Ups and Downs with Dancer Robert Weatherington
Dancer Robert Weatherington defies gravity. As if he has springs in his feet, he glides through the air in a nimble leap, touches his hands to his pointed toes, and softly lands with a satisfied smile. Even his attitude defies gravity. Despite the obstacles that life delivers, nothing seems to bring this talented young man down.
Dance is not a hobby for Weatherington—it’s a way of life. During his junior year at Badin High School, just two short years ago, he discovered lyrical dance as he exited West Chester Academy, where he took piano lessons.
“A TV monitor caught my eye,” he says. “I saw the dance team doing a dance. I don’t know why I was drawn to it so intensely, but I made an impulse decision to sign up for dance classes right then and there.”
Lyrical dance, Weatherington’s favorite among a long list of styles in which he is trained, offers him the challenge of connecting with an emotional story line.
“Lyrical [dance] has always been my favorite. It’s so emotionally freeing. I like the idea of telling a story without words,” he explains.
Piper VanDerveer, paired with Weatherington for lyrical dance competition, agrees.
“We only started dancing together last year, but right away it was like Robert and I had been dancing together for a long time,” VanDerveer says. “When you dance with a partner, you’re supposed to be able to trust them. Robert and I really understand each other and the music. Dancing with Robert is like dancing with an old friend.”
Weatherington and VanDerveer rehearsed seven to eight hours each week at West Chester Academy in preparation for competition.
Weatherington jumps into challenges with both graceful feet. In addition to dancing, he plays multiple musical instruments, is a competitive speed stacker for Team USA, and has even mastered the Rubik’s Cube. He has learned that keeping his free time filled and occupying his mind with new tasks helps him achieve a calm, soothing state.
Diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive and Anxiety disorders and as a victim of bullying, he hasn’t always greeted each day with sunny hope. With the help of therapy, medicine, attentive parents and great coaches and teachers, he sees each moment as full of possibility and adventure.
“I like the idea of tomorrow. Every 24 hours, we get a fresh start,” he says with wide eyes and a grin.
Part of his positive outlook has been achieved by learning to focus and concentrate on life’s tasks.
“When I concentrate on something intensely, it helps my brain stop,” he describes, “like a meditative state. Puzzles, music, dance…” And stacking cups—very quickly.
When other eighth grade peers were excelling at football and basketball, Weatherington found that even though he was scrawnier than other boys, he had a knack for sport stacking—competitions to stack and unstack cups in specific sequences as fast as possible. He competes with Team USA at competitions around the world, completing the stack sequence in less than six seconds. Weatherington also races the clock to solve Rubik’s Cubes and a variety of other three-dimensional puzzles, decoding them in mere seconds.
He began studying piano, his main instrument, at age five, taught by music teacher Patsy Rabinowitz, Director of West Chester Academy. He also plays guitar, bass, ukulele, mandolin and drums.
“From a young age, Robert was one to observe and do. If he sees and likes something, whether it be playing an instrument, singing, acting, dancing, gymnastics or cup stacking, he puts his mind to learning the skills to master that activity for himself,” Rabinowitz says.
“It has been a joy to watch Robert grow from a little pre-schooler into a fine young man, and it has been a privilege to partner with Robert’s parents to help guide and shape his direction in life,” she adds.
During the school year, Weatherington would awake early to practice piano, his music serving as an alarm for his parents.
“My mom thinks I should major in music, but I really don’t want to do that. I don’t want to resent someone telling me how to play my music,” he explains. “It’s too personal for me.”
Music is an important outlet for him, but it’s dance that has taken center stage in Weatherington’s life. This fall, he leaps into studies at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, with plans for a double major in Dance and Social Work.
“Four out of my five classes my first semester will be dance. I am looking forward to constantly having the emotional release that dance gives me,” he says.
In spite of all of his leaping and spinning in midair, Weatherington is known for being down-to-earth. His humble and helpful spirit inspires those around him. He uses the pain of his past to overcome obstacles.
“I didn’t have anyone like me to help me, so I want to be that person to help others,” he says of his aspirations for a career in Social Work, possibly counseling those struggling with mental illness.
“I know about different therapies first-hand. Instead of medicines, I want to be able to prescribe a Rubik’s Cube,” he says. “If I can help just one person, it makes all that I’ve been through valid—it gives all of what I have experienced purpose,” he adds.
Rabinowitz says, “Robert is an inspiration to many because he is not afraid to shoot for the stars. He sets big goals for himself and starts achieving them one step at a time. He knows that with the arts, there is no such thing as perfection. There is always more to learn and more ways to creatively put skills together for a new expression. He also knows how to enjoy and celebrate the moments along the way.”
“Every emotion I’ve experienced can be used to create something beautiful,” he says.
“People may say that I’m inspirational, but I don’t really view myself that way. I still don’t know why you want to do a story about me. I’m just a normal guy, trying to do my thing,” shrugs Weatherington. “I’m just living my life the best way I can.”
From the top of his poised head to the tips of his pointed toes, Weatherington is emotion in motion. To watch him dance is to experience beauty and grace and feel a connection to the deep feelings of his personal history. Robert Weatherington’s story is just beginning.