Lorie and CJ Hurst are 14-year members of the USA Dance Minneapolis (Minnesota) Chapter.

Silver Medal to Silver Lining

By Lorie Hurst
Contributing Author
Photos courtesy of Lorie Hurst
Performing requires overcoming

The second place medal my partner CJ and I won at Nationals this past weekend in St Louis, beating out two other couples, represents a unique victory on our dancing journey—it happened despite the most disappointing experience I’ve ever had in dance.

I turned 50 three weeks ago. Marveling at how young I still felt inside, I was determined to celebrate the occasion rather than let the enormity of it hit me. So, in the midst of the champagne toasts, fancy dinners, and plenty of cake, I didn’t let a sore knee get me down. I was disappointed when my knee hurt so badly that I couldn’t do certain steps in lessons over the past couple of weeks. But I’ve had aches and pains before, and besides, I’m pretty tough! Sheer determination would get me through Nationals if an ache or pain tried to rear its ugly head.

Except that it didn’t. This time, the pain won. My knee didn’t hold out, and it cost me most of the competition. I didn’t feel so tough anymore as the tears rolled down my cheeks.

That’s not to say I didn’t put up a good fight. In the middle of our first heat, I felt something pop in my knee. Suddenly the pain grabbed me and my knee seemed to dissolve. It wasn’t just that it hurt; it simply wouldn’t bear my weight. I’m sure my painted-on smile faltered as I bowed on one leg and tried to stifle the panic. But there was no way I was walking off that floor.

Somehow, I finished that heat and the one after it. I didn’t say anything to CJ. I didn’t want him to dance any less than his best, and I was afraid he would tone it down to accommodate me. All the improvements we’d learned in the past few weeks went right out the window as I concentrated my entire being on not collapsing. Gone were the stretches, the hops and jumps, the low dips, and the impressive stride lengths. I just tried to stay upright. Every single step hurt. I’ll tip my hat to adrenaline! It was working overtime for me. To say I didn’t dance well is an understatement. But to say I finished my heats that day is an accomplishment of a magnitude I would never before have imagined. It was a shocking moment when we received second place instead of fourth. It gave me a moment of awe, a fleeting little smile in the midst of the pain and despair. Something must have still been there—frame, posture, dynamics, head position, focus—maybe, just maybe, something was ingrained enough to peek through when it seemed like everything else had vacated in the name of survival.

Then the pain really hit me. As I breathed a sigh of relief and told myself I was done, my survival mode ended, and my body seemed to sag. I tried to walk to the water dispenser and realized I couldn’t. My knee had completely given out. It screamed at me with the slightest weight. I finally turned to CJ and told him. He must have realized the severity of it when I needed his help to limp back to the hotel room.

We were supposed to dance two more heats the following day, and three final heats the day after. We had to scratch on everything. It was such a defeated feeling telling the officials to remove our names. Then we sat in the front row, watching that first heat being danced without us. Though we’ve lost to competitors endless times before, I’ve never had quite that feeling of loss as what settled on me then. With my knee throbbing and my hopes for Nationals thoroughly dashed, I felt the tears threaten again.

Then CJ turned to me with a big smile on his face and said, “We’re going to do so much better next year!” Bless him. He was rock-solid support for me throughout this entire ordeal. He said something encouraging every chance he got. He lost out too, but he never once complained. Tootling along through a journey that is fun and excitingly challenging is different than watching someone react when things don’t go their way. I got to see his strength and stability, and I found that very comforting. I’ve heard it said that what comes out when life squeezes you is what is inside. It’s nice when life shows you that you have an even bigger blessing than you thought. I have a fabulous partner and I’m so thankful for that.

We got to talking about how good a run we’ve had. Yes, it feels horrible to have an injury prevent us from dancing. But we’ve been spared that, or any other negative factor, for 14 years. We’ve done every competition during that time that we set our goals on. We’ve never had a delayed flight, a sickness, a schedule conflict, or anything that cost us even a single heat. We started remembering the stories shared with us by other dancers who did lose out on competitions. If we do this long enough, we’re bound to experience both the victories and the setbacks. And we sure are blessed that we are “doing this long enough”.

It made me wonder what other people are going through behind their smiles. Dance competitions are fabulous, the culmination of months of learning, and our chance to dress up and shine for all we’re worth. But what are the chances that they come at the perfect times in our lives, untainted by any negatives? Chances are there are challenges, both physical and mental, that are right there on the competition floor with us. We’re not just dancing—we’re performing. And performing requires overcoming. How many times has the “show must go on” mentality carried a dancer through what would have otherwise been just a bit too much? I spent some time pondering this and felt pride and respect for all my fellow dancers. What an inspiration dance can be! How lucky are we to have a motivation strong enough to make us push past boundaries for a beautiful and worthy goal!

I still have my birthday cards on my shelf, and a big “50” helium balloon decorating my living room. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry when I look at it. But I will say my 50th year has started out memorably. And come to think of it, I’ll retract my original statement—the pain did not win. It just got a good punch in. But this dancer is nowhere near done. There is a dance floor in my future that’s just waiting for me to prove that it will take more than a grumpy knee to keep me from my dreams. And in the meantime, that silver Nationals medal seems to shine just a bit brighter.

Lorie Hurst lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and has been dancing for 14 years.  She competes Am-Am with her partner CJ Hurst, who she likes to joke “conned her” into her first competition and showed her a world she didn’t realize how much she would love.  She has lived chapters of life in Canada and California, and experienced everything from remote-woods living to downtown high-rise life.  She is a massage therapist specializing in office and event chair massage.  Reading, writing, and baking are high on her hobbies list, but she has also discovered a love of travel in the last decade that has sparked a goal to want to see more corners of the world.

2023 National Champions

Let's Laugh

Competitions 2023-24

Most Popular

Social Media

Recent Posts

Remembering on Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, American Dancer is remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  God bless the brave men and women of

Past Editions