Humans of Harker: Push to perform

Brooklyn Cicero immerses herself in movement and explores self-growth through dance


Jessica Tang

“I can remember every show and every dance I’ve been in — maybe not remember the steps to it, but I can definitely remember all the feelings that go into them. [Whenever] I finished a dance, no matter how stressed out I was before or how much my body had hurt before I always came off the stage feeling very happy,” Brooklyn Cicero (12) said.

Brooklyn Cicero (12) recounts her most memorable dance performance at the Santana Row Tree Lighting Ceremony in eighth grade with a smile. Gift bags in hand, festive Christmas shoppers wandered from store to store, pausing to watch Harker middle school dance team Showstoppers perform. “I Will Wait” by Julia Harriman sings out over the speakers as Brooklyn gracefully arches her back with one arm up, draping it over the back of another dancer. Costumed in a soft purple, dancers move to the emotional lyrical piece. The sparkle of pine trees adorned with colorful ornaments complemented the festive November air.

Brooklyn’s initial introduction to dance stemmed from her mother encouraging her to join as an outlet for her extra energy in her elementary classroom. Starting dance in third grade, Brooklyn found the combination of music, performance and companionship in the activity entrancing.

“Dance is like an escape,” Brooklyn said. “Being able to do something that I enjoy while also listening to music and performing in front of a big audience, whether that’s sports or dance, and putting that all together is the perfect moment.”

Every performance contains a special memory for Brooklyn. The time that goes into each dance, the rehearsing, the memories made with friends and the emotion evoked sticks with her even after the performance.

“I can remember every show and every dance I’ve been in — maybe not remember the steps to it, but I can definitely remember all the feelings that go into them,” Brooklyn said. “[Whenever] I finished a dance, no matter how stressed out I was before or how much my body had hurt before I always came off the stage feeling very happy.”

One aspect Brooklyn loves about dance is the invigorating thrill that comes with performing in front of a big audience. Another aspect she loves comes with the ability to wordlessly draw emotions from the audience through dance as a form of self-expression.

“Making other people smile or cry or laugh or whatever the dance was supposed to do, making that emotion come from those people is always very satisfying to me,” Brooklyn said. “It’s nice to know that I … and everybody else that I was dancing with was able to move them in that type of way.”

However, the behind-the-scenes of her progression as a dancer came with learning through disappointment. One hope of Brooklyn’s while dancing in middle school was to be put in the closing number in the annual show. Although she was at first disappointed to be placed in other dances, she realized that her placement in a certain routine did not define her abilities.

“I don’t think any dances are necessarily bad dances, and just because I wasn’t in that one, doesn’t make me a bad dancer,” Brooklyn said. “Whether you’re going to go to the dance industry or not, you’re going to not get picked for something. [It’s important to] understand that I’m not going to be picked first or be picked for everything that I want — I have to get over it and push myself to get it next time.”

As both a dancer and a year-round athlete in softball, basketball and volleyball, Brooklyn took precautions to prevent injuries, often icing or wearing braces. Mental health made up the other half of Brooklyn’s self-care, which included bullet-journaling — which she started in freshman year — making art and taking Sundays to do a face-mask or body scrub.

“The second semester of freshman year, I started bullet journaling … and I didn’t realize how stressful high school would be, so being able to write everything down and make it personal to me was really nice,” Brooklyn said.

Brooklyn’s mindfulness may be hidden by her outgoing demeanor at first glance, but close friend Emma Gurleroglu (12) appreciates the little actions Brooklyn does that reveal her compassionate character. For Emma, it is these small yet significant moments that stand out.

“She wants to accommodate people and make them feel included,” Emma said. “She’s the friend who will wait for you when you tie your shoe or will walk with you to Manzanita [Hall] to throw away your food, even if she doesn’t have anything. She makes you feel seen.”

Close friend Ainsley Millard (12) admires Brooklyn because of her ability to do what is right despite possible judgment in the face of others.

“She definitely does not care about what other people think, which I think is really admirable, because she’s always willing to do the right thing, even if that means people will see her in a different light,” Ainsley said. “She’s very hardworking and very emotionally driven. I think that’s a good thing because she makes it so that she’s very passionate and caring about everything that she partakes in.”

Having taught Brooklyn in both her eighth and 11th grade, upper school biology teacher Dr. Thomas Artiss witnessed Brooklyn’s self-growth from the middle school to upper school.

“Brooklyn is fundamentally the same as she was in middle school; a young woman brimming with passion and potential,” Dr. Artiss said. “What has changed is the degree to which she is getting involved with her passions. She is developing skills and building confidence that is enabling her to lead others and to engage in topics and issues that are passionate to her.”

Through learning to perform under pressure, Brooklyn further built confidence in herself and her team. For her, the unmistakable feeling of a full-out performance makes the stress and nerves worth enduring.

“Even if I’m freaking out right before the performance or thinking that I’ll forget all the dance moves, I’m going to have to go out there,” Brooklyn said. “Afterwards, I’m always like, ‘Oh, that was not that bad.’ I’ve worked on not psyching myself out for so many things and going through with it and seeing what happens, no matter the cause. Dance is something that I’ll definitely keep on doing forever.”