After my bunion surgery—I'm 49 and wore heels for years—I told my physical therapist I had to be able to return to my hip-hop dance career. (She managed to keep a straight face.)

I did ballet at 4, tap and jazz at 5. I was an officer in my Texas high school's drill team (Friday Night Lights? I lived it). Senior year, I learned a routine from The Wiz, and as I leapt through the air, arms outstretched, I vowed to dance for the rest of my life.

But I knew nothing about pursuing a dance career. So at 17, instead of going to New York to pas de bourrée for a living, I went to a college that didn't even have a dance program. Life happened, as it does, and one day—despite years of idly researching how to become a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader or a Rockette—I realized I hadn't danced in a decade.

So I joined a gym that taught hip-hop dance, which I'd never tried. On day one, I took a spot up front. Within minutes, I'd been edged out by dancers straight out of a Missy Elliott video. I ended up next to the emergency exit, smacking my elbow on the fire extinguisher.

Music blared. The studio was dark. I felt lost. I'd thought I was a good dancer. In there, I wasn't. So why did I keep going back?

It took all of my being: If I zoned out, I'd run into the wall. And it forced me to be resourceful: If I couldn't remember the routine, I'd have to finda solution, such as smiling and faking it.

Five months after surgery, I returned to class, and got a high five from a front-rower. That night, I held a recital for my dog and husband. The dog was enthusiastic. The husband pretended to be. I nailed every move.It was The Wiz all over again—that same freedom.


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