San Antonio and how excited she was about it. At first I was overwhelmed with jealousy. This was something I wanted so much I couldn’t explain it. There’s something about dance that touches parts of the soul nothing else can touch. It connects people in ways like nothing else. This season was so special to me, and I really wanted to see it full through, I wanted to see it live. I half-jokingly told Natalia she should tell her mom to take me with them, to which she responded, “I can ask her!”
And she did.
And her mom was totally okay with it.
So I asked where her tickets were, and looked up one in the same vicinity. The app automatically picked the best seat unless you told it otherwise, so I just went with it. I was shaking at the fact that this was happening and couldn’t form thought process to try and think through anything, but I mean it would tell me, right? So I bought the ticket, freaked out, and just hoped this wouldn’t blow up in my face like most things do. All too often I’ll get my hopes up for something, just to have it shot down by one thing or another; but this, this looked hopeful. When I got home, I opened up my laptop and looked up the seating of the Majestic Theater to see where my seats were.
Turns out OR RGT C10 meant the freakin’ second row on the right side.
The second row.
There’s no way!
Surely, there will be a boom camera or something blocking my view. There’s no way it was this easy. Maybe a pillar or something. There has to be some reason this ticket was there. After all, it was the only non-VIP seat in the row.
For being one all about documenting the journey, I sure have a way about keeping silent about how I really feel up until it happens and I know it’s sure. Thoughts to ponder there…
So anyway, Natalia and I are counting down the days, and when Monday finally arrives I’m nervous-excited at work all day. I met her at her house at 4:45 and we headed off for San Antonio.
Natalia and I are at different studios, now that Instep has closed, so it was really good to get to have the drive to spend time with her. Man, I miss my dance friends so much!
We get to San Antonio, and the Majestic is downtown leading us to have to wind our way around one way streets to try and find a parking garage that isn’t full. In doing so, we drive past a bunch of buses and semi-trucks. As we wait for traffic to move, we see Rudy among a bunch of Tech people.
Natalia is beside herself, but we refrain from jumping out and instead just go to find parking and head inside. We bought shirts and programs and just stood in awe of how beautiful this venue is. We tried to soak in every moment of this entire night, and let me tell you, there was so much to soak in.
The little sounders to let you know the show is about to begin start tinkling so we make our way to our seats. When I asked the usher where to go, he told me, “Down this Aisle, look for row C on the right.”
So I did.
And as I got halfway down I realized I was just at row Q, and row C is like, way farther.
So I looked up.
No boom camera.
The only thing “in my way” was a lone cable from the stage that didn’t matter 99.8% of the time.
How is this really happening?
I get to my row, and the rest of the seats are filled with two excited little girls and their Grandmother, with a seat open for their Mother as well. We greeted like old friends, and the oldest proudly told me, “I’m gonna be on So You Think You Can Dance when I turn eighteen!”
“Well that’s amazing! What’s your name, so I know to look for you?”
“Alright Maddie, I’m gonna be rooting for you the whole time! How many years do I have to wait until it’s your turn?”
“Eight, no…Seven years!”
“I’m looking forward to it!”
The younger sister piped up that she would also audition when she turned 18 and we all high-fived. The Grandmother told me that watching the show had become their girls night, and that they were surprised to see that tickets were still available when they bought theirs. By this time, the Mother had returned, and they said they thought they had balcony seats! We were all on cloud 9 the whole show. I couldn’t have asked for better seat mates!
I felt like I was watching dear friends up on that stage. From where I was sitting, you could see them in the wings before the show. They were so excited, and tired, and pumped, and just happy to be living life this way.
From start to finish, I was blown away.
I don’t think I said much more than, “Wow!” the entire night. (honorable mentions were, “I love this one!” “How are they even real?” “What is life?” and “OH MY GOSH HER FEET.”)
I also found it mildly amusing that my seat was right below the point they spotted their corner. There were even times when the lights were dim that one of the dancer’s eyes met mine, and you know it wasn’t just them staring into the void. Their face changed for a second at the realization that there were real people out there and we all felt something together and this is what dance is all about.
When the show ended, my new friends and I were talking about how great it was. I mean, anyone can say a show is great, but this one literally took everyone’s breath away.
“I feel like they took us to another level. This was other worldly.”
I agree, Grandmother. I agree.
And that’s what I love about dance.
It makes you as a dancer feel alive, which in turn makes the audience feel like there is something more to this life.
There were moments where I would look at the audience, and see what their reaction was. All the faces lit by the glow of the stage lights, captivated by what was before them; art at its finest.
I could hear the dancers breathe from where I sat, which is the sign of a good dancer. To lose yourself in it so much that the timing of your breath matches the movement not only helps you as you dance, but just emotes so much more and takes your dancing to another level. (Zach and Emilio were really good about this. Some of the girls, too.)
I loved that I was close enough to see the humanity of the dancers; the hair pins flying out during their pirouette’s, the glitter shaking off Tanisha’s silver sparkle costume, their freckles, bruises from countless rehearsals and performances, even cellulite. Now, granted, not on everyone. But, honestly, seeing that a top 10 dancer on my favorite dance show ever had cellulite too, and was built like I was, but was still regarded as beautiful and sexy and talented; it did so much for my confidence.
I try to remind myself of how I feel when I would see someone at a recital or in a picture or whatever that was shaped more like me; how it made me feel empowered. And how instead of beating myself up about how genetics shaped me, I wanted to try and face all the voices in my head with dynamics and try not to pick myself apart to much because there’s probably a little girl out there shaped the same way who feels “If she can do it, so can I.” And if there’s just one little girl that feels empowered, it’s more than worth it.
These are real people; normal people. They came from their normal lives, headed to an audition with a dream, and ended up here, doing what they love for thousands of people.
It’s amazing what can happen in a year.
And the fact that they’re real people just doing what they love is what makes me not only love them, but respect them. They are normal people, and they inspire other normal people. And this is what I hope to be like.
And I had this worded perfectly in my head at 4:30 this morning as I fell asleep, so bare with me because I’m struggling to remember how it went now.
I know that they already saw 5 other cities worth of people, and that they have tons more ahead. I know that in the city I was attended, I was only one person out of a hundred. But for that moment, for that minute, they looked at me, they spoke to me, they cared about me. They made everything I felt this entire season of dances more real than I could have ever hoped. They connected with me, and I felt like I could do anything. That my point on this earth will be a good one, that I’ll accomplish everything I need to, that I can be that person to someone one day.
I’m going to change the world, I know I am.
And it’s not because I’m any better than anyone else; it’s because I’m not.
Real people need real people to show them it’s okay to be real.
I want to be that person.
And I may not have a huge platform for inspiring, but that’s okay. My life is a platform. And while it’s really nice to know thousands of people love you, it’ll be empty until you can appreciate when it’s just one person. If one person isn’t worth it, than who are you really? Why are you doing what you do? For what cause?
To me, it’s worth the one. It’s worth the people in my little world; because to them, it’s not so little.
And that’s what keeps me going. That’s what inspires me. That’s what makes life worth living.
This life is about people.
Oh yeah! We totally happened upon the meet and greet by the fact that God loves us and was like, “here ya go!” hah.
We were walking to the parking garage and were trying to find stairs that weren’t congested. In doing so, we ended up on the side of the building we saw the buses.
And there was a group of people.
So we checked it out.
And this lady comes up behind us and says they always come out and talk to the fans that wait out there.
So we waited.
And HOLY CRAP, HOW DID THIS ACTUALLY HAPPEN?
So, here is a recap of my sometimes awkward conversations with these amazing people I got to meet.
When they set up the barricade thing, they asked some of us to fill in the back. Most people were hesitant, but I jumped on it, since it was at the very end. This would either be a great idea, or a horrible one.
Turns out, the cast came out of the other door than where people started lining up.
Ya know, the door I was right next to.
Rudy was the first to come out. I think I was so in shock that this was actually happening, I forgot to get a picture with him. But I did creeper-shot him. The girl next to me told him he smelled good, to which he mentioned they got to shower, to which I said, “Thank you for that.”
That’s right, I thanked him for showering.
Emilee Awkward at it’s finest.
They spread the cast out throughout the line, having some start at our end, and some at the opposite. all the while, the other members were ninjas in getting the the bus to drop off their stuff without being detected.
Next was Teddy, who was one of the ones who caught an obvious eye contact, as he smiled for my camera, which was the only one visible in our section at that time.
He wasn’t top 10, so I asked him to draw himself on the front.
“I’m doing a body roll, because it’s my favorite dance move.”
Then Zack came by.
At this point, it’s starting to sink in. He was one of my favorites from auditions, so I was slightly freaking out at the fact he was in front of me. I know we spoke, but I don’t remember about what. He was really nice.
Next, Marquette came through, which from the beginning I swore I knew him from somewhere. So much so, that I actually googled him. Still haven’t figured out why he seems so familiar. When he was talking to the girls next to me (Who were FREAKING OUT, it was adorable) one of them said, “I’m under so much pressure!” to which Marquette and I both sang, “Under Pressure!” at the exact same time. It was quite the moment. We fist bumped. He also drew himself 🙂
Next was Ricky, who was rocking Harry Potter glasses and shorter than I expected. (Which is the sign of a good dancer, fun fact.) He came to me first and was insanely kind. Just happy to be there and hilarious. A friend I made in the line was really excited to meet him, so I don’t remember exactly what we said because I wanted to make sure he didn’t miss out on seeing him.
Tanisha was the first of the girls I got to meet. And let me tell you, she is a gem. I was blown away during the show by how well rounded she really is. They put her in many of the roles that were originally danced by Allstars during the show, and she slaughtered it!
She was rather concerned for the girls next to me that were freaking out. One of them was so in shock she could speak. When she apologized for crying, Tanisha said, “I cry all the time, crying is the most real emotion.” This is something that will stay with me. I told her how amazing it was to see her take on those allstar roles and how she rocked it out there and was like the unspoken force that just came in and blew everyone away. We talked about the drive to Missouri, and how I’m driving to Kansas tomorrow, and she was just so kind. The other half of my friends I made in line got a really hilarious picture of her, too. It was great. She was great. A quality individual, for sure. When she signed Anne’s (the girl who was freaking out) program, she made a comment of how Marquette always signs by her face. I said, “It’s Marqnisha!” Then was all, “wait, what?” And she kinda looked at me, like, “Wait, what?” And I said, “I dunno, I was trying to put your names together. Marqnisha, Tanquette? No, definitely Marqnisha.” She said, “Oh that’s great, I’m gonna pass that one along!”
Valerie was the one I most looked forward to seeing, since she was my favorite from the beginning, and just so real. That’s what struck me about her. Real people are the best people. Before she got to me, everyone else was freaking out and she would say, “Guys, I’m normal! I’m just a normal person!” and when she got to me, I told her, “I think that’s what makes you so great, you’re a normal person. Thank you for that. Thank you for being who you are.” She was so kind, and hilarious, and sweet. I didn’t pass out or say anything embarrassing, so miracles happen, guys.
Next came Jessica, who I was also really excited to see and was the favorite of the 2nd half of my line buddies. She was also very genuine and kind and real. So refreshing. I told her I loved the songs she danced for her solos, and she told me, “You know what’s crazy is I didn’t even pick “All About That Bass.” I told her I loved that her songs were always encouraging songs, and that it really hit me when she danced to the Beyonce song, “I was here.” It really made a statement. She said, “Girl, I could dance to Beyonce all day!” To which I said, “Man, me too!” She was really warm and kind. Such a gem to meet.
I’ll be honest, I had a hard time telling the difference between Carly and Bridget. This happened all season and as soon as I thought I got it down, I’d mix em up. So I was probably most awkward with her. But man, she handles awkwardness like a champ. She was so kind, strikingly so. (Ps. It’s Bridget.)
Next was Casey. Literally, he came over to me and enveloped me in a giant hug. (The only one to do this. They hugged other people, but I tried to keep my cool and not be a fangirl
HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA because I am. But he didn’t care. He wrapped his arms around me like we were old friends, and I just said, “How are you real?” He was really nice and funny and seriously, his face seems like it’s photoshopped. And his hair. How the heck is that real? I dunno. But he was really cool and kind and funny. (growing trend here? whatever.) It was great.
Okay, I was really excited about meeting Jacque, too. She is a ballerina so I automatically connected to her at auditions. I loved what Nigel had to say about her at auditions and his reverence for the art of ballet. (Not to mention, her solo was AMAZING.) She also reminds me of my friend Rachael, who is the one who inspired me to dance and believed in me when I was too insecure to think it possible. She is seriously the sweetest person ever, and her faces on stage are dynamic. Her technique was spot on and her grace overflowed. Truly an inspiration to meet her.
Insert fangirling here.
Last, but definitely not least, was Emily. (Ps. My duo line buddies waited for me to get the picture for me. And Emily almost missed us! But she was super kind and turned back around.) The first thing out of my mouth, “OH MY GOSH, YOUR FEET.” To which she responded, “Oh my gosh, thank you!” Which only dancers could have conversations like that. She was great. I told her how glad I was to hear she was coming on tour, because she was one of my favorites. I thanked her for taking her time out to meet us, to which she was all, “Oh of course!” and happy, ya know? It was so wonderful. I had her draw herself as well. She said, “Oh, I be Marquette started this, huh?” And I told her, “Actually, Teddy did! With his belly roll.” so then she was like, “Oh, it’s on.” And she drew herself with a sweet bun and earrings that looked like hair but we knew it was earrings. It was great.
The only people we didn’t get to meet were Carly and Emilio. Emily said that Carly wasn’t feeling well (which is amazing, because she danced impeccably well. But her ankle was wrapped, so I’m sure that was hurting her.) and Emilio was having dinner with his family. Because, ya know, he’s from Houston (:D) So that was okay.
All throughout the makeshift meet and greet, I would have moments of realization of “Oh my gosh, this is happening. Right now. It’s still happening.” And would freak out at “How the heck does this happen? This never happens to me. Ever.” And I was so grateful for the lady and her daughter who told us they always do the meet and greets if you know where to go and they take time out to meet everyone and take pictures. And I was even more grateful to Natalia’s mom for letting us stay, even though it meant getting back to Corpus at 3:07am.
Best night of my life. Seriously.
Words can’t describe what all that evening meant to me.
It felt so real. I felt so alive. It made me want to dance even more, and mad that my ankle is still messed up and I have work, but then happy that I’m alive and have the little life I do.
And I doubt any of them will remember me, (except maybe Tanisha. Ya know, Marqnisha.) But that’s okay. Because for that moment, they knew who I was. They may not have known my name, but they heard my stories and held conversation. Those are the moments that you know will stay with them as a whole, and stay with you. And that’s a beautiful thing.
I’m on cloud 9.
Edit: Upon re-reading this, I must apologize for the umpteen million typos laced throughout. I was clearly excited and wasn’t proof-reading. Oops.
Started ballet late October of 2011 at the age of 23.
Began pointe training late August of 2013.