From Sonic To The Super Bowl: Dancer Shalyn Provost’s Pursuit To Happiness After Being Told She’d Never Dance
As told to Michelby Whitehead
I always knew I was good enough to pursue some form of entertainment. At the age of three, I was in dancing school which consisted of ballet, jazz, and tap. By the time I was six or seven my Aunt Carla owned a dance school, so I was there faithfully to soak up everything I could. When I got to high school I danced, ran track, and played basketball. But coming from a small town, I just didn’t know how any of this would manifest into something legit– but I knew it was going to happen, despite disloyalty, non-believers we call family and friends, and people who hated for no apparent reason. I doubted myself many days, but I loved my small town of Jeanerette, LA, just the same.
In addition to coming from a place where it’s more practical to get a “safe job,” than pursue the arts, my health also began to make me doubt how my dream would become a reality. At 8 years old, I began to regularly have horrible seizures. I had to see a neurologist every few months, my medication was changing constantly, and because of this the different dosages and many side effects were causing me to be drowsy in school. As a result, my grades were not as good as they could have been. I remember researching epilepsy and being really afraid of what I read. I began to ask questions like, am I gonna die? The doctor asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I remember telling him I like to dance and exercise. He told because I have seizures there’s no way I would be able to dance much or exercise.
Fast forward to my college years and the idea of being an entertainer was still in my bones. It was clear to me that this desire wasn’t going away anytime soon. I didn’t know anybody who had an easy life, although some pretended they did. So I kept pushing because my grandparents are my inspiration. They were strong and confident with a boldness about them that I always admired. I had a great love and respect for them. My grandma was an entrepreneur with a booming business making wedding, birthday, and anniversary cakes. She was able to make her dream happen so I knew being an entrepreneur wasn’t out of arm’s reach. That part stuck with me.
Last year I decided that I wanted to work toward becoming a traveling fitness instructor. I had a “Waiting to Exhale” pow-wow with one of my homegirls and I strategized a plan. Was the plan perfect? Hell no, but it was a start. The biggest problem a lot of us face when conquering our goals is because we don’t see a perfect, yellow brick road with all the accommodations we want, we don’t make a move. And that’s pretty wack if you ask me. Have you seen what happens to squirrels in the middle of the street who take forever to make a move? I say that to say after making a plan – and a move — just one month later I was a certified Zumba instructor.
Things were going OK for me conducting Zumba classes in my hometown. Some supported, some didn’t, but that’s with anything in life. I was just happy to do what I like to do on my own terms. Then the unexpected happened… I lost an aunt to cancer. The family had just found out about her Stage 4 disease in August, and once she died my faith was gone. I didn’t believe in anything. I helped take care of my aunt for the six weeks we had knowledge of her illness. Her daughter and I practically lived in the hospital, so I also watched her decline.
I noticed different things about my aunt before her death, like disorientation. She would start a juicy conversation and suddenly drift into talking about something else. But one day out of the blue, she told me, “You need to change.” I immediately knew what she meant. I honestly believe she saw me spiraling down a horrible path because of my disbelief. And maybe that’s why my business hadn’t reached the full success I knew it was destined for. I began to pray again, with love. Although it hurt like hell that my aunt was no longer here, her death inspired me to go for my goal of becoming a dancer because life is too short not to do what we love.
A few months after her death, I got an unexpected opportunity to dance at the Super Bowl’s first fitness concert. The concert was a three-day event spearheaded by Crystal Wall, wife of Houston rapper Paul Wall. I had met Crystal about four years prior when she was just starting Crystal Wall Fitness. I loved her kind spirit and her tenacity to pursue her own goals despite her husband’s status. It’s not like she and I conversed on a daily basis, so when the chance to work with her fell in my lap, I knew it was God’s favor. Who knew she would be a part of my journey? Four years ago I had no clue that any of this would happen. At rehearsal, I met some other amazing dancers who I see myself building positive friendships with. What I’ve gathered is that help comes along when it’s supposed to. It wasn’t meant for certain people to like or even understand my vision, and that’s totally okay.
In addition to little support, we tend to let our dreams die because “we’re too old” or have “responsibilities.” Now don’t get me wrong, as a single mom with a seven-year-old I know all about those things. But as long as we have breath in our lungs, every day is an opportunity to see our dreams manifest. My first job as a teen was serving burgers at Sonic. I went from serving fast food to doing my thing at Super Bowl! That’s only something God can do. I am blessed to say that and not many people can. But anything’s possible through prayer, prayer, and more prayer. God is concerned about what concerns us, no matter how dumb it seems to everyone around you. Every tragedy that we face is an opportunity for Him to show up and show out and remind us that faith still works. Don’t let any obstacle or person make you think your dreams aren’t valid, not even the smartest neurologist in the world.