In my high school, Fordham HS for the Arts, students perform many concerts, musicals, and dance recitals for the whole school in our big auditorium. In my dance class, the spring semester is devoted to preparing for our performance. During the summer, all dancers were contacted to start choreographing a solo relating to the show’s theme, identity. But only one would be selected for the performance, which was scheduled for April.
When I think of identity, I think of growth that shapes your present self, and so I wanted to make my solo about my personal growth. In elementary school, I surrounded myself with friends who affected my behavior in negative ways.
I picked on people for no reason, my grades were low, and consequently, I was often called to the guidance counselor. When he finally brought in my mother about my frequent troubles, I was embarrassed and I wanted to change. I did not want my mother to view her daughter as a troublemaker.
So I set goals for myself. I did not want to be an immature child. I wanted to respect myself.
First, I cut off the friends who got in trouble, forever. Second, I started watching calm, tranquil videos on YouTube to de-stress. Third, I read a book called 101 Ways to Get Straight A’s. And fourth, I found hobbies to experiment with my creativity. After committing to these four things, I found kinder friends and became an honors student.
Now I am a high school student, and I have amiable, kindhearted friends. I’m also a top student.
Dancing About My Evolution
This was the storyline for my dance. I researched songs that were about empowerment and growth. “Sledgehammer” by Rihanna was the best one.
Rihanna uses repetition with “I hit a wall” throughout the song. I see this wall as a metaphor of the past I’m trying to steer clear of. I choreographed so it looks like I hit a wall on stage right. I roll over with my legs in a middle split, and the back of my left leg extends to touch my head on the floor.
When Rihanna sings “my tears dropped to the floor,” I execute a chest stand and stay there for about two seconds. This segment represents the negative individuals I surrounded myself with and mistakes I made, making me feel low.
I end with my back turned while looking back at the audience with a powerful stare, my right arm extending upwards as my hand shoots out in a gun gesture.
I was so eager to present it to my dance class and then perform it in front of a big audience.
On My Toes
On the first day back at school, we each performed our solos, while the other dancers sat on the floor. When it was my turn, I felt the nerves kick in. I explained to them what my solo was about, and the music began.
I bent my body in ways that shocked my peers. They watched wide-eyed. I gave an attitude that I bet made them wonder what happened to the sweet Layla they knew. I ran around messily, did altitude turns, a firebird leap, and a needle.
When I finished, they all clapped. “You kept me on my toes the whole time!” one of my friends said.
For weeks after that, we all worked hard on our pieces in dance class. In early January, our instructor posted the show order on the back of the classroom door. Everyone crowded the area to see who got the solo. My 4’9” self could not see a thing. Then I heard, “Layla! You got the solo!” I was shocked.
I was honored to be chosen and extremely excited. I couldn’t wait for the show to come in three months.
Coronavirus Comes to New York
When I first heard about the coronavirus in January, I didn’t really think much of it. How can something across the world affect me?
Then when I heard there were cases in the U.S., I still didn’t think much of it. How can this possibly come near me?
But then there were cases in New York. I started to be cautious and wore a surgical mask and gloves when I went outside. Then there were cases in my borough, the Bronx. Then there were cases near where I lived. I never thought a virus that started across the world would come to my community.
On Sunday, March 15, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the closing of all New York City public schools. Schools could potentially be closed for the rest of the year. My dance show was scheduled for April 24th. That cannot happen anymore.
I put my heart and soul into my solo, and its cancellation deeply saddens me. I had broken out of my shell in high school and I was eager to make this a lasting memory with my friends this year before having to worry about college.
Now that I’m stuck at home, I worry about my body since I’m not dancing every day, so my priority is to stretch and exercise. In addition, I’ve learned to code. I see it as a possible career path for me, and it helps me develop problem-solving skills.
Although I’m not with my friends anymore, we FaceTime often and created a Google Slides presentation for ourselves titled, “The Corona Diaries” where we write about how we’re dealing with quarantine. It is a fun and creative way for us to journal our thoughts, and a virtual bonding experience.
I initially made my solo about growing as a person. But this current experience made me grow in ways I’d never thought possible. While I felt devastated that my dance performance was canceled, I think this pandemic has helped me be better at handling the unexpected. I’ve developed problem-solving skills and self-reliance. I’ve learned that things do not always go how we planned no matter how much planning we put into it.