Last week, I got to watch my cousin, Jessie Ryan, perform with her dance troupe Diavolo on America’s Got Talent. My very first tour as Founding Footsteps was with Diavolo over a year ago. The night before, I watched them perform to a sold out crowd at Philadelphia’s Merriam Theater. The show opened and closed with my cousin as the sole performer on stage. Watching their company live out their dreams that night was incredibly inspiring for me and it made my first tour all the more special and memorable.
Even though she’s quite a bit younger, I’d like to think that Jessie and I have always had a unique kinship. I didn’t go to college until much later in life and we both graduated from Adelphi University in the same year. We had different majors (I’ve never been much of a dancer) and so we sat on opposite ends of Nassau Coliseum for the ceremony. At one point during the graduation, I decided to get a beer from one of the vendors in the lobby. Out of the thousands of people in attendance, the only other person in line for a beer was my cousin.
I can’t tell you how much I admire her focus. I say this without the least bit of exaggeration, from the very first day that Jessie was able to vocalize her dream, the answer was to be a dancer. Over the years, our family has had the privilege of watching her live out that quest. We get to point her out to those around us and brag “See the lead? That’s my cousin. Isn’t she talented?” And she is! But more than that, she’s dedicated. Beyond anyone I’ve ever personally known. She shines on stage because when the spotlight is off, she’s working. She’ll spend hours upon hours pushing her body beyond its limits, raising her personal bar each time. She’s been bloodied, bruised and on the verge of breaking down, only to get up the next morning, and do it all over again.
America’s Got Talent is by no means her pinnacle. It’s just another carrot that was dangled in front of her that, through hard work and perseverance, she was determined to reach. I hope she enjoys it for a few moments before setting her sights on the next carrot, which I know she’ll devour as well. So as Diavolo advances on America’s Got Talent, please watch and vote!! And when you see someone during their performance, doing the seemingly impossible, just know, “That’s my cousin! Isn’t she talented?”
Check out their amazing performance here!
Post contributed by Tim McAleer