How do you give up your passion for something you can’t stand? You don’t. I learned that easily. My name is Viktoria and I have been a dancer since I was about five years old. About my sophomore year of high school, it was time for me to get a part time job. This however, would interfere with my evening dance classes. My mom and I agreed it was time for me to give up dance because of school and my hectic schedule, but I was not ready to give up what I love for something I was bound to dread.
About two weeks went by and I started my new job working at a local frozen yogurt shop in town. Day by day though, I began to realize how much I missed dance classes, how much I missed studio time, and how much I missed being able to express myself through dance. That is why the idea that since I can no longer be a student, I should become a teacher, came about.
I have always loved children. I always planned on being an elementary school teacher, and I have been babysitting since I was twelve, so this was my opportunity. It was the perfect way to put my passion for dance, working with children and community service together! I would have a dance class once a week for kids aged 5-10 years and would ask for a canned food donation in return. This would be my way to give back to the wonderful community I have called home for the past eighteen years.
About two months later, it was time for my first class. I was more than a bit nervous. I was anxious and worried. What will they think of me? What if no one shows up? What if I mess up? All these worries melted away however as soon as I began teaching, I felt as if I was on cloud nine. It’s really hard to explain how I was feeling.
The response was overwhelmingly positive after the first February class. Everyone was laughing and smiling. The parents were taking pictures and asking about more classes. I knew this was something I had to continue, and I did!
I continued the classes throughout my high school years and loved every bit of it. Giving back in such a way was such an amazing feeling. To this day, I can still vividly remember my final day of dance class before I was about to graduate high school. It began like every other class, stretching, a warm up routine and practicing the dance we would soon perform. After practice my students surprised me by bringing out a dozen roses and a cake. The tears wouldn’t stop. In that moment I felt like I was the most important person in the world. I miss those kids more than anything. We performed our dance and said our goodbyes. I still remember the heartbreaking goodbye, the many pictures and loving hugs. They left me with more than just memories.
My mom has always told me that life without passion is nothing. She said that if I am passionate about something I should never give up on it. I never really thought much about this until recently. Summer went by and in the fall it was time to start my journey here at EIU. I can still remember the nervousness and anxiousness I felt my first couple days here in my new environment. Luckily, within about a week I was settled in. I was blessed with such an awesome roommate who I consider my “twin”. I found a steady group of friends and found some student organizations to get involved in. Yet, something was still wrong. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it.
One day however, I was talking to a friend about past community service experiences during my youth and helping youth dance class came up. He was so intrigued, asking questions, complimenting me, etc. At the end of the conversation he told me how my eyes lit up as I was speaking and how excited I was about the topic. He then asked me, “Are you doing it here at Eastern?” I froze. Slowly I shook my head no. He asked me why not? I didn’t have an answer.
That’s why, the very next day, I took my idea to Rachel Fisher, the head of the student community service office. I spoke with her for about an hour, believe it or not, and I think she was more excited than I was. After a couple more meetings, some paperwork, and some advertising what seemed impossible was now a reality. This was my time to pursue my passion.
Rachel and I decided to have a big kick-off day on MLK day, January 20, 2014. I’m not going to lie; I was nervous, REALLY NERVOUS. She told me there would be about thirty volunteers and she wasn’t too sure how many children.
The day started and I met my volunteers. They were amazing, so excited, smiling, and joyful! I could not have asked for a better group to help me.
An hour later, children started showing up, one by one, nervously walking in, holding onto their parent’s hand. My volunteers and I greeted the children warmly and assured them we would be having fun. We started off the day by stretching. “Touch your right foot, stretch your back, point, flex!” I shouted. After a while we started a warm up dance routine and everyone was smiling. A little girl came up to the front of the class with me and took my hand and lead the class with me. I smiled.
About an hour had passed and I announced it was time to play freeze dance. The children’s faces lit up. I started the music, then paused, I complimented them, “You guys look just like statues” I chuckled. I turned the music on again. This time the song was, “Wake Me Up” by Avicii, one of my favorite singer-songwriters. I was about to pause the music, just then I looked over my shoulder. I saw everyone in a conga line giggling. I laughed. What happened next is hard to explain. It was one of those moments that you wished you could just freeze in time. I was standing there, in the middle of the gym as the music was still playing and all the volunteers and children linked hands and formed a circle and danced around me. Now, I know this sounds like nothing special. But, let me tell you, that was a moment I will forever cherish. I stood there motionless, grinning. I felt tears building at the edges of my eyes. I haven’t cried tears of joy since my last dance class. I knew right at that moment that this was meant to be. I felt truly blissful and blessed.
The rest of the class went on with games, dancing and laughing. The children were having such a great time. I was overjoyed. Even the parents were smiling, laughing and recording their children dancing!
Once it chimed three o’clock, the class was over. I reminded all the parents of the weekly dance class on Fridays and almost all of them said they can’t wait to come back and thanked me for everything.
I went to bed that night feeling right at home, everything had finally fallen into place.