“Dance makes me feel invincible. I come from a middle-class family with a mom who’s strong but strict in her parenting. I had to lie to go for dance practice. Whenever she found out, I’d get a beating. She told me to focus on my studies. I wasn’t even allowed a phone. My grandmother helped me buy a phone; with money I’d made working with her in the village and a personal contribution. She always told me that miracles only happen when we put work into it and that I must do what I dreamt.

I only used my new phone after finishing all chores. I’d tell mom I was studying to watch dance videos and tutorials online. One night, assuming she was asleep at 3 am, I put my phone on speaker and started practicing a dance. I suddenly heard footsteps. I quickly grabbed my phone but accidentally increased the volume. She started banging on my door. She took my phone, saying I was too young for it. Her intentions were right but her way of expressing them wasn’t. I packed my things and left, cutting off all contact with her. I couldn’t live with her anymore. I asked a friend for shelter and hid behind a door while she asked her parents for permission. Surprisingly, they welcomed me with open arms. I even started calling them Apa and Ama. I’d help out with chores as much as I could. My new family is the kindest. Apa stresses that I must study too, but never harshly.

I wasn’t in the top 16 in GOKAB last year. With support and guidance from acho Tshewang Charlie, to whom I owe everything I know about dance, I started practicing a year in advance this time – 5 days a week. I wanted to make my mother proud of me.

During one battle, I cried seeing my father in the crowd. The crowd cried with us. And I got a call from my mother after I won second place. I’d only spoken to her a few times, mostly about whether I’d eaten well or not. This time, she congratulated me and said she’d watched my dance battle. She said I’d proven her wrong and made my mark on the dance community, that she would support me now. She was proud of the woman I’d become. I couldn’t believe it. I had to double-check to make sure it really was my mom who was calling me.”

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