300 Words, One Life: Dance, Dance, Revelation

It started as a simple game her older brother played at the local arcade.

No one expected her to become an expert at it.

She would watch him play the game and yearn to be as good he was. His passion for it soon became hers. His skill level became the envy of his family and friends.

On what seemed to be a usual Christmas morning, Jessi VanToll opened a present that would become a major part of her life for the next few years, the PlayStation game Dance Dance Revolution. She and her brother would spend hours in their basement playing the game often to the dismay of their parents.

“We just kind of went wild with it. We’d go for like three or four hours at a time,” VanToll said.

Hours turned into days, and days turned into months, all the while her skills became increasingly better and soon she was able to keep pace with her brother.

The thought of competing never crossed her mind.

“I never thought I was good enough until one day a friend suggested entering a competition,” VanToll said.

She nervously decided to enter her first competition where she became hooked, and found she wanted to compete again and again.

Soon, VanToll became the top female dancer in Michigan, followed by a top three ranking in the Midwest. She would spend hours in front of people dancing at arcades in malls all over Michigan and the Midwest. The biggest moment for her was placing tenth in a national competition in Texas.

Jessi VanToll defied the odds as an eighth grader competing in Dance Dance Revolution.

No one expected her to competitively participate in tournaments.

No one expected she would win money.

No one expected she would become the top female player in Michigan.

And certainly no one expected her to be the tenth best dancer in the nation.

But she was.