BREAKING POINTE : Life through the eyes of a Dancer
BY: Jordan Scavo, Mallika Chimpiri, Kristen HarrioTT
Rory Pan, dancer, class president, and winner of the title Miss Atlanta, is currently a sophomore at Northview High School. She is one of Northview's many extremely well-rounded students who maintains a healthy balance between her academics, extracurriculars, leadership roles, and social life. The Muse staff had the opportunity to sit down and interview her and understand how she approached the art of dance and balanced her passion with the rest of her demanding day to day responsibilities.
Rory officially began to learn dance at the age of four, but she fell in love with it long before. Her sister, Sally Pan, influenced her greatly in her dancing endeavors. “I still have video recordings at home of me, jumping up and down… with my sister,” says Rory. “I started officially… at my sister’s dance studio, like Chinese folk dance, because my sister was already doing it.”
However, Pan reveals an often overlooked side of her experience when she first started out dance. “My mom wanted me to be disciplined, beautiful… feminine,” she claims, “I don’t really like her reasoning [for me starting dance], I hated it at first, I really did… I cried after every class. But she kept me in it, and now I love it.”
Dancing has positively impacted the young teen in ways she could’ve never imagined. For her, dancing is “an avenue in which [she] can really just disappear from the world... and be [herself] and express feelings that aren’t tangible.” She finds it amazing that “people can have this avenue in which they move their bodies and have control and do what they love,” which is exactly what dance means to her.
As a solo performer and group performer, Rory simply hopes to communicate happiness to her audience. The goal of dancing is to invoke various emotions in the audience through a variety of dances. “Each dance has a different meaning,” she says, “Some of them are really happy, some of them are really sad and they want you to feel something deeper than something that’s just on the surface.” Aside from being a performer, Rory also teaches younger students at her dance studio. As a teacher, she strives to transfer her “love for dance into them and to get them to really view dance as something more than just an after school activity or an exercise." Despite her growth in dance, Rory has felt her journey to be quite formidable at times. There have been numerous instances when she wanted to quit. She was surrounded by all these girls who possessed the “ideal dancing body” that was rather impossible for her to achieve. A “perfect dancer” has “to be tall,” has “to be skinny”, has “to bend a certain way”, has to have a really good arch, and so many more qualities in order to go professional in ballet. These standards motivated Rory to try as hard as she could in dance class everyday, but it was still discouraging for her to see “other girls that are naturally flexible [and] just naturally good at everything...slacking off...and [still] be amazing.” It’s always disappointing when you “try so hard” but “you’re still not as good as them.
A few months ago, Rory overcame a huge obstacle in her dancing career: an injury from getting her foot stuck and crushed under the tires of a car that left her out of commission for half a year. “The [injury] changed me tremendously. I’ve learned to never take anything for granted,” reveals Rory. “I feel like I wasn’t improving in any way... With that injury, I wasn’t able to dance for 6 months, and just… sitting there not even being able to walk... my friends in my class going to competitions and watching their recitals… It just made me so sad.” Rory firmly believes this injury opened her eyes and renewed her passion for dance. “Now that I’m back, I try way harder… I tried hard before but I tried even harder, and I love it even more,” says Rory. Her positive outlook and resilience is what carried her through the 6 months in which she couldn’t dance. “Injuries do change you as a person, both mentally and physically, because as of right now I still can’t do things that I did before - but it hasn’t stopped me.”
When asked if she believes that dancing is taken as seriously as other arts, she agreed completely. “I value dance as more of an art than a sport because although it is a sport, it is as challenging as, or maybe even harder…” Rory clarifies. “I feel like arts are always better than sports in a way, because… you convey a message and that’s just not what you get from throwing a ball around… no offense.” She believes dancing to be very inspiring as well, and that “for students at Northview who maybe lack confidence, if they see someone dancing, it might inspire them to go out and submit an art piece for a competition.”
Rory explained to us why she doesn't necessarily plan to make dance her career, although she adores it greatly. “It’s hard to do something that you love for work because then...there’s more stress added onto it, but that’s not really the main reason,” she explains. “I feel like I want to do something with business because I like talking to people and I like managing things… but maybe, I want to… do business, but for something related to the arts and dance.” After explaining her future aspirations, she also touches on why she is discouraged from becoming a professional dancer as her career path. “I feel like… I wouldn’t be able to do dance because I wouldn’t succeed,” Rory reveals. “And it’s hard when you love it so much but you know you can’t succeed because you aren’t this ideal image, which we should change and society should change.” She however assured us that although these societal expectations are burdening, she without a doubt plans on continuing dance for the rest of her life.
On how she balances her extracurriculars with her academics and holding high leadership, both in school and in her community, she responds that it’s quite difficult, adding that she “doesn’t get any sleep" like much of high school students. She tries to not waste time and procrastinate, which she finds difficult as well, and adhering to a set schedule. “Time management is really everything,” she says, explaining how she takes advantage of given breaks and lunch to fit in homework and the hours after school dancing and directing her class. “Breaks are important...but it’s also important to have a social life as well,” commenting on her academics. Though she finds it hard to balance all three areas, she comments that she “always finds a way to make it work.” As for leaving her impression on the hallways of Northview, she looks forward to participating and communicating her message through her dances at the Talent Show and International Night. She’s proud to be a dancer, able to “inspire others who maybe lack confidence,” hoping that “if they see someone dancing, it might inspire them to go out,” and find an avenue for them to express their personality and communicate their own message as well.