Let’s get one thing straight from the start: I’m not a professional dancer. I’m just a regular person who taught herself to dance to trample the mean words of yesterday — something I still do today.
I post a couple of dance videos on Facebook every now and then. Most of them are covers of my favorite Kpop groups. Apart from the likes and online comments the videos receive, some of my friends would personally come up to me and say things like, “Wow, you must have been dancing for a while now,” or “Since when have you been dancing? Since you were a child?”
I tell them that I’ve been learning how to dance recently. I tell them that it’s just for fun.
I don’t tell them that I’ve been learning how to dance so that I can put my shattered self-confidence back together.
Playground Teasing to Subtle Bullying
The first instance of bullying I can remember was when a boy was walking toward me and my father.
“Taba! Taba! Tabachoy!” (Fat, fat, fatty!) he said with glee.
I didn’t fully understand at that time. All I could register was the sting that came with his remarks, plus my dad (bless him) retaliating on my behalf (he called the child “kalbo” or bald three times).
As the years went by, the weight gain was no longer the source of the teasing. I was the stereotypical smart goody-two shoes: always had good grades, went home on the dot, and was always the first to raise a hand and answer a question. That image didn’t sit well with some of my peers.
They didn’t like me when I wouldn’t let them cheat during exams. They didn’t like me when I was the leader of the group. Basically, they didn’t like me.
We also had popular girls in our school. Unsurprisingly, I was never part of that crowd because I was the nerd who “looks like a dog, ew,” as one of the popular girls once said. I was the girl they told kindergartners to stay away from because I was weird.
The final straw was during senior year when they announced that I was the valedictorian of the class.
A few of my classmates told me, “Your best friend would’ve made the perfect valedictorian. Or *insert our other honor roll classmate’s here.*”
No one pushed me or punched me in the face. No one hurt me physically. But their words and ways wounded me.
I entered college with scars.
Dancing to #LoveMyself
I had always been a frustrated dancer. I would always watch the cool kids in our school — the dancers — and admire their moves. The dancers in college were the same. They exuded such charisma and confidence; I wanted to be in their (dancing) shoes.
But my broken self-esteem said I wasn’t capable of doing these things.
“You’re too fat.”
“You’re too slow.”
During this time, I had grown to love a video game called “Just Dance.” The game was pretty simple: follow the moves of the holographic person on TV to score points. I loved playing this game with my friends. We would record ourselves dancing to Katy Perry’s “California Girls” or Robin Sparkle’s “Let’s Go to the Mall”.
I loved the game so much, I downloaded YouTube videos of them so I can dance in my dorm. I would practice the dances whenever I was alone. This became a regular habit until I could finally dance the songs without the videos.
During one of those embarrassing moments my roommates caught me dancing, one of them told me, “You’re getting pretty good with your dancing. You look cool!”
It was a simple comment, but she didn’t know how much that meant to me. It kept me going.
Thank You @ Kpop Gods
My self-confidence was going through a rough patch during my first months in the corporate world. Working in Makati, with all the pretty girls dressed to the nines, I felt like garbage next to them. I was in high school all over again — an ugly wallflower surrounded by the most beautiful roses.
It was during this time when a close friend of mine formally introduced me to Kpop. She had me watch a couple of music videos and dance practices. After an hour of bingeing on the videos, I was hooked. It wasn’t just their pretty faces that piqued my interest. It was the dancing.
By this time, I had stopped doing my “Just Dance” sessions. Watching these Kpop videos made me want to dance again. So I did.
It started with a lot of stumbling and fumbling. Kpop dances are very intricate; every finger flick should be at the right angle, your foot should be in the proper position, and even your facial expression matters. I watched dance tutorials carefully to make sure I nail at least the footwork. The replay button was my best friend as I kept on re-watching the music videos, the dance practice videos, and fancams to make sure I got the step right.
Kpop is a level-up from my “Just Dance” routines, which were a one-two step thing. At first, I didn’t think I could do it. But as the days progressed into months, I was catching up. I could do the turns and twists (though not as good as the idols).
With each successful memorization of dance steps, I found myself enjoying the process. It was hard, but it was also fun. Along the way, I started appreciating myself little by little.
Filming the Videos
“Why don’t you post your dance videos?” a friend asked me after she watched one of my dances.
I was scared, I told her. What if people thought that I was a feelingera that blasted her poor dancing skills on social media?
“Who cares about them? This is about you being proud of how far you’ve come with yourself,” she told me.
I had come a long way from being that girl who struggled with loving herself to a young woman, who’s still awkward, but trying her best. My friends and officemates know I love dancing, particularly Kpop. They said I was pretty good. A small voice in my head echoed their sentiments. I was a better version of myself already.
The first video was a 30-second dance cover of BTS’ “DNA.” I was still scared to do it alone so I had an officemate dance with me.
Eventually, I wanted to do a video with just me. I have never seen myself dance a full chorus. Initially, I was hesitant because it involved asking people to capture the video and having them watch me dance. I was still a bit unsure of my dancing skills. But I decided to power through.
I did a full chorus of BTS’ “Fake Love,” plus an improvisation!
When I saw the video, my first instinct was to point out the things I didn’t like: my arm wasn’t bent properly, I looked awkward — those kinds of comments. But a stronger inner voice told me that I did well and that I looked OK. I could do better, but I danced well.
These little affirmations from myself (and from others) drove me to post one dance video after the other.
I even did a couple of videos with my friends.
A Long Way
There are still times when I don’t feel like an A+ human being. Whenever my self-confidence dwindles, I pray first before I dance. It could be in front of a camera or just on my own. I push myself to learn a new dance and train my mind and body to accommodate the difficulty of each new dance. In doing so, I’m teaching myself to be better so that in return, I can love myself better.
I’m not a professional dancer.
I’m just a normal person who likes to dance Kpop and is now teaching a few friends how to be their own Kpop idols. I’m just a girl who’s not just in love with dancing but is still on the journey of loving herself and teaching others to do the same as well.
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Ashley is an awkward potato in love with words, Kpop, and corgis. She spends her free time dancing like one of those balloon things you see in malls.