lauren thompson.

The power of emotion.

Austin, Texas, Influencer Style Board. Lauren Thompson for UNDISCOVERED.

Dance with your heart and your feet will follow.

Looking back it seems so obvious, the power that emotion has in our lives. But it took years of struggling as a dancer for me to finally understand its importance.

Most people see dancing as a beautiful form of art that brings joy and peace to all those who experience it, but that isn’t always true. And when my mother enrolled me in my very first class as a child she never could have imagined the challenges I would face.

From the very beginning my body was constantly showing me signs that I wasn’t meant to be a dancer. Even at five years old - when I had no idea what dance was or why I was doing it - I could see that I wasn’t able to move as easily as the other girls in my class.

I started off behind everyone; when it came to dance, I had no sort of natural ability. I wasn’t as flexible as they were. I didn’t understand how to do basic tap moves like they did. Movement flowed easily through their tiny bodies, but mine seemed to ignore what I wanted it to do.

Year after year I struggled to improve, but I never felt I was making progress. I never could comprehend why I wasn’t as talented as the other dancers, and soon this sent my self-confidence into a downward spiral.

Photography: Patrick McBride
Photography: Lauren Thompson
Photography: Jen Basford
Photography: Jen Basford

So I tried harder, training with 110% effort to try and reach their level of dance. And although I improved, I wasn’t able to find comfort in my movement.

My confidence continued to decline as the years went on, and I grew to hate dancing. I thought about quitting all the time as I sobbed for hours over my lack of talent.

Things only got worse when I joined a competition team. It was bad enough that I knew I wasn’t a beautiful dancer, but having judges tell me that I wasn’t talented was far worse.

My feelings of hate for dance to grow until my contempt caused me to begin hating myself. I felt as if I’d hit rock bottom, and no matter how hard I worked I was still in so much pain both physically and emotionally.

Yet I kept going; for some reason a connection that I had made with this art form would not let me quit. I worked harder and harder in my dance classes, and slowly I started to see that my technique and skills were improving. But while I was becoming a better dancer there was still some piece that was missing.

As the years passed and I began to mature it finally hit me, the reason for all my pain - passion.

My entire life I had focused so hard on the skills and technique of dance that I had overlooked the passion and emotion needed to turn it into a form of art. It never dawned on me to just close my eyes and allow the music to move my soul, not caring about how I compared to anyone else in the room.

Once I stopped caring about what I was doing and instead started focusing on how the movement felt the pressure began to disappear. Dance turned into a home for my soul. It became a place where I could open up and allow my sorrows to fade away through my movement.

The part of my life that had once caused me so much pain had been transformed into an outlet to relieve my pain, and along with this came a new sense of confidence.

Photography: Renee Bowen
Photography: Renee Bowen
Photography: Jennifer Helmka

I no longer cared how the world viewed me or what it thought about my dancing. All I cared about was how I felt in the moment, and I became present, not focusing on what was next but rather what was happening in that very instant. Judges now complimented my vulnerability as I poured my emotions into my movement.

Throughout my years of dancing I have failed and I have succeeded. I have sobbed and I have cheered. I have felt the entire range of emotions over and over just from this single aspect of my life.

But through dance I have learned so much about myself and the world around me. The challenges I faced taught me how to overcome obstacles that stand in my way, while appreciating the differences in everyone around me.

Dance has become a symbol of peace, joy, love, relief, and safety for me in the midst of a hectic life, and I’m thankful that five-year-old me didn’t give up all those years ago.

Stretching before dance one afternoon I glance over at the tiny group of children in the beginner class next door. As I walk closer to the window I notice a little girl standing in the back, trying desperately to get her feet into the same position as her classmates.

She looks up and I notice she is on the verge of tears. I get an idea, and hurry over to my dance bag to grab a pen and paper.

As soon as they take a break I slip into the room and hand her teacher the note, asking if she would give it to the little girl. As I head back to my own class I look back to see her smiling as she reads the note.

Dance with your heart and your feet will follow.

Photography: Ivy Towler
Photography: Ivy Towler
Photography: Ivy Towler
Photography: Patrick McBride
Photography: Jen Basford
Photography: Jen Basford
Photography: Desirée Suchy
Photography: Kelly Booth
Photography: Kelly Booth
Photography: Jen Basford
Photography: Jen Basford
Photography: Jen Basford
Photography: Jen Basford
Photography: Gretchen Higgins
Photography: Desirée Suchy
Photography: Kelly Booth
Photography: Renee Bowen
Photography: Gretchen Higgins
Photography: Jen Basford
Photography: Desirée Suchy
Photography: Gretchen Higgins
Photography: Gretchen Higgins
Photography: Gretchen Higgins
Photography: Angela Majerus
Photography: Gretchen Higgins
Photography: Gretchen Higgins
Photography: Kelly Booth
Photography: Gretchen Higgins
Photography: Angela Majerus
Photography: Desirée Suchy
Photography: Angela Majerus
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