I love to dance. It has made me who I am today.
Photo Credit: Willow Street Pictures
A Little Bit of Me
Spoken by Theresa Gonzalez
Written by Megan Antosy
Theresa knows what she’s capable of. She is determined to make dance work for her. She is strong; some may call her stubborn, but she knows exactly what she wants to do. A dance style that describes her is hip-hop. “... it’s all over the place. Hip-hop is viewed as very hard core but in reality, half of it is not even hard core. It’s very laid back.”
Theresa was born in Milwaukee but soon found a new city to call home- Reading. She and her mom moved here when she was five. She grew up dancing around the house but didn’t start dancing with a group until about five or six years ago, which was when she joined the Reading High Dance Team.
Theresa moved around every couple of years. She knows what it’s like to grow up with nothing. As she describes in her childhood, “Like I’ve been without water, electric, food, cable, like, all that stuff, barely having enough to eat so it shows you a lot, teaches you a lot, you get a different perspective of the world. I would say, so in that case I don’t know, I feel like it made my smart with everything I do, just because I’ve been through it. And it probably doesn’t look like it now, but there’s just some things you don’t want to be claimed as a victim, so you just don’t show it and, like, try to move on from it.”
She also explained that emotions in dance affect a whole group. If one person is starting to get annoyed, the whole group winds up annoyed. They can sense this through movement, but they work to be as positive around each other as they can. Theresa credits the other dancers for helping her to become who she is. “The other dancers helped me be the person I am today because we’ve pretty much been through some similar stuff so we get to share that with each other and pick each other up. I think that’s how I would say [dance] changed me.”
Theresa danced around the house a lot as a kid, but she officially started dancing when she was starting her freshman year by joining the Reading High Dance Team. She wanted to meet new people. She began to practice three days a week for the team. Their main purpose was to do halftime basketball shows. They would also go to dance and step competitions. They also go to perform in parades, at the 76ers basketball games, Field of Screams, and at Shocktoberfest. Theresa got to go to Christmas parties as well as perform community service with the dance team. She has given back to the community a lot through dance, but this frustrates her. She enjoys giving back but she wishes people would support dance more. “People need to start to go 50/50.” She would give back more but wants others to meet her halfway.
She credits Miss Davis as one of her most influential people. Theresa met her when she joined the Dance Team. She was unsure of Miss Davis at first- her nails were long, she looked intimidating. “I’m thinking in my head, ... ‘Who is this lady with these long assed nails’ because that’s how everyone knows her by- she has long nails”. She quickly got used to her and realized that she was different once you got to know her. “Her whole vibe was different. If things needed to be said, she said it and she didn’t care how it came out. If you needed to hear the truth, she told you.” Eventually, she became like a second mom to Theresa. Miss Davis was vice principal at the Citadel and Theresa would hang out with her in her office. “If you needed to talk to her about things, and if you needed money, and if you needed clothes, she would be there. She would do it. It didn’t matter how much it cost, she would help out to the best of her ability.”
Theresa also considered her mom to be one of the most influential people in her life. “She has been there with me through it all. I can go to her with anything and she going to tell me the truth as to what choice I should make. She supports me pursuing dance and I’m just so grateful for her and all that she’s done for me. I really want to give my mom and sisters the world. I want to make sure when I leave for my career that they’re going to be okay.” Theresa also has an older brother and three younger sisters from her mom and an older brother and three older sisters from her dad.
Her girlfriend has also been one of her biggest mentors since Theresa started dance. She has always pushed Theresa to be the best that she can be. Her girlfriend has seen her at the worst moments in her life. Her girlfriend has made her into the person she is today and she’s grateful for that.
Theresa is Puerto Rican. She doesn’t feel that she encounters bias often because of the way she looks. She knows the way that people sometimes talk to her or look at her is because her skin is a different color, but she doesn’t understand why this is such an issue. “I’m like, ‘I’m no different than you are,’ which I never got because people go tanning, and you want to go darker, so there’s no reason for you to act like that... I try not to pay attention to it just cuz I could care less about what somebody thinks of me.” If she senses that someone is uncomfortable with the way she looks, she backs off because she doesn’t want to make them feel that way. Theresa felt comfortable at Reading High. She felt like it was a really positive place to be in regards to race
She identified as a lesbian. Theresa started dating females when she was fourteen. She has dated both sexes, and she feels that she always knew that she was a lesbian. Her mom played a big part in supporting her. “One night my mom came out and was like, ‘Theresa do you like girls? Just tell me, let me know, it’s okay if you do,’ and so I did.”
In order to advance her career, Theresa takes dance classes in a variety of cities on the weekends. She dances with the other dancers during the week, and she also helps to coach the Reading High Dance Team. Theresa will sacrifice everything so she can go dance. Her mother did this for her, so she knows what it takes to financially dance.
Hopes for Reading and Career
Theresa hopes that This is Reading will help to advance her career. “I loved doing the show. I met some of the coolest people ever and it was a different big experience for me, but now that it’s over I don’t want that to build my career I want people to look at it as a part of my career because that’s how I do.”
Theresa is currently a nail technician at Lords and Ladies. She is essentially working two full time jobs- nails and dance. Her goal has always been to professionally dance. Theresa knows that Reading isn’t a place that has the opportunities that she would like, but she would move away even if Reading could offer her those things. “I want to move to a bigger city, like New York. Maybe one day LA but that's like cross country, so I'm not ready for that move but, yeah, I would say, I would still move. I would come back if I had to but I would prefer to move.”