In the afterglow of the Nutcracker, as I stood in a lobby filled with bouncing dancers and loving parents, I felt the grasp of a dancer’s hand on my arm. Turning towards her, I recognized the teary eyes of pride as she said to me, “I just had my Courtney Volta moment.” I chuckled and gave her a hug as I instantly knew just what she meant. For those of you who might not be as “in the know” – let’s travel backwards a bit.
My studio is in its final year as a teenager. That means that some of our first baby dancers are now full fledged adults with lives, careers, families…lordy, we’re feeling old! And the legacy they have created over nearly two decades is certainly one to be proud of.
One of my earliest dancers was the bubbly Miss Courtney. This little lady lit up a stage as soon as she stepped foot on it and continued to set the bar high as she danced her way through her teen years. She graced many stages, won many awards, and starred in many productions. However, I would like to think she earned her spot as a respected mentor in the simpler moments at the studio. Her bright smile welcomed little dancers to class as she assisted in our baby ballet programs. She was actively involved in not only the studio, but in her school, and greater community. Her ability to shine on stage while also shining her light on others was noticed by many younger dancers in our studio. The “next generation” of students certainly looked up to her and many dancers wanted to be just like Miss Courtney.
Flash forward to my Nutcracker lobby moment. The dancer who approached me has grown up in our studio as well. Now sixteen, Makayla had just graced the stage in a gorgeous lead role in the Nutcracker. This girl is unparalleled in her sweet nature, love of all dancers around her, and ability to sparkle on stage. Makayla had grown up adoringly watching Courtney on stage and following close behind in her graceful footsteps. Just after the performance, she was stopped by the mom of a new tiny dancer and told, “my daughter just adores you. She loves watching you on stage and wants to dance just like you someday.”
This is the gift that dance brings. There is no amount of time, no trophy, no price tag that can parallel the moment when you realize that you have profoundly touched someone else. This is what art can create - bonds that lift up others and inspire them to be better versions of themselves. To aim higher, reach further, and to think more of themselves. This is just one small example of what I see every day. The dancers who step across our dance floor do not move on after they graduate. They leave a piece of themselves at the studio that is bestowed on to the next generation of eager dancers. There is no greater gift.
So here is to all of our dancers, from tiny tots to teens - may you lead, may you guide, may you inspire. May you each have your “Courtney Volta Moment.”