Gracen Nelson is the only graduating senior in the Charleston Dance Center Class of 2019… and she has been dancing with us for 14 years!
Next year, Gracen will be attending the Honors College at the College of Charleston on a full academic scholarship! She plans to stay in touch with CDC and is always down to be an understudy in competition dances (*wink *wink).
Here’s a look back at Gracen’s time at Charleston Dance Center.
Q: What is your favorite Just Dance! memory?
A: I still remember the day I stepped foot in the studio for the first time. It was on James Island and Granny dropped me off. I had a pink searsucker bag, and I wore a pink leotard with an attached skirt, which I picked out at Mr. Don’s the previous week. I took my very first ballet/tap class from the preschool teacher at the time, Ms. Rhiannon. That was all it took for me to realize this was my thing.
My absolute favorite memory is the house all the seniors stayed in during the 2016 KAR (Kids Artistic Revue) Nationals in Myrtle Beach. Even though we received some tragic news that week (studio co-founder Kim Roberts passed away), the seniors became so close physically and mentally. We all packed in to one condo and we were there for each other when the news came. We grew closer than ever before and I have tons of hilarious memories from it!
Q: What is your most embarassing Just Dance! memory?
A: I had to pee really badly before “Search and Destroy” went on, but I only had one number so I was forced to hold it. During a jump I peed a tiny bit! It left a dark pee stain, which would have been fine if we wore a baggy costume, but we wore only a light grey Yumiko. It was hilarious!
Q: What is your advice for younger dancers?
A: Work hard in ballet even if you are bored out of your mind. You’ll be happy you did when you’re my age.
If dance is what you love, don’t quit and don’t settle. The junior years are when work ethic begins to outweigh natural talent. More is expected than just tricks and flexibility.
It’s easy to fall into the “my solo has to be perfect” trap and only focus on yourself doing 2 minutes of movement. Make sure that your group dances get the time they deserve because you wouldn’t have a solo without first showing your abilities in your group dances. If you take this advice, you’ll realize how much fun it is to be a working part of something that’s bigger than you.
Q: What was your favorite dance costume at JD?
A: My favorite costume was “Heads Will Roll/Electric Fed.” It was a pink and brown velvet and silk two piece that connected in the middle. The top had 3/4 sleeves and the bottom was a short skirt. It had sort of a royal look. I loved the pattern in the silk and the fact that it was a custom costume.
Q: What was your least favorite dance costume at JD?
A: OMG. My least favorite costume was “Rude Boy Mash Up the Place.” It was a tie-dyed shirt with adult medium sweatpants from Walmart (I wore a child’s medium). I had to safety pin my pants to my shorts so they wouldn’t fall down! We also wore custom Valado shoes, but they couldn’t make them in my size, so we had to paint another pair green, yellow, and red to match everyone else’s.
Q: You’ve been at the studio a long time, what has changed?
A: So much! We are such close friends, our technique is improved, we are expected to bring more to the table, and perhaps the biggest change is that we don’t have Mrs. Kim around to make us laugh uncontrollably. My one request – I just ask that the seniors keep the “slap slap” legacy going.
Gracen’s Parting Words…
There were many times in my Just Dance! career where I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to continue with the expensive hobby, but with the support of the JD community and my parents incredible dedication, I never had to throw my passion away. For that I want to say thank you. Thank you for keeping me sane. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to spend 365 days out of the year at the studio.
To the younger dancers, thank you for doing your part to make JD a place where everyone can continue to make lifelong friends and lasting memories.
To the seniors, I will never be able to say goodbye to any of you. Good thing I’m going to CofC!
To Ms. Buffi, none of this would have been possible if you didn’t tell my mom about this cool thing called “team.”
To Ms. Lindsey, where do I even start. My life changed from the moment Macy told me to take Technique III because we had a new teacher who always said “yes ma’am!”
To Ms. Landon, Ms. Andrea, and Ms. Vanessa, thank you for never letting us settle, while also teaching us to be confident with what we do have.
This is not the last you will see me, because I won’t be able to stay away. I can’t wait to watch the rest of my generation, and the ones to follow grow. I love you all more than you will ever know.