Standing United: My Dance United Experience

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“Alone we can do so little; Together, we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

When I first got the email asking if I wanted to be a part of Dance United, I felt a mixture of nerves and worry. I looked at the detail again and again, contemplating if I should participate or not. Dance United involved the opportunity to fundraise for United Way of Isabella and Gratiot County by promotion on social media, through the actual Dance United event that took place on Thursday, November 10th, and by performing a dance number. Imagine that… me…. DANCING! The last time I remembered dancing was when I was in high school musical theatre four years ago. Even then, I remember being the person who was barely coordinated with two left feet. My dancing skills could be compared to the first episode of this season’s Walking Dead: Shocking to the point where people wanted to quickly forget. I did not think I could do it, nor have the time for it.

And now, time for a dance joke about myself:

-How many dance teachers does it take for me to perform one move right?

Answer: Five…Six…Seven…Eight!

But then, I sat down and really thought to myself: “What do I have to lose? I dance for a few minutes, and I can help out the community that has given back so much to me. I cannot pass this up.” So quickly, before I changed my mind, I replied back to the student coordinator and told them I would accept and dance for Dance United. Luckily enough, my partner, Shelby Harris, a staff member in Wheeler Hall on campus, accepted as well. That made the process easier as her and I knew each other already, which definitely takes off the pressure. Now that I look back at that moment, I can definitely say I do not know what I got myself into: and I mean that in the most positive way!

Dance United was an absolute blast! Over the summer, I went on about my regular life working in Chicago and taking a break from school. The moment I got back to school, I realized that I would soon have to start learning my dance with Shelby. Within a few weeks, Shelby and I were blessed with the amazing opportunity of meeting our choreographer, Anna Wager. Not only is she currently a student, but she works with the dance team and was also a part of Dance United a year before us. From the first practice, Anna, Shelby and I truly began to bond. We kept on telling each other so many inside jokes, we could probably write a thesaurus of jokes so you all could understand what we meant by each one. Although we would get off task, joke around, and goof off, all three of us stayed focus. The first practice, we started to test our skills and talk about what kind of music we wanted for the performance. One of the first songs Anna put on to warm us up with was Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars, which is a contagious song. As Shelby and I started dancing, Anna’s mind created a vision of extraordinary measures. She immediately asked us how we felt about the song, and we were on board to use that as our song to dance to.

Next practice, we started to get to work. Anna found an amazing remixed version of the song while Shelby and I began to show off our dancing skills. The funny part was even when Shelby and I were joking around about dance moves, Anna would look at us and say “Wait, that works well! Include that in the dance!” Well, that’s the reason why ultimately, I ended up shaking my butt in front of thousands of people. However, I do not regret it. The way we all worked together was unforgettable and indescribable. Not only did we have time to talk about real life and really get deep with each other, but we really got to learn so much from one another. Honestly, without Anna, Shelby and I would not have been able to pull off such amazing stunts and moves. I have never in my life tutted or knew what tutting was until Anna and Shelby told me about it. Because of them, I feel like my two left feet have left and now I stand more confident in myself.

But through all of this self learning and relationship building, the greatest thing we have done through all of this is create a major impact on the community. Shelby, Anna, and myself were able to be one of the highest fundraising teams for the students with over $800 raised. Hours before the performance, Shelby, Anna, and I were able to get over $200 fundraised within a few hours, helping make a huge difference in Isabella and Gratiot county. For those of you who do not know, around 23% of children in this county we fundraised for live in poverty. It only takes $26 per person to help these people in poverty have food and the resources they need. With everyone’s help and with the collaboration of other teams, we are all about to raise $47,846 for the community! What a tremendous way to help make a difference.

I really have to thank Shelby and Anna for being such amazing people I have been able to get close with and truly call friends. Thank you, as well, for putting up with all my “Uptown Funk” puns and jokes (I know they are old now, but I will still squeeze out as many jokes as possible). Also, I want to thank Lucie Sertich and Tom Olver for the opportunity to let us put ourselves out there, and for the major opportunity to help benefit our community. It is truly great to know and see the difference makes. Finally, thanks to everyone who helped donate and fundraise for our teams, for other teams, and who came to support ours and others teams at the Dance United event. Words cannot describe how happy it made us to know you helped us support the community.

Overall, this experience helped me learn so much. Not only can I feel confident dancing and performing more in front of people, but I also continued to realize how great it is to help out others. This service may not have been as hands on with helping the people of impact as my past experiences have been, but it was great to know that what I did will help and go back into the community. That is why in the end, I challenge you.

I challenge you to go and find a way in your area to help someone. I challenge you to step outside the box and take risks if it means you will help out others. I challenge you to stand in front of people and show them your heart if it means you can help benefit people who need help. And last but not least, I challenge you to live United. No matter what happens, I know I am ready to put on my dance shoes and start practicing for next year. I hope to see you on the stage with me.


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