Piano, Singing, and the Santa Dance: Finding What I Love

Piano, Singing, and the Santa Dance: Finding What I Love

Kim Salac
Media Staff

I have always really loved singing. My mom sang to me a lot when I was a teeny tiny toddler, and my dad used to put on his favorite CDs, usually something with a lot of guitar, and we would dance around the house. So, naturally, I sang a lot.

When my little sister started to sing too, we would put on karaoke “shows” for all of our family, friends, and neighbors. We’d divvy up different parts of the song so we’d have our own solos, too. My mom decided to enroll us both in singing lessons when I was around sixth grade, and my sister was in second grade.

We had separate lessons—usually I would go first, and my sister would follow. I remember the coach would make me sing the national anthem over and over and over again because she claimed its range makes it one of the hardest songs to sing. We actually took our lessons at the local small-town music cafe, so I was always excited to eat a hearty meal of mac ‘n cheese and chips during my sister’s lesson. Occasionally I’d get a chocolate chip cookie to munch on while I stared at the sixty-something guitar pick case. Sometime into the lessons, maybe three or four months, they were stopped. Eventually, my mom started them back up for my sister with a better coach. I, on the other hand, never continued lessons. Same thing with piano. We started at the same time, but my sister’s lessons continued after a certain point, whereas mine stopped.

I didn’t think about my piece moving more slowly at the time. It didn’t matter to me, I just liked playing...


I wasn’t a natural at piano. I had to work at it. I would practice all the time, squinting at the sheet music while trying to also look down at the keys. But my sister just knew what to play without reading the music, and so she picked up on things much faster than I did. And that’s great, but I do wish I still played. I still vividly remember my last piano recital, in my teacher’s church—Providence Presbyterian. It had a high ceiling in the altar area, where the piano rested, and when I went up to play, my piece was much slower than some of the other students’. But my parents, and my godfather, and my teacher all clapped and told me “good job.” I didn’t think about my piece moving more slowly at the time. It didn’t matter to me, I just liked playing, and it seemed like a few people liked listening.

We have five pianos at my house, a few of them free that we picked up off of other families who were moving or wanted more space in their homes. One of them sits in our living room, the same one that I learned how to play on when I was thirteen. Sometimes, when I’m passing by, I play the first few notes of "Für Elise"—the higher notes. I don’t remember the lower notes because I had a hard time playing both at the same time. Instead of learning them in tandem, I would learn them separately on both hands and then play them together, but now it’s clear that method wasn’t the greatest idea I ever had. My SAT, ACT, and LSAT "study" plans all kind of went the same way, too.

I continued singing into late middle school, joining my school’s acapella club. I even got a solo in one song. Unluckily for me I got it when we were split into groups of three. For one of our performances, our teacher picked one of the other group’s soloists—and I looked silly in front of my eighth grade boyfriend after telling him to look out for my big debut. He came up to me after the performance, kind of nudged me, and said “uh, why didn’t you sing?” The heat that rose in my face probably could have thermally charged the nearby power plant for a few years.

The heat that rose in my face probably could have thermally charged the nearby power plant for a few years.


This isn’t meant to be a sap story. No one is meant to feel bad for me, because although I was a little hurt when I didn’t get those singing or piano lessons anymore, I asked my mom for dance lessons when I was thirteen and a half. I had been playing soccer since I was eight and made the Junior Varsity team when I was still in middle school, so I had that going for me. But I wanted to do something more artistic, too.

Boy oh boy did I really luck out. I started a ballet class at Aspire Dance Academy, and I ended up being the only student in the class. Instead of paying for private lessons, I got "private" lessons for the price of a class that was meant to have ten or so students. That entire summer I was living and breathing ballet, day in and day out. And, not to toot my own horn, but I got quite good very quickly. It just seemed natural. Unlike my struggle to memorize notes or sing in the right key, I picked up pliéing and turns and leaps like I had learned it years prior.

That fall, I joined my high school’s dance team. For two years I danced my heart out, and I branched out to tap, jazz, hip hop, lyrical, and modern dance. I was still best at ballet and lyrical, but I loved tap, and modern excited me. Jazz was the most fun to learn and hip hop was the most fun to dance to. But I was let down my first year on my high school dance team because I didn’t make it into Dance Company. The GHS Dance Company was audition-only, taught by the same teacher for the regular dance team. Dance Company, however, had more competitions, more dances, performed solos at our fall and spring recitals, and had more pieces. I was really hurt when I didn’t make it, but that second year on the regular dance team I worked extremely hard to perfect my skills, and I made Dance Company my junior year of high school.

In my junior and senior years of high school I competed in several competitions and won several awards with the Company, one being Elite Gold at the 2018 Southeast Showdown, an award our company had never won before. I even won my own award my senior year at the Southeast Showdown at Longwood that same year for choreography. I also got to perform our iconic Santa Dance at NBC12’s station in Richmond for their 2017 Christmas Special!

I did take my love of dance with me to UVA, but not without struggle.

I did take my love of dance with me to UVA, but not without struggle. The first two teams I auditioned for rejected me. I took it hard, crying from my second rejection on a cold walk back to Weedon from the AFC—dance paws in hand and my sneakers untied as I tried to get out of there as quickly as possible. But I still wasn’t defeated enough, and I decided to do the jazz open dance for the University Dance Company in the Spring of 2020. I had an absolute blast, and I felt welcomed back into a community that I had missed with all of my heart. I cried on the drive back to my place leaving the first practice, because I was so filled with belonging and joy. Togetherness. Acceptance.

However, we never got to perform after COVID-19 shut everything down. Third year we had no dances. And this year I have been so busy trying to lead the class and write pieces and be with friends and be in the moment and get law school apps down and, and, and—I just had no time anymore.

My sister is now in her third year at The Berklee College of Music in Boston, so my parents really did have an eye for which of us was going to go far with which talents. Watching her release her own music on Apple Music and Spotify has been a joy. I quietly smiled to myself over winter break when I heard her playing the piano and writing new songs while I was reading in my room. And I’m very grateful my mom decided to say yes to dance lessons. Maybe a younger me would have been happier with a few more singing and piano lessons, but older me is happy I found dance in spite of feeling a little pulled from what I liked to do. But, I do hope I can dance again. I still do by myself, practicing my pirouettes and leaps. I really hope I can dance again.