Article by D’Asya Nelson | Photography by Bre Mascetti

“Next up, D’Asya Nelson!” announces my principal, Ms. Greer.

My name echoes throughout the auditorium followed by the crowd’s loud applause. I walk on stage, gazing into the crowd as I wait for the music to begin.

“Get Up” by Ciara bumps through the speaker and I begin to perform the routine I had been rehearsing. I can feel the adrenaline rushing through my body; my heart is pounding as I listen to the roar of the audience cheering for me.

“Dancing was my outlet; as soon as I would perform, all of those feelings would disappear. It took me to a safe place where I was able to be myself.”

When I think of a dancer, I imagine someone who is outgoing and confident. However, I am the complete opposite. Typically, I am shy with little confidence.

Growing up, I had a terrible attitude and uncontrollable anger. I would shut people out when I was frustrated. That all started to change when I began dancing. I channeled all of the negative emotions into my performances.

Dancing was my outlet; as soon as I would perform, all of those feelings would disappear. It took me to a safe place where I was able to be myself.

I can express myself through dance far better than I can with words. As soon as I hear music, my body begins to move. I’m not the only one who feels like this; according to TIME magazine, dance bas been recommended by therapists to help those who struggle with social anxiety.

Originally, I was a self ­taught dancer; everything just came naturally. In elementary school, I began to take tap dancing lessons. I quickly learned the steps and enjoyed adding my own flare to the dance moves.

In high school, I joined the dance program, and I was able to explore more genres. We focused on ballet and jazz. I decided to audition for Edgewood’s Dance Company Team, where I was able to expand my horizons. We focused on hip-hop, musical theatre, modern, contemporary and lyrical dancing styles.

After graduation, I attended a university and joined their hip­-hop dance team. Being a member of a college dance team changed the way I felt about dancing; everything became a competition between who was the best dancer or which team was the best. It was no longer fun and I started to question my abilities.

After a semester with the dance team, I reached out to my friend, Dev’nay Kess, who creates dance videos on lnstagram and YouTube. Together, we have created original choreography for multiple performances and videos. I had to step out of my comfort zone, but I felt free. We were focused on one thing: doing what we loved.

Using my body to tell stories to the audience has helped me grow as an individual. Through dance, I have blossomed into a confident and thoughtful person.

Learning how to perform all genres of dance and having to memorize choreography is challenging but beneficial. I have grown so much since my first solo performance. Dancing on that stage did something to my spirt. The memory is as clear to me as a lucid dream; I remember it as if I had awoken from a restful night’s sleep.

As I begin to wrap up my performance, excitement flows through my body. I hear the music coming to an end and l hit my final pose. The crowd is clapping and filled with joy. In that moment, I realize that dance is my life, and when I dance, everything in the world makes sense.

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