by Jeanne-Marie Branche
I am a dancer. I dance for peace. I dance to create joy for myself and others. It is my comfort zone yet at the same time it stretches me beyond the comfort. Dance has molded me into a confident and fearless individual. It allows me to accept myself and my flaws and motivates me to work hard at anything that I desire to pursue.
I was born in Trinidad, a small island in the Caribbean. I immigrated to the United States with my family when I was two years old. Everything had drastically changed for us. It was a big sacrifice my parents made- leaving a prospering business and coming to a new country to start over for better opportunities for their children.
Since I was a baby, my family can recall me dancing. At four years old I started at a small studio near our apartment. My family could not afford the expense of dance recitals so I danced for fun, and I was good at it. I stopped when that studio closed down and it took me nine years for dance to find me again. I was thirteen when I decided I wanted dance to be in my future. Playing catch-up was a challenge as girls my age were more advanced than I was. Intimidated, I can recall many days crying saying that I was not good enough. I spent hours in class getting better at my craft and I learned quickly. So quickly, that I was en pointe with only two years of ballet training.
People say practice makes perfect. What I realized from hours of training was that perfection really does not exist no matter how hard we try. I think that dancers or artists in general always strive to be perfect, and that is a great flaw in us and myself, yet it is something to admire. Dancers are hardest on themselves because there is great beauty to our art that we want others to appreciate as well.
I wanted to be perfect on stage, and it has always ended up with me never feeling good about my performance. Any little detail that was not right was automatically a failure in my head. I was too critical that it began to destroy me. It came to a point at which my dad noticed and told me to take a break from dancing to figure myself out. Stepping away was a battle, as I was unaware of my mental hinderances.
During this time I got accepted at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for a commercial dance summer intensive. My eyes were opened and I was reminded why I love to dance. I worked with like-minded individuals who did not intimidate me. Instead, we supported one another and built each-other up the way all dancers should while working in this competitive atmosphere. I worked and networked with people currently in the commercial dance industry. We shared, learned, and created together. For the first time in my life I felt at peace on stage again, like I was doing something God intended me to do. I was recharged, re-discovered, and brand new.
My perspective about perfection reverberates in my life as well. Life is not perfect nor is it set out how we planned it. There will always be records to be broken as humans create new levels of perceived perfection. A toe will never be perfectly pointed, a leg not perfectly high in every turn, nor arm perfectly placed, or body at a perfect angle, despite how hard it is practiced. No performance is ever perfect, but to the audience it is, and that is one beautiful secret! Minor setbacks only encourage admiration because we work around it, on stage and off. For me, life has always been a dance, it is the ultimate performance. With its highs and lows, slow moments and its fast, and the breaks that give you a moment to breathe. It will never be perfect, but hard work is always urged. The people who have supported me and watched me grow is my personal audience cheering me on as they witness my journey as a flawless performance. I am able to embrace anything good or bad that comes my way, because it will only push me forward.