I, Too, Can Dance


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I was in love with the way the dainty pink mouse glided across the stage, her tutu twirling as she pirouetted and her rose-colored bow following the motion of her outstretched arms with every grand jeté.

I had always dreamed I would dance, and Angelina Ballerina made it seem so easy. There was something so freeing about the way she wove her body into the delicate threads of the Sugar Plum Fairy’s song each time she performed an arabesque. I longed for my whole being to melt into the magical melodies of music; I longed to enchant the world with my own stories; and I longed for the smile that glimmered on every dancer’s face.

At recess, my friends and I would improvise dances. But while they seemed well on their way to achieving ballerina status, my figure eights were more like zeroes and every attempt at spinning around left me feeling dizzy. Sometimes, I even ran over my friends’ toes. How could I share my stories with others if I managed to injure them with my wheelchair before the story even began?

I then tried piano, but my fingers stumbled across the keys in an uncoordinated staccato tap dance of sorts. I tried art, but the clumsiness of my brush left the canvas a colorful mess. I tried the recorder, but had Angelina existed in real life, my rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” would have frozen her in midair, with flute-like screeches tumbling through the air before ending in an awkward split and shattering the gossamer world the Sugar Plum Fairy had worked so hard to build.

For as long as I could remember, I’d also been fascinated by words, but I’d never explored writing until one day in fourth grade, the school librarian announced a poetry contest. That night, as I tried to sleep, ideas scampered through my head like Nutcracker mice awakening a sleeping Clara to a mystical new world. By morning, I had choreographed the mice to tell a winning story in verse about all the marvelous outer space factoids I knew.

Now, my pencil pirouettes perfect O’s on paper amidst sagas of doting mothers and evanescent lovers. The tip of my pen stipples the lines of my notebook with the tale of a father’s grief, like a ballerina tiptoeing en pointe; as the man finds solace in nature, the ink flows gracefully, and for a moment, it leaps off the page, as if reaching out to the heavens to embrace his daughter’s soul. Late at night, my fingers tap dance across the keys of my laptop, tap tap tapping an article about the latest breakthrough in cancer research—maybe LDCT scans or aneuploidy-targeted therapy could have saved the daughter’s life; a Spanish poem about the beauty of unspoken moments; and the story of a girl in a wheelchair who learned how to dance.

As the world sleeps, I lose myself in the cathartic cadences of fresh ink, bursting with stories to be told and melting into parched paper. I cobble together phrases until they spring off my tongue, as if the Sugar Plum Fairy herself has transformed the staccato rumblings of my brain into something legato and sweet. I weave my heart, my soul, my very being into my words as I read them out loud, until they become almost like a chant. With every rehearsal, I search for the perfect finale to complete my creation. When I finally find it, eyes dry with midnight-induced euphoria, I remember that night so many years ago when I discovered the magic of writing, and smile.

I may not dance across the stage like Angelina Ballerina, but I can dance across the page.

I, too, can dance.
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