By Chelsea McCann
I’ve been dancing at the Pretenders for nine years, and despite being too young to really partake in the decision, it remains one of the best choices I’ve made. The Pretenders family fosters an environment extraordinarily difficult to match— one which has widely shaped much of the person I am today. Through all their years, the values of inclusion, commitment, and hard work have remained unwavering, and these values are a large part of the reason I have stayed so long. I remember idolizing all the older company members when I was little, especially after I was able to actually join the group and see the hard work from the inside. Learning to take over this responsibility has been an incredible experience, and has proved as a reminder of the times that, as the older dancer, I have the opportunity to guide younger members and create the kind of welcoming and uplifting environment that I was given at their age. Inside the studio, students are bound to meet dancers and teachers that will not only positively encourage them in their journey of self expression, but will also challenge them to embrace new perspectives and learn to take criticism with grace. Outside of the studio, I have met dozens of citizens in our community that I likely would never have otherwise had the chance to encounter, and the Pretenders has allowed me to uniquely combine my passion for dance with the opportunity to provide for and help better the lives of those less fortunate than I. I not only dance to express myself and learn more about my own mind and creative expression, but also to connect with others in a way only possible through dance— a way that the Pretenders Studio puts their all into emphasizing.