Hey there! I'm Vivian. Sometimes I write about life and sometimes I write about teaching.

My early childhood years were the opposite of overscheduled. My brother, cousins, and I were left to our own devices to play and entertain ourselves more often than not. Sometimes there was adult supervision…and sometimes there wasn’t. There was a brief stint at weekly piano lessons, but they didn’t last too long. But when I moved in with my dad and stepmom, things changed. My stepmom believed in the importance of developing and nurturing talents. She was also a stay-at-home mom who could organize and supervise such activities. Piano lessons were resumed and she enrolled me in ballet class and Saturday Chinese school. At one point there were also ice skating lessons.

Unlike piano, I really wanted to learn ballet, but starting as an 8th grader was awkward and challenging to say the least. The other kids in the class were all younger than me; the dancers my age were already taking more advanced classes. My body did not and never did fit the stereotype of what a ballerina’s body should look like. My stepmom would watch and wait for me, giving me tips after class on how to improve. I stuck with it for a little bit of time. Then one day my mom bought me a mug with a Sandra Boynton image on it much like the one pictured:

It was supposed to be cute. Unfortunately, a dancing hippo was exactly how graceful I felt in class. I gave up on ballet.

That could’ve been the end of dance for me, but over time I came to realize that I could enjoy dancing and it didn’t have to be ballet and I didn’t even have to be “good” at it! It also turns out that getting my body moving is not only a way for me to stay physically healthy, it’s a way to cope with the stress and anxiety that comes with adulthood. I may sometimes dance as gracefully as those hippos, but now I don’t let that stop me.

  1. Yay, you! Dancing is life giving and expressive! When I’m sad it feels as if I’ve forgotten not *how* to dance but that dancing is an option. Dancing is my reminder that I’m really truly alive so your post resonates deeply and fully. And hats off for braving TikTok youth territory! I salute you!

  2. I can relate to everything you say about the feeling of gracelessness. My little sister was a natural; I made the ballet teacher ask my mom if there might be something wrong either. Truth is, I kept dancing, modern mostly, and it kept me sane! Movement is magical, as you already know!

  3. Reminds me of Christina and Meredith on Gray’s Anatomy – they danced it out! I have been dancing it out with lots of students this year. DJ of the day, end of day ritual, end of week ritual — it has been a great way for kids to move, express, release and have fun. I love your videos on IG – thank you for bringing joy to all you do!

  4. Alice says:

    You have skills! It looks like you’re having a great time, which is the whole point of dancing anyway, isn’t it?

  5. arjeha says:

    Dancing is a great stress reducer. I’ve given up worrying how I look to others years ago. Now I just do things that make me feel good. Enjoy your dancing.

  6. Lainie Levin says:

    Yes! Dancing with abandon. It feels GOOD. Sometimes (and, yes, this is back in the days of real people at real schools doing real things) during work times, I’d stop everything for a dance party break. I’d crank the tunes, everyone would bust a move (alllmost everyone), and we’d get back to business smiling and happy. Thanks for bringing that memory back. =))

  7. TikTok, the app that keeps on giving! 🙂

    While I appreciate your willingness to dance it out (and apparently a whole lot of your readers as well), the whole hippo thing is WAY too relatable to my current fitness level, so no dancing here.

    However, we did start back up in our spin class, so there’s that. I don’t feel quite so hippo-like on a bike.

    Either way, I love this post and the freedom you give yourself. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • vivian chen says:

      Yay for spin class! I’ve missed those classes and going to the gym in general. I taught spin classes for almost 20 years. Maybe that’s another post…



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