Telling Your Story

In an attempt to clear out the DVR and catch up on shows that I missed over the past couple of weeks, I binged on Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) tonight. I’ve been a fan of the show for years. I’m drawn to the drive, commitment, practice and focus that turns inexperienced people into real dancers. I love the glamorous clothes. I admire the chiseled, yet graceful bodies of the male — and female — professionals. And I vow, weekly, that I’m going to get off the couch and learn how to dance too.

Each season an episode’s theme focuses on “the most memorable year.” The idea is for each star to share a particularly personal and difficult time period in his or her life. The professional dancer then tries, through music and choreography, to turn the experience into a relevant and poignant dance. This year’s powerful and emotional performances did not disappoint.

The lives of stars in the entertainment world often become PR fiction. We think we know them based on what we read or see in the media. This evening, however, I heard stories that touched my heart; situations — particularly memorable years — that real people were forced to confront and overcome. Nancy Kerrigan, for example, suffered six miscarriages in a span of eight years and now has three children. Mr. T. battled cancer and is in remission. Simone Biles was placed in foster care at the age of three (her mother was an addict who was in and out of jail) and finally was adopted by a loving couple. Bonner Bolton broke his neck during a rodeo after being thrown off a bull (the video clip of the incident was horrifying!), was told his career was over, and fought to walk again.

I teared up during the entire show, but it was Rashad Jennings who made me cry. Despite a rocky and unloving relationship with his father from childhood, he dropped out of school and put his football career on hold to go back home after his dad suffered a stroke and lost his leg. Rashad’s mother needed his help, so he did what he felt was right. The resulting dance with Emma  Slater that depicted the story, was a work of art. The steps and movements were dramatic; emotion pulsed with every beat. Even through the television screen I could feel Rashad’s anguish and love. The judges were moved and one even cried, especially when Rashad went into the audience to hug his father at the end of the routine.

I am not shy about expressing my feelings. Songs, pictures or paintings, and sculptures have all managed to evoke reactions within me. Yet this was the first time that a dance was able to bring tears.

This DWTS segment caused me to pay attention to the ways in which people tell their stories. We all have them as a result of events and experiences we’ve had, but how — and to whom — do we share them? Tonight I gained a true appreciation of a beautiful option.

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