It’ll never happen to us.

Maybe in Five Points or the Vista or on Harbison. But not here. Nothing bad could ever happen on our campus. Nothing could ever harm us here. Why would anybody want to hurt us?

It’ll never happen to us.

It’s so beautiful here this time of year. Brisk air and beautiful sunrises. How could anyone wake up to a day like yesterday mad? Or angry? Or sad? How can you walk on the Horseshoe and not be overwhelmed with the beauty of nature? How could you not love this place? This place you call home?

It’ll never happen to us. 

Our professors will protect us. If someone were to come in here, and try to hurt one of us then my professor would be sure to call 911 and get some help. Surely, they’ll lock the door behind them when they walk in. We will be fine.

It’ll never happen to us.

And yet, it did.

The images of my peers being barricaded into their classrooms and SWAT ready to barge into my campus with shields will forever haunt my dreams. The thought of the people I love so dearly being there in that building (or very close to it) and being “thrown” into buildings for shelter scares me. Seeing my professors, who I admire so much for their courage and wisdom being scared is forever planted in my mind. Being locked into a room with my fellow dance majors not knowing how long we would be there and what was going on. Texting everyone I know to make sure they were safe. Receiving phone calls from family at home wondering where I was and if I was okay. Shaking in fear that we were next. I never in my darkest nightmares thought that all of this would be a reality for me. But yesterday, it was.

We aren’t invincible. This could happen to anyone, anywhere. Even in the safest of places, it can happen. We aren’t invincible….

But our spirit is.

Go on any social media right now and you will be sure to see a post about the tragic events that happened at 1:16 pm yesterday. The cries of my friends telling people to be safe and get inside. The messages of thanks to everyone who checked in on him/her during the lock down. The memories and condolences sent in honor of the two people that passed. The reports from Buzzfeed, Fox News, or Newsweek popping up on our news feeds. And afterwards, the love and support sent to us from schools that we deem as our rivals. Yesterday at this time, it was just another day. But today we are changed. Despite what happened, we are not afraid to leave our apartments and dorm rooms. We are proud to wear garnet and black. President Pastides called yesterday “a tragic day in our history” but it proves once again that even in the face of tragedy, our spirit and our passion for the University of South Carolina is invincible.

Here’s a health Carolina, forever to thee.

(Photo credit: Drayton McKenzie Roland)

The making of “twenty one” |-/


In my lifetime I have been lucky enough to choreograph many times… but I can honestly say I have never done anything like “twenty one.”

I came up with the idea over the summer, shortly after I tore my right ACL. And previous to this injury, I had never gone more than a month without dancing since the age of 4. It was a weird feeling…losing something that I loved so much. Honestly, I didn’t even realize how much I loved it until I had to go without it. But you know what they say… You don’t know what you have until it’s gone… When I would look in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I honestly did not know who I was without dance. I could live without friends, family, even pizza… but not dance. Dance was my refuge when everything else failed me and in a matter of seconds… it was gone. I lost an ACL but it felt like I lost so much more. I had so much bottled up anxiety and anger and there was nothing I could do about it or at least at the time.

So I listened to a LOT of music. I would day dream about choreographing combinations and dancing without a care in the world.. and then I heard “Goner” by twenty one pilots. I had listened to it so many times before, but I actually heard it… like really heard it… for the first time the day I was officially diagnosed. I just sat on my floor and bawled my eyes out. I was gone.. the best part of me was gone and it wasn’t going to come back for at least 6 months if not more. And heck, it might not come back at all. I felt so close to Tyler (the lead singer of TOP) at that moment. I knew exactly what he was singing about. Every lyric began to make sense. So, I started choreographing and within a week and a half after my surgery I had choreographed an entire mini ballet of about 11 minutes long (which eventually had to be cut down to 7 minutes due to time constraint issues) using all music by twenty one pilots.

I used “Doubt” first. I really related to this song pre-ACL tear because I have always doubted myself. I always doubted my creativity, my passion, what I actually wanted to do with my life… I questioned it all and it scared me. The lyrics immediately inspired me and I knew it would be a great intro to the piece, as it represented my life before I was injured. It made me realize, looking back, that I was probably gone a long time ago and just did not realize it… and next of course was “Goner.” It symbolizes what I went through post surgery and what I am continuing to go through. And then I chose “Fairly Local” to come last because it represents what I hope my life will be moving forward from this point on. I hope that at the end of this long, challenging road I can look back and say “I’ve been there and it has made me a stronger human being.” Will I still have fear? Yes. Will this be a part of my life that I can’t get back? Yes. But, am I going to forget what it felt like to lose myself? No. And I hope that one day I can help someone overcome the same doubt, fear, and loss that I felt. I hope I can make this into a learning experience. I know that I am not truly gone, but it took this experience to make me realize it.

I knew starting the choreography process that I wanted to set this piece on students at USC. So, when the student choreography showcase auditions rolled around, I was looking for 15-20 dancers to represent this part of my life. And after people dropping out, saying no, and quitting mid-process.. I ended up with 15 beautiful, amazing dancers. 15 people that would share my story onstage. And for that, I am thankful. But to say that the process was “bump-free” would be a lie within itself. The devil threw every curve ball he could at me.. and a couple hit me hard. But my dancers kept me sane and we kept going.

And now it is finished. It may not be the most successful thing I have choreographed. It may not be the most innovative dance ever done. But choreographing it and watching it happen was like therapy. It truly has helped me heal. It motivated and pushed me in ways that I didn’t know was possible. I can’t help but think that if it wasn’t for Tyler and Josh of twenty one pilots that this wouldn’t have been able to happen like it did. I could not have choreographed something that meant so much. I know the likeliness of them ever seeing this is slim to none… but I just have to thank them for making music like this. It heals people. It makes people think. And it inspired me to choreograph it and title it “twenty one.” I hope they continue to make music that heals for as long as they possibly can.

Now, all I can do is wait (and clean the piece.. dancers don’t think i’m letting you off the hook!!). The show premieres in two weeks and is ironically titled “Meteor.” Tearing my ACL felt like huge meteor that hit me in the gut and took part of me with it. But, with that I can heal.

“Meteor: Student Choreography Showcase” premieres at Drayton Hall across from the USC Horseshoe on December 1 at 6 pm and runs until December 4. I hope that you can come and experience my story (and the other talented choreographer’s stories) with me.

“Bottom line is, even if you see ’em coming, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.” -Joss Whedon

Woven: The Making of a Masterpiece

Warning: completely self centered post ahead. But there are pictures, so stick around.

Back in September, I auditioned for a piece for one of my favorite choreographers at USC having no clue what was ahead of me. Looking back, I knew I did not really have any time to add in another performing commitment, but I did anyways. I’m definitely glad I did. Now with “Woven” less than 5 days away, I feel the need to recap of my time spent working on this piece. Partially because I love being nostalgic and partially because I want to talk anyone and everyone reading this into coming.

I remember my first day of rehearsal pretty clearly. I remember being exhausted by the end of it all. The choreography is unforgiving. There is not a second you are onstage that you are not going 100% full out. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting down, you’re still going 150%. I freaking love it. (This picture is from one of our first rehearsals, can you tell we’re dying?)Nothing feels better than walking off stage and thinking “YES I SLAYED” and being completely out of breath. I also remember being really really excited first and foremost. Unfortunately, at USC I do not usually get to perform in my own style. Thankfully, Stephanie Wilkins allowed me the freedom to make this movement feel like my own. This is my third time working with Stephanie since coming to USC in 2012. She is a wonderful, passionate choreographer who is not afraid to put her heart and soul into her work. It was pretty cool to think back on working with her when I was a freshman and comparing it to now. My, how things have changed.

So in Woven there are six dancers: the main characters Jack and Jill played by my beautifully talented friends Anthony and Dallas. We call them Danthony for short. They are wonderful actors and technicians and totally deserve the spotlight. The remaining four include my friends Vidal, Emily, and Dustin. We don’t have any couple names, though. Throughout the show we play different characters in order to move the plot along. But don’t let that fool you, we dance just as much as Danthony. I was lucky enough to get paired with Vidal for the show. (We are goof balls, can’t you tell?)View More:

We were friends before Woven started but now we are almost inseparable. We are probably the loudest of the bunch and sometimes, the most distracted. I think we are both self diagnosed with ADD. We have a lot to say both spoken and through dance and I think that is what has kept us so close throughout this process. (We can also be serious.. kinda)View More: Emily and Dustin are the strong ones of the group. They are like the tiger waiting to pounce in the corner. They are so powerful when they perform but are so quiet (sometimes.. Dustin…) otherwise. I have so much love for all these people, and I think that becomes obvious when we get onstage. I’m looking forward to dancing beside them on Saturday. 

But Woven is not all about the dancers. Mark Rapp, the master mind behind the music of Woven, has also played a huge role in this process along with all of the musicians involved (subs included!). The mood completely changed the first day Mark and the musicians played at rehearsal. Their music inspired us to be more involved, to listen to what was going on and not just “dance-by-number.” It gave us a breath of life. I never knew jazz music and contemporary choreography could intertwine so beautifully. It’s not predictable, and that’s what makes it interesting.

And now it is all coming to an end. Costumes are bought. Venue is ready. I don’t know how I feel about it yet. Maybe I’ll do a follow up blog next week… but right now I am just excited. I’m ready to perform. I’m ready to show off all of our incredible hard work that we have put into this. I’m ready to step onstage with some of my favorite people and do this thang. I hope you all will join me. The show is Saturday, January 17, 2015 at 7:30 pm at Harbison Theatre. I hope I see all of you there. Buy your tickets here: 

Mark, if you are reading this, I hope you know I straight up STALKED your Facebook to get these pictures. I hope you don’t mind….

Why I Refuse to Have a New Year’s Resolution

We have heard it all before. Actually, we have said it all before. “Next year, I’ll go to the gym more” or “In the New Year, i’m going to do better with my finances.” We see them on Facebook, on the news, and all over department stores. In the past, I would make resolutions just like most everyone I know. Sometimes I’d even write them down. I’d get excited on New Year’s Eve about new beginnings and making it the best year ever. But after about a week, that resolution would get old and i’d move on without thinking twice about that resolution I once made.

As I have gotten older, I have learned that most of these resolutions were never intended to be followed through. While I thought I was making steps to becoming a better person, I was really taking a step backwards. I did not make real progressive steps towards becoming a better version of myself, I just made temporary adjustments. So, when I started college, I decided to forego making resolutions. I think this had a lot to do with the negative connotations that resolutions come with. Just today I was reading someone post about the “resolutions they are sure to break” but would try anyway. So like that post, most resolutions are made to be broken. Most people go into the new year thinking that they aren’t going to break any, not this year! But sure enough, the same people end up giving it up around January 20th.

So I propose something different.. plans.

A plan is defined by as a specific project or definite purpose. So, in the new year I plan to make some plans. Plans that are sure to change and plans that are going to evolve due to the year’s events. I plan to make 2015 just as great as 2014.. and the year before that and the year before that. I plan to tell everyone I love that I love them everyday. I plan to attempt at a healthier lifestyle, even though I will give in and have a diet coke and slice of pizza every now and then. I plan to give every bit my talent to everyone who will let me. I plan to be happy, but cry when I need to. But, most of all I plan to not have too many plans, because those get in the way sometimes.

So these specific projects were made to be followed through. But here’s the irony. Almost every year I make the same plans. It keeps me accountable and reminds me that I don’t want to ditch my previous plans. I want to take those plans and make them even better for the next year and the years to come.

So here’s to 2015, may it be just as awesome as 2014!

And yes I am sitting in my house writing this blog with 30 minutes left of 2014.. don’t judge me.

Change your Perspective

My brother, Cole, and I were talking the other day about happiness. Being the emotional guy that he is, he kept repeating that he just wanted to be happy for a change. Unfortunately, I agreed with him. With all the hullabaloo of me being half way through college and Cole being in the peak of high school, we have both had a rough semester. But then he said something that stuck with me and got me thinking.

In my attempt to turn the conversation around, I asked Cole a fairly simple question. “What makes you happy?” He said without hesitation: “Being alive.” Woah, that’s something I’d never thought about until right the at that moment. I cannot remember the last time I was simply just happy to be alive. Like I said before, I’m in my junior year of college and it has brought with it many trials and tribulations. I work three jobs, I’m a full-time dance education major, I’m a part of many of the dance clubs on campus, and I try to choreograph when I can. So you see, most of it is self-induced trials and tribulations. I could quit two of my jobs. I could forego attending club meetings. I could choose not to perform. But the over achiever in my blood won’t let me do any of these things. On top of these things, everything that could go wrong this semester, decided to go wrong. I have had not one, but two flat tires in one month.Everything I choreographed did not seem to work. I have re-done more pieces this semester than ever before in my life. I drew a creative blank for a solid two months. I literally forgot why I loved to choreograph and even why I loved to dance. I got diagnosed with anxiety and depression after going through a spell of daily panic attacks. Things that shouldn’t have upset me began to tear me apart. I remember having a panic attack about Ebola. Ebola. I cried for multiple hours about Ebola. It felt so real and so scary at the time and now looking back, it seems so incredibly ridiculous. I tried to contain it, but it was like I couldn’t control my mind. It was scary. Now, it is beginning to get better, but if I forget to take my medicine, I slip right back into that depression and nothing can pull me out of it. I think that was the biggest deal to me. I forgot what it felt like to be my usual happy self. I forgot who I was in the first place.

It wasn’t until my brother made that simple comment that I even realized I was missing what was really important. I am alive. I have a roof over my head. I have a family that loves me. I have food in my fridge. I can count my true friends on more than one hand. I have a boyfriend who loves me. I am getting an education. I have not 1,not 2, but 3 jobs. Most people are lucky to have one. I have had the opportunity to perform and do what I love since I was three years old. I have a passion for the arts and for educating young people. I have so much to be thankful for, to be happy for. But I didn’t even see it.

But I can’t help but think it’s not my fault that I felt this way. We see negativity so much in our every day lives. On the news, in our workplaces, on the internet. When was the last time that you watched the news without hearing about another child or young adult that was shot and killed? Or read a headline that did not involve yet another tragedy?

What if we entered everyday looking at the positives and putting the negatives on hold? What if we thought less about ourselves and more about other people? And what if being alive is all you needed to be happy?

We all have a choice. What makes you happy?

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