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Good Charlotte: Dancer goes solo to honor mom

Charlotte Graham did her first solo dance to honor her mom at Top Hat Dance Studio. PHOTO: Stephanie Ashton

Charlotte Graham is the ultimate team player.

Graham is a rising seventh-grader at Poquessing Middle School, and what’s best for the team has always been No. 1 on her agenda.

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It’s like that when she’s competing at Bustleton Swim Club. 

An even better example is what she does on her CYO track team, St. Bede’s. A runner by trade, Graham stepped up to throw the shot put when there was nobody on the team in her age group that competed in that event and they needed someone.

If you’re looking for a great teammate, Graham is your gal.

Graham recently performed her first solo dance while performing with Top Hat Dance Studio on Bustleton Avenue and while she’s the ultimate team player, she proved she’s pretty great on her own.

It was the first time she took the stage by herself, and it showed not only what a great dancer she is, but how much courage she has to do it by herself with all eyes on her.

And it’s pretty clear where she gets that courage from.

Graham’s dance was dedicated to her mom Carolyn who passed away suddenly little over four years ago after sustaining a pulmonary embolism.

It’s safe to say mom would have been incredibly proud of watching her girl put on the performance of a lifetime.

“It was awesome, I loved it so much,” Graham said. “I don’t know, just being up there and just seeing everyone in the crowd cheering me on, knowing that I got this, it was great. 

“I wasn’t nervous, really. I was more nervous about crying vs. the choreography. I had the choreography down. I had a lot of help (from my teacher) and I wasn’t nervous about that. I knew I got this.”

Boy did she ever.

She danced with grace and elegance and before she took the stage, she had put in a lot of work. Not only did she have the routine down perfectly, she put together a video that ran with her performance that featured her and her mom.

Charlotte Graham has been dancing since 2016. She’s also a star swimmer and track athlete. PHOTO: West Park Cultural Center

Dance is an art, and sometimes art can be perfect.

It was emotional for Graham, but just as emotional for her biggest supporters, her dad Bill, an Engineering and Science graduate who now teaches at Central, and her brother Ryan, who attends Notre Dame High School in New Jersey, where his mom was a teacher.

“She has courage that I couldn’t dream of,” her dad said. “Especially with the solo. I don’t know that I could get up there with a group of 10, let alone on my own. Just so awesome to watch. 

“I was very proud. For that type of emotional dance to be her first solo, how would she make it through without getting emotional or getting upset? She didn’t. I’m proud of her for all those reasons, dealing with nerves and the tribute.”

Even more important than dad loving it, he knows mom would have, too. 

“She would have loved it, she was around to see the beginnings with Top Hat, because she started there in 2018,” dad said. “Had a bump in the road during the pandemic, just like everyone else, but Top Hat was great. Really credit the studio with navigating a really bumpy road and it was still a place where she had an outlet to deal with her emotions. Losing her mom at that age, I can’t imagine how difficult that is.

“So before this, Carolyn had battled breast cancer. She was always very brave about it, and it was tough. I just can’t imagine losing your parents that young, but she’s strong. And she did a great job.”

While it’s a great reason to celebrate, it should come as no surprise.

On top of being a great dancer, Graham has been collecting medals and honors in everything she does.

She considers herself a dancer first, but that doesn’t take away from all the great things she does in track and swimming.

“Dance is my favorite, I love it,” she said. “Just you can move your body around to any song you can hear. And it comes in many different styles. Lyrical, hip hop sometimes, tap sometimes, I kind of do all of the above. I think it helps me doing all of that, it helps me with the others.

“I love swimming, too. I think that’s what I’m best at, but I love dance more. In swimming, what do I specialize in? Nothing really. I’m probably best at freestyle, but I have a pretty good time for back, and I just got a PR in fly last meet.”

It depends what the team needs.

That’s always been her attitude, and it’s what makes her such a great teammate. 

“Actually, my team needed new recruits and everything for the shot put,” Graham recalled. “My coach asked me to do it, it’s something new to try. I think it’s fun to do new things, put myself out of my comfort zone. But I know I’ll always have dancing down more than with new things. But it’s fun to try new things.”

One thing that’s not new is her family’s support, especially the support from the two main men in her life.

Even if dad isn’t the best dancer, they give their girl all the love and support she needs. 

“My brother was there, and so was my dad,” she said. “My brother supports me. We are close most of the time. We help each other.”

It hasn’t always been easy, but the Grahams are making mom proud. And the dance was the perfect way to celebrate her mom’s life.

“If you asked me last year if I would have been surprised that she could do it, very, but a week beforehand, I would say no because of how much work she puts in,” dad said. “When she set out to do it, I wasn’t surprised. She’s incredible, the school is incredible, they have really helped her in a lot of ways. As a dad, watching it, I was very proud.”

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