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Why and How I Became a Dancer

The story of how Jennifer became a dancer and discovered her passion for the performing arts. Filed under Performing Arts.

Ballroom dancing
Ballroom dancing

Most people start their story with, "ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be…" well, all I wanted to do was dance, not to be a professional dancer; I just wanted to know how to dance and do it well. You see, I was born in Ecuador, and my mother's side of the family was always dancing, and I wanted to dance like them. They were always so happy - dancing seemed to make them even happier.

It seemed like dancing just fixed all the problems and made the hard times a bit easier.

There was no shortage of parties, and we celebrated everything; we just needed an excuse to dance. As I got older, I started taking dance lessons at school, these were not professional dance lessons, but it was all I could have at the time. Becoming a dancer was not something that was going to provide a promising future. My mother always told me I had to study and get a great job, become a professional; she made us hard workers.

My parents never tried to stop us from developing our artistic side. One of my aunts went to school to become an artist.

I guess I never really asked my parents to let me take dance lessons. With me, the situation was and still is that my artistic side is constantly debating with my intellectual side. I was the best student in my class, highest marks, but at the same time, I won the singing and drawing competition every year and was part of the dance troop.

One day when I was in grade four, this new teacher arrived; she was very tiny and thin, who knew she would be the one to teach me so much about dancing. Miss Romero was friendly and very well put together, elegant and pretty. She was assigned to be our teacher. We were all so excited, especially the dance troop, because we already knew she was a professional dancer. It was a dream come true, and we were finally going to have someone that could teach us actual dancing. With her help, we became so much better, as good as we could get as a group. Not everyone is born to be a professional dancer. It was then that I discovered how much I wanted to be a dancer. I wanted to dance so the world could see me, I liked being in front of an audience, and it was not just for dancing. I wanted to learn more dances, not just the classics; I wanted to dance to every type of music. One of my cousins was a great Salsa dancer, so he taught me how to dance Salsa and many other Latin dances when I was eleven. Salsa will always be my favourite.

In Ecuador, elementary school ends in grade 6, which meant I left Miss Romero and went to a brand new school. I had to decide what sports I was going to be playing for my physical education credit. I was hoping they had dance classes, which they did but not the kind I was used to. I decided to take it so I could learn something new. One of the teachers was a retired Ballet dancer, and she was not very nice. I was 12 years old and standing by a wall, with my leotard on, and this woman came up to me and told me to turn around. She grabbed me by the shoulder, and she said, "Your ass is too big; you can never dance Ballet". I looked at her and said, it is not like I ever wanted to do it anyways and walked out of the class. This body-shaming incident is something that many girls who dream of being dancers go through, and many are not strong enough and are scarred for life.

Female gymnast on balance beam
Female gymnast on balance beam

I had to get my P.E. credit; I could not just sit there. I started walking, and I happened to pass by the gym. There was the gymnastics team practising, the instructor invited me to watch, and by the end of the class, I had decided that I would do gymnastics. It was the closest thing to dancing I was going to get. Gymnastics was fantastic, I made so many friends, and I really enjoyed it. By the second year of High School, I had already become a member of the national team. During an exhibition, I was doing my beam routine, someone decided to take a picture, the flash blinded me, and I missed the beam entirely. I was injured, and I was not able to continue with gymnastics.

The following year my parents moved us to Canada. I was not to return to dancing until I was 23. Well, not real dancing anyways.

Couple salsa dancing
Salsa Dancing

I was in college at the time, and a friend asked me if I liked to dance, to which I said yes, and he said that they had just opened a new Latin club. The place was almost empty when we arrived, so we decided to take advantage of the empty dance floor. After just one dance, this woman came up to us and asked if I wanted to be in a music video, gave me her card and asked me to come for the audition. I went, but it was not something I wanted to do. I went with my brother, sister and sister's best friend, who was also a dancer. This made me realize that I was a good dancer and maybe I should give professional dancing a try. I was looking for dance studios in the area when I ran into an ad that a dance studio was looking for dance instructors, specifically Latin dancing. I decided to give it a try. What better way to get back to dancing. It was here that I would learn about Ballroom dancing. I instantly fell in love with it. It was everything I ever wanted to do. I did this for a few years, but competitive dancing was not my thing, and that is where most of the money was.

To me, dancing is a form of expression, a feeling, something that comes from my soul. I decided to stop dancing when I became a mother.

I traded one love for another and, to me, an even better one. This is not the same for everyone. My children are my life, and that feeling I used to get when I was dancing in front of an audience, that feeling of fulfilment, I still get it every time I see my boys. Dancing is still a part of me, and I dance every chance I get. I can still close my eyes, remember one of my performances, and feel like I am still there. I do not cry; I do not get sad; I feel happy that I got to experience it. Something that many dancers never get to do.

Jennifer P. Rodriguez

Co-owner and Director of After 9 Studios

Direct Line: 289-500-9331

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