I’ll never forget the first time I watched professional gymnasts live. I was 12 and for my birthday, my family drove to Portland, Maine to watch the US team perform. It meant I got to see Dominique Dawes, Shannon Miller, Amy Chow and the very young and talented Dominique Moceanu, all of whom were my idols at the time. I was ecstatic. I loved gymnastics, and I practised on my mat and foam balance beam at home every day that I wasn’t training in a class.
On another birthday, my mother drove me all the way to Boston to watch a modern dance production. It was spectacular. I was in awe of the strength and flexibility of the performers. The control they had over their bodies and the will to try new and daring moves that I had never imagined in my wildest dreams to exist, let alone be possible to successfully do, was just incredible.
I remember I was on the edge of my seat, so full of emotion. Both experiences left me feeling inspired and overwhelmed by what hard work and dedication could produce.
This past weekend, I took my mentee to a show at the Baxter Theatre. It was a surprise. I got permission from the home the week before, and I asked them to tell my mentee to dress for the movies. Luckily, she likes surprises and was giddy when I got to the front door of the home. “Where are we going?” she asked again and again in the car. “You’ll see,” I said.
We went to watch Burn the Floor: Fire in the Ballroom, an international ballroom dancing show that has inspired reality TV show competitions like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance and happens to be on in Cape Town – if you get the chance, go and see it!
As soon as the production began, I got that same feeling I had when I was younger seeing something that stimulated a part of me I didn’t know needed stimulating – dance, theatre, expression, innovation, creativity, strength – I loved it. And I could see my mentee did too. I watched as she sat on the edge of her seat, unable to contain her excitement. While it was a matinee, and we weren’t part of a very lively audience, it didn’t stop us from expressing our enjoyment openly – it was an interactive show after all, and the stage encouraged a response. There were at least four South Africans in the performance, and for me, that’s what I wanted her to see – that anyone can make their dreams come true, that she has control of her life and to just feel inspired by what she saw. In the end, she got a photo with some of the dancers, and I got to see a little bit of me in her.
Thanks for reading,