Rachel Chung - 2021 Essay Winner

Dance Means that I Belong

By Rachel Chung age 15

My first dance performance was when I was 5. I loved performing in front of an audience and belonging in a group! I tried a lot of different styles before deciding on tap, jazz, and musical theater as my favorites. When I was 6, I caught Pneumonia. I had an x-ray and the doctor saw that not only did I have Pneumonia but also that my spine was crooked. I was then diagnosed with scoliosis. For a bit, I just had to see my doctor every 6 months, and I continued to take dance classes. Then when I was 8, I had to be put into a back brace. I had to wear it at night which made me feel like I was different from other kids. Dance helped me feel more normal and made me feel happy and free. When I was 11 or 12 I started my growth spurt and that had a negative impact on my spine. I was told that I had to have spinal fusion surgery when I was 12. I had it soon after I turned 13. Basically, my doctor put a bunch of metal rods and screws in my back and fused my spine. The surgery stopped my spine from growing. It was a long recovery. I had to miss 6 months of dance, and when I got back, I still couldn’t run or jump. During my recovery, I was not able to move around or bend over which caused my muscles to become very tight and made dancing more difficult. During the pandemic, I took advantage of the extra time I had at home and started stretching. I was able to gain more flexibility, which makes dancing a lot easier and more fun! I am 15 now and continuing to dance. I’m working on improving and getting more serious. It is a bit challenging with my back, but I make it work! I feel really included when I dance. I love when everyone is dancing together in unison. It really makes me feel part of the group. Also before and after the class starts, we all talk to each other in the classroom or out in the hallway. The studio also started a new dance group called Encore. Anyone can be in it. You don’t even have to audition for it. I love how it makes me feel when we are all dancing in unison. It makes me feel like we are creating something special together. I’m so happy that I can continue to dance at A Time To Dance Studio even though I had that surgery. I’m also really happy that I can continue to dance. I love dancing!