“Prairie School of Dance will be traveling to… New York City!”
The words ring through my ears, amplifying the unbridled joy in my eyes as I begin to comprehend the magnitude of the opportunity. I would be dancing on a stage in the center of Times Square in less than three months. My heart swells as I appreciate just how fortunate I am.
I think back to all of the amazing performances I have been involved in, and realize that none come close to what New York will be.
Dancing in New York is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I stride up the stairs toward the grey performance stage, my heart pounding with each step. Reaching the top stair, I hesitate and take a deep breath. I gaze out at the sea of civilians, each familiar face speckling the mass like stars in the night sky. Every step closer to my spot seems surreal. The distant aromas of the neighboring food stands and honking of hurried taxis bring me back to the present moment. Waiting for the piece to start, I notice the distinct marks on the stage floor in front of me. Some being jagged scratches from the street shoes of hip-hop prodigies; others being circular marks from the pointe shoes of principal dancers from the world’s most prestigious ballet companies. Entranced, I daydream of the remarkable performers who have graced the stage before me. The illustrious fantasies fade from my eyes when the music begins.
The familiar opening notes of “Oceans” are a wake-up-call to me, and all of the sudden I am transported to an entirely incomparable realm. As I stand up for the first beat of the song, the sun peeks out from the New York City skyline behind me. The vibrant colors and bright warmth of the sun unveil themselves as the sun rises higher. Wind blows through my skirt as beams of glorious light shine through the mesh fabric. My costume billows and waves with each leap and turn. Each point of my foot and extension of my arm connects me to the reality of which I am a part: a beautiful, sacred, and contemporary dance being performed for a crowd of hundreds of New Yorkers.
Dancing on this stage in this circumstance kindles a passion inside of me that is otherwise unattainable. My performance is superior to any other performance I have faced in my life thus far. The message of the piece I am performing is one of inspiration and truth. As I dance in worship, I feel as though a little piece of heaven is shared with me, right where I am. I am filled with joy and bliss while dancing. My heart feels full; my eyes well up with tears of gladness as I begin to fathom the enormity of the present moment. The dance continues, reaching the moment where I am to perform a prayerful, emotional solo. My heart skips a beat. I begin to grasp what I am about to do. With shaky footwork, I commence my solo. The sensation of being lifted from the stage into an unknown paradise reaches me. I feel each movement as if it is unfamiliar and experience the choreography in an entirely new way. Never before have I danced with such grace and passion. The feeling is unforgettable and will remain with me for the rest of my life.
Knowing that I am nearing the closure of the piece, I savor each and every moment I have on the esteemed stage. With the last pirouette, I send a silent “goodbye” to the experience. Beaming with joy, I conclude the performance of a lifetime. I glance out at the mob of city people in front of me, and looking closer, I see a group of women crying. I push them to the back of my mind as I descend the stairs that earlier seemed so frightening to me. Now, looking down at the steps, the bittersweet sensation of departure washes over me. My heart fills with pride. A salty tear of joy rolls down my cheek and onto my lips. The New York City lights of Times Square twinkle vividly behind of me, creating the perfect backdrop for the finale of my time dancing in the Big Apple.
At the base of the stairs, friends, family, and teachers with tears of delight and loving hugs welcome me. The group of women I witnessed crying earlier approach my fellow dancers and me. The women express their gratitude to us, explaining to us that our performance moved them to tears and the message it represented will linger with them for the rest of their lives. I am flattered to know that something I create can inspire someone to this extent. Dancing in Times Square inspired me beyond what I thought possible. I will never forget the extent of passion I felt doing what I love in one of the greatest cities on the globe.
This article was originally written for an English paper by PSOD dancer Maddie Hilligoss.
This April 2016, Prairie School of Dance will be travelling to the Big Apple again with the Performing Arts Sacred Dance Company to participate in an event called ProjectDance. ProjectDance brings together artists from across the country and the world to perform with integrity to inspire. Dancers gather to take master classes, workshops, worship, and perform on stage in the middle of Times Square! We gratefully remember PSOD’s trip to Washington DC in 2012 and NYC in 2014 and prayerfully anticipate what this 2016 trip to NYC will bring!