Tommy, 17, had grown into the skin of a geeky valedictorian teenager who loved science and video games. Never had he taken a glance into the world of creative arts because it all seemed trivial.
One day, Tommy came home from school and noticed his twin sister watching an episode TV’s top dance competitions. Tommy stood, strangely mesmerized by the dancing. Just before Tommy could go into a deep analytical state of mind as to why he felt the way he did, his sister noticed him and threw a couch pillow at his face demanding he leave her alone. Tommy threw his hands up to block the pillow which plopped to the floor as he ran for his bedroom.
Catching his breath, Tommy could not understand why he found the dancing so beautiful. He decided to put together a dance routine as a possible solution to his feelings. Tommy titled his experiment The Dance Project. Goosebumps ran through his entire body at the sound of his new project’s title.
Tommy turned on his laptop and began researching some of today’s hottest dance moves. Not sure what dance patterns went with what music, there was a realization that he had zero coordination and no sense of rhythm! Tommy understood why he never attempted the world of art… he was a genius with brain control but no physical control over his joints.
“Maybe I should study how my joints work before trying to dance,” thought Tommy as he almost pulled the plug on his dance project. Just then he came across a nerd, like himself, dancing with his dysfunctional joints. It was the final dance scene from Napoleon Dynamite. Tommy’s mouth dropped to the floor as he watched his new geeky hero perform the best dance of all time. He thought, “If Napoleon Dynamite can dance so can I!” Tommy spent the entire night reconstructing Napoleon’s dance until it became his own.
The next day at school Tommy rallied his three buddies, known as “The Study Squad,” into their secret hid out… the computer room. He knew his time was limited so he briefed his buddies and proceeded to dance. Tommy’s giant red afro swung furiously as he confidently took over the aisles, shaking his booty and gazing intensely into his friend's eyes trying to be dramatic and full of emotion. Ending the dance, Tommy’s Study Squad cheered and clapped frantically as if that was the greatest dance ever! Just then the bell rang. The boys pushed up their glasses, pulled up their britches, and took off for class following Tommy and his afro as it swung proudly down the hallway.
That evening Tommy's buddies recorded his dance and uploaded it to YouTube. After only a week his YouTube followers grew into the thousands. Tommy’s afro seemed to be growing along with his ego until someone at school showed him all his followers were nerds like him. This only motivated him more. Tommy felt good about his dance until one evening when he came across Dirty Dancing.
It was the iconic final dance scene and Tommy was in uncontrollable tears as he watched the guy and girl dance for their community and for love. There was something more behind those tears... the girl. Since second grade Tommy had always wanted a girlfriend. He was constantly turned down because of his big glasses, red afro, and overall awkward demeanor. Curious to see if his dance could win over a girl, Tommy chose to test it at school.
Choosing his subject wisely, he approached the only girl who ever acknowledged him, Tina. Tina was at her locker stuffing her backpack with books when Tommy had his boys press play on the boom box. Acting like what he thought was cool & smooth everyone, including Tina, turned to face Tommy at the sound of the music. Completely shocked and embarrassed by Tommy’s rube obnoxious behavior, Tina pushes him away after he attempts to lift her from the ground. Tina turned, grabbed her bag, and stormed off.
“Why didn’t it work?” Tommy mumbled under his breath.
A classmate replied, “Because you’re a dork trying to be an egotistical cool guy with zero dance skills.” The classmate showed Tommy the video he took on his phone of him dancing for Tina. His heart melted at the sudden realization of how much he embarrassed them both.
For the first time in his life Tommy skipped the rest of school and began walking aimlessly around town with his afro held low. Suddenly, he heard laughter and music. He looked up to see people dancing in an Arthur Murray Dance Studio. Watching through the window, Tommy saw how happy all those people were. Debating whether or not to go in, an instructor noticed Tommy watching for a long time and invited him inside. He hesitantly followed.
Walking into the studio Tommy felt very insecure and wanted to bolt for the nearest exit. After only second of being inside, Tommy was wheezing and sweating uncontrollably as he stood at the front desk.
“Are you alright?” Tommy looked up and saw a beautiful girl speaking to him. “Um, ya. I’m good,” Tommy managed to mumble. “My name is Bonny and I’ll be teaching you today. Seeing how nervous you already look I’m going to guess you’ve had a bad dance experience?” Tommy shook his head in agreement. With that, Bonny escorted him onto the dance floor. “Tommy, why don’t we talk more about your experience as we get started.”
Tommy began to calm down as he found mild comfort in talking with Bonny. Another pretty girl approached their lesson and Tommy’s armpits began sweating profusely as the girl introduced herself as Sue, another instructor with whom he'd eventually take lessons. Tommy’s anxiety began to climax as he had no idea how to handle himself around one let alone two pretty girls!
After several months of dance lessons, Tommy found himself dancing with hardly any fear and knew how to handle himself confidently around women. He was a newer striking version of himself, NOT pretending to be someone else like before.
Unaware of his confident demeanor, character growth, and improved posture he began drawing attention from one of the studio’s female students who had been watching him from day one. Tommy was of course unaware of her existence. She was only a blur in the background of a much bigger picture.
Tommy realized dancing was more than replicating stars from a show or movie. For Tommy, it was about learning to be your own star, about finding a better, stronger, confident version of yourself. Dancing gave Tommy a charm and calmness he never knew he had; especially being the insecure awkward nerd he always knew himself to be.
"Keep digging until you find a better stronger version of you." A note from Tommy
Written by: Rachel Bingham