Nine years of gymnastics, 12 years of dance, one big choice. 2016 State AA Champion, Jolie LaBarge, had to make a big decision last year, either leave gymnastics or leave dance.
In her first year competing in gymnastics, LaBarge was the 2015 Junior H State Floor Champion. The following year she took the title of 2016 State Champion on Bars and was 11th in the state. She was 16th in the Region of the State team qualifiers and was chosen to represent the state of Michigan at regionals. She was a two time AA champion at the Born to Fly Invite in Big Rapids. “[What I loved about gymnastics] is that it was a team sport; however, you really had to focus on yourself more than anything,” LaBarge said. “Your team does better when you do better. No other person is doing exactly what you’re doing at the same time as you. You’re competing for yourself more than anything.”
Along with being a gymnast, Labarge has a love for dance. “I was three years old [when I started to dance]” LaBarge said. “It was during Mommy and Me dance classes. Since then I haven’t stopped.” LaBarge now goes to Avalon School of The Arts and practices pointe, ballet, acro, jazz and modern dance. She also is an assistant teacher for the younger acrobatic students. Additionally, LaBarge became a member of the WO Varsity Dance Team. “I love to dance because whenever there are days where I am sad, angry, happy etc. I can use that to form my dancing,” LaBarge said.
During her first year competing in gymnastics, LaBarge had pain in her achilles, “I had to get bands to support them. It wasn’t anything major, but after a lot of training as well as continual pain the injury developed into so much more.” The pressure and physical pain gymnastics caused were becoming harder and harder to endure for LaBarge. “I had to do physical therapy for about a year, which has helped me grow quite strong. However, I lost gymnastics and I lost running for a very long time. I wasn’t allowed to run, and walking in between buildings got quite rough,” LaBarge said. “It was a lot of time I had to put in, keeping my body in shape, balancing school, dance, and my injury and the extra practice hours I put in.”
In the end, LaBarge had to make a difficult choice: quit gymnastics, or quit dance.
“It was a hard choice to make,” LaBarge said. “I loved both sports so much and I couldn’t imagine life without either of them. It took me about a month and a half to fully make my decision. It was kinda stressful and emotionally a little painful to let go of something so much to me.” After long and hard deliberation LaBarge finally came to a decision.
She chose to continue dance and to quit gymnastics.
“Dance has been with me since I can remember; the family I have made within dance has been special and the idea that dance has been my entire life for so long is quite special to me,” LaBarge said. “Competing in gymnastics was amazing for me. The coach I had and the team I was part of were beyond influential; however, I could not leave dance,” LaBarge said. “Dance has been there for me more; it has shaped me into the person I am today. In the very end, I could not leave the family and sport that I have grown so much with.”
On her 12th year dancing, and her first year on the WO varsity dance team, LaBarge knew she was right where she wanted to be. “The dance team has made me a much stronger dancer. I’ve become more flexible, a better turner, and I’m more open-minded in my dancing capabilities. I’ve learned about the different styles of competition that I haven’t done before, and have continued to improve the skills I already knew. Dancing almost every day makes me stronger and better for my studio and dance team and myself,” LaBarge said. “Continuing dance made me realize there was more than my studio to dance for; I really liked the idea of dancing almost every day and probably going out of my comfort zone when it came to the style of dance. Trying out for the dance team just meant I get to continue to the passion that I had loved for so long.”
After nine years of 8-10 hours of practice in the gym a week, LaBarge finally said her final goodbyes to the sport and team she had grown so close to. Although it will never leave her completely, “Gymnastics has extremely impacted my life in multiple ways but it also has added to my dance path. I have most of my gymnastics skills that I can use to dance with as well,” LaBarge said. But dance was just something that LaBarge could never leave fully.
The love she has for is just way too powerful to walk away from it. “I continued to watch old dance recitals and I saw the little girl who fell in love with this sport and knew it was just something I couldn’t leave.”