• Caroline Harris

Dancing Through Life

A common thread woven throughout my entire life is dance. From toddler tap classes to advanced pointe performances, dance has grown and progressed with me in each stage of life. I started dancing when I was just three years old. Early on, it was more about a fun weekly activity, playing freeze dance with my friends and occasionally a choreographed eight count.

The first major dance milestone I can remember is my progression to pointe. My beginner half of the class wore flat shoes, but the older girls were on pointe. I so aspired to dance on my toes, to reach that next level. My first pointe shoe fitting was a big deal. I spent an hour at Carolina Dancewear with a specialist who helped me choose just the right pair. As time went on, these fittings became less glamorous, and I started going through shoes faster and faster.

Another hallmark of my dance life was moving studios when I was in fifth grade. My first studio was exactly what I needed it to be at the beginning; I learned the basics and got to dance with my best friends. My new studio pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of, and fostered a creativity in me I had never before tapped into.

My mom, sisters and I decided we wanted to take our dancing to the next level, so we switched studios to a place that did competitive dance in addition to yearly recitals. This transition was hard, but it became the basis of my closest friendships and best memories throughout middle and high school.

Throughout middle and high school, my dance studio was my home away from home. After school, I would spend 3-4 hours at the studio in different classes and rehearsals. It was the place I felt the most comfortable to release stress, to feel my emotions, and to bond with my closest friends and teachers. I also learned what it means to be a leader -- there were always younger girls around, watching your every move, so I learned the power of being a reliable influence.

During the winter, we prepared for our annual Christmas show, and as soon as spring rolled around, we were straight into competitions, traveling every other weekend all across NC. Competition weekends were always crazy, especially since I have two younger sisters. The smell of hairspray, sight of random bobby pins, and glimmer of sequins always takes right back to those long weekends.

One of my favorite high school dance memories is when my team was asked to fly to San Diego, CA, to compete against Abby Lee Dance Company and the Dance Moms. My teammates and I spent a whole weekend preparing dances for the competition and flew out early that Monday morning. My teammates, two teachers, and I all stayed in a hotel together, and it was so much fun exploring the west coast, dancing with my best friends, and realizing the reality of “reality” TV. The trip back wasn’t as pleasant -- we spent the night sleeping on the floor of the ATL Airport. I wouldn’t have wanted to do that with anyone else in the world.

Despite all of the amazing memories I cultivated through a life of dancing, I was unsure whether or not I wanted to join the Dance Team at UNC. I was enchanted with the art of dancing, not necessarily with more cheer-y dancing at games. My Aunt Darley was on the UNC Dance Team, so she pushed me to just try it out, and man, am I glad I did! Not only do I love dancing at games and doing pom, I have met my absolute best friends through the team. It also allowed me to continue dancing with my sister when she came to UNC.

Being a captain on the Dance Team has taught me so much, especially with the uncertainty and disconnection of COVID-19 restrictions this year. We, as seniors, had to be innovative to boost engagement, navigate Zoom practice, transition to in-person training, modify game day routines, and film dances in the Dean Dome.

Though I feel like I never had closure in all of my intended “lasts” of dance -- one more performance, one more game day on the field, one more nationals -- I wouldn’t trade my time on this team for the world. As I close this chapter of life and dance in college, I am excited to see how this passion of mine will take shape in the next stage of life. Though I probably won’t join a team, I hear New York City has lots of drop in classes!

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