Walking out of that studio that day, I felt like nothing could take me down.
By Samantha Rueter
I was 3 years old when I stepped onto a stage for the first time, dressed in a red tutu and tiny ballet slippers, covered in glitter, with my hair in a perfect bun. Since then all I ever wanted was to be the perfect prima ballerina, to sparkle and shine.
I continued taking classes, juggling sports with dance until I realized that the soccer field or softball diamond just wasn’t where I wanted to be. All I wanted was to be in that studio. The music could take me anywhere I wanted to be, could make me whoever I wanted to be.
Dance became a serious part of my life. At age 10 I was dancing and performing with 18-year-olds. Not only was it hard being with them due to my lack of maturity, but knowing that they had so much more talent and experience discouraged me. Then the director of my studio, The Dance Emporium, explained that a teacher from New York City would be teaching our summer intensive workshop. I was terrified. Little did I know that this one week of dance would change the way I saw things for the rest of my life.
Kristin Sudeikis was small framed, with blonde hair and freckles. She was beautiful, in her early 20s, and her smile gave off so much energy that you couldn’t help but smile back. She pushed us harder than I had ever been pushed before. Nothing was easy. The steps were intense; our muscles were tired, our bodies weak. I remember going home that night in shock. Barely able to walk because I was so sore, I told my mom I didn’t think I could go back. I felt like a nobody. I lay in bed wondering why I began dancing in the first place.
I still don’t know what made me go back the next day, but I can’t imagine how my life would be now if I hadn’t. The rest of that week was grueling. Seeing the girls I had looked up to for so long struggle was difficult for me. Kristin never lost her patience. The last day of the week rolled around and she told us how much we had improved.
Then Kristin asked to see me alone. My heart raced as I walked over to her. “Sam,” she said, “I am so proud of you and all you’ve accomplished this week. Being in here with all these girls so much older than you can be challenging. But you’ve stepped up to the plate and haven’t been afraid. Keep it up and you’ll do big things.” I smiled. Walking out of that studio that day, I felt like nothing could take me down. I had worked all week to improve, and someone as talented as Kristin had noticed it. From that day forward I never looked at dance the same way again.
It’s been seven years since I first took class from Kristin. Each summer she pushes us, giving us more challenging choreography and steps along with more confidence. Every day she reads an inspirational quote for us: “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim to it”; “Never leave lonely alone”; “Work through it.” Those are some of the quotes that kept us going when we felt too weak to take one more step.
I have never heard Kristin raise her voice, even when we misbehave or lose focus. If we don’t understand something, she’ll show us how to do it until we have it down perfectly. If we lose confidence or focus, she’ll remind us why we love to dance. And sometimes when you’re down or too tired to make another move, that’s really all you need.
At competitions I’ve taken classes from some of the most talented people nationwide. I’ve learned amazing things from them, but Kristin has inspired me the most. She has taught me how to free my emotions, release stress, and get through emotionally challenging times in my life through the gift of dance. I’ve learned to forgive, to forget, to breathe, how emotionally straining life can be on the heart, the head, and the body, and how you should never let it keep you from following your dreams.
Kristin has changed me more than anyone, because class is never just about dance to her. She has taught me that dance lessons aren’t just about learning to dance. They’re about life.