Dancing with the Stars

Christina Gorbenko lives for dance.

BY CHRISTINA GORBENKO

“Excuse me, Sir, do you have any empty cans?” The man I had asked frowned at me with a questioning and judgmental expression. I felt small and tiny inside. I could feel my cheeks turning red and burning. I wished that he’d either given me the bottles or walked on. Taking a deep breath, and trying not to reveal my shame, I reminded myself about my dream.

Ballroom dancing is my life, and I can’t imagine what I’d be like without it. I have been dancing for as long as I can remember, constantly striving for excellence. In the summer of 2015, standing next to the horrifyingly putrid trash can at a public beach, with bees swirling around the soda that had been spilled, I had one true goal: a trip to Belarus. It was one small trip where I could study dance all day with world champion dancers.

I wondered what the man, who had by now walked off, thought about me. Did he see me as a vagabond? Did he think I had drug addicted parents who couldn’t afford to pay for food? Did he think I was unintelligent and that my life was doomed because I looked this petty? Here I was, working towards what seemed to be an unreasonable and ungraspable goal. I needed $3,000 for one summer abroad and I had a single year to get it. Yet, due to my age, I couldn’t legally work, and my mother, a single parent with five daughters to support,  wouldn’t be able to provide the money. Standing at the trash can and collecting bottles wasn’t hard work, and I knew it would be worth it, despite how degrading it felt.

Before trying to collect the money, I was on the verge of giving up my dream. Yet my mother told me something I’ll never forget: “If you put your mind to something, you will always be able to attain it.” I didn’t believe her, but I decided to try my best to earn the money. My procedure to get $3,000 was simple. I wouldn’t spend money and would do everything to get money. That’s how the dreaded idea of the beach came, and in the end it worked! By collecting bottles at beaches and doing other odd jobs, I got $3,000 and was able to swallow my pride and endure the humiliation and embarrassment in order to achieve a seemingly impossible goal.

I was thrilled to have an opportunity to study dance with world champions. However, a big part of Belarus was the road to get it. I had earned that trip, I had gotten the money on my own, and was able to pay for it. I learned that if I truly set my mind to something, I will be able to reach any goal, no matter how difficult, unrealistic, or humiliating the path to it may be.