Table of Contents Acknowledgements Foreword by: Gary Larsen Author·s Note 1. Self Discovery«««««««««« .

1

2. Beginnings«««««««««««.. 12 3. Lead and Follow««««««««« 33
The Lead««««««««««««««««..34 The Follow«««««««««««««««..39 The Parallels of Dance and life Partnerships«.42 Lead and Follow Within One·s Self««««....48

4. The Method of Movement««««« 51 5. The Many Faces of a Dancer«««« 65 6. The Comprehensive Dance Class«« 79 7. The Dance Lessons of Life««««« 95 About the Author«««««««««««.... iii

Foreword By: Gary Larsen
Essayist Robert Fulghum, in his well known work Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, addresses the topics of ´how to live and what to do, and how to be.µ ´Wisdom,µ Fulghum states, is not gained ´at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.µ In his clever and satirical way, Fulghum, envisions a world in which we all play nicely with each other, clean up the messes we make and then settle down for a nap after milk and cookies. In a similar fashion, R. K. Shanahan·s Lead and Follow: Life Lessons through Dancing, seeks to explore and demonstrate the lessons one learns, apart from the technical and artistic, while training their mind and body in the art of dance. Throughout his training and education in dance Shanahan has come to know a great deal about himself, the world around him and his place within it. Lead and Follow demonstrates a clear understanding of these principles coupled with his desire to share those profound layers of meaning with others. The additional voices of his fellow dancers, colleagues and legends in the fields of art and dance, add a rich diversity to the insightful message. Significance will be found in the stories and ideas among individuals of all ages and background, dancers and nondancers alike. Anyone who has worked hard to achieve success, or who has found themselves at odds with the limits of gravity and injury, will take away great meaning from Shanahan·s work. Lovers of art and beauty will find as much within its pages. Within these pages one can see the process by which many have found a fulfilling passion for life and have added a farreaching and immeasurable value to their existence. If you ask a dancer why they dance, you·ll get a wide variety of responses. Some love to dance for the social aspect; others for the exercise. Some wish to gain the ability and strength to become a professional; others simply dance as a hobby or a distraction from their daily concerns. Each of those responses reflects innumerable motivations, intents and desired outcomes. However, if you ask a dancer what they have learned from dancing you will begin to see something much more thought-provoking. And the journey only begins here. -Gary J. Larsen

Chapter Five: The Many Faces of a Dancer
Years ago, as a new dance teacher and student, I spent a lot of time moving back and forth between a few different places. I would often return home for several months when I didn·t have classes. While home, I spent time with family and got reacquainted with friends and student couples I had worked with, but hadn·t seen in a while. Then I would return to school or a job where I would teach and be gone again for another six to eight months. Between moving back and forth with these somewhat frequent transitions, I often had the opportunity to share in the personal lives of my fellow dancers and the students I was teaching. Over time, I managed to pick up quite a variety of their stories. Teachers of all fields often come face-to-face with the personal lives of the students they work with. I find that I become very attached to those who have shared a significant part of their lives with me. One thing that has always impressed me about some of these individual·s has been the dedication and endurance that they maintain, often through difficult circumstances, and sometimes for the sake of their art. Stories of trial, sorrow, frustration, and then triumph have often been inspiring histories of how endurance through difficulty leads people to better, happier states. The following interviews are put together as a collection of stories shared by friends and students spanning the bulk of the many genres of dance that I·ve become acquainted with. Some of their experiences were recorded in personal interview, while others simply wrote down their thoughts on paper and gave it to me without saying much else. They are biographies of dancers who have been in difficult places, but through dance came to understand themselves a bit more. We all come from different backgrounds, but my hope is that at least one of these stories will have a significant connection to your life. This first story comes from a close friend of mine who shares a story that is difficult for her because of how personal and emotional her experience was. She relives the experience for us, knowing how important it is to be shared because of how many other young women have undergone similar experiences. ´I have now been dancing seriously for about nine months. It is a passion and major part of my life. To me, dance means trust. It·s because of dance that I can trust men with my body again. When I was fourteen, I was sexually harassed at a party. This scarred me for five years. I was so young, and everything and everyone seemed good. I was trusting and didn·t know any better. I was not ever afraid to be feisty, sexy, and myself. Then there was a guy. He was a much older guy who was too interested. He made me feel vulnerable, weak, and like a body, not a mind. But these warning signs, the looks and feelings of wrong, didn·t register with me. His actions were forceful, and he was often hitting on other girls. But he made me feel beautiful. I didn·t realize the years between the two of us.µ She came to know this older boy through a play they were in together. One night, after a show, there was a party for the cast and crew. ´He was there and he would get angry if I talked with other guys, and didn·t like it if I didn·t give him a full hug. He had me off to one side of the room where not everyone would be looking, and started to kiss me and touch me. It felt just disgusting to me. I wanted to get out of there, and when I finally got away I spent the rest of the night in the girl·s bathroom crying. He was hardly apologetic when some of my friends approached him about it later, and shrugged off their warnings to stay away from all their friends.

[Later], when I first started dancing, it was difficult for me to trust the men who were touching my body. For a while, there were certain dances that I could not, and would not dance. I was still far too uncomfortable. However, over time, my level of trust increased.µ One night after being invited to a Swing dance by a school friend, things began to change. ´My friend had a brother who was a really good dancer, and I was to be his partner for the night. The first few songs went as usual, difficult to be close and a fight for some control. During our first few songs he tried to teach me to let go and dance, and have fun. He could tell I was hesitant but I didn·t tell him why. At one point he said to me, ¶Relax. Let me lead.· This was the first time I took a breath and let men in. There was something about his eyes that were so kind and good. It was difficult, but I started to let him lead me. Then I realized that that one incident had affected five years of my life. Dating, friends, even my relationship with my father, who had always been such a good man, were hindered by that moment, and I couldn·t believe I hadn·t realized it until then.µ She later explained to me how other events seemed to help also. Her mother once approached her and said with understanding in her tone, ´It·s not your fault.µ But she had never told her mother what had happened. Soon after that Swing night with a friend and one good man, other dances started to interest her. She was fortunate in that she had good friends and family to help her. ´Swing, Lindy Hop, and Tango came into my life. They helped me get over the rest of my fear and learn to trust again. When I·m dancing I feel beautiful and powerful again, like I have control. I don·t have to do things I don·t want to. Dance taught me that. I am now able to trust men, not just with my body, but with my emotions and mind as well. Dance has changed my life in so many ways. I have never felt so liberated and happy. I have learned that I am in control of my body. I choose who can touch it and who I will not allow to touch it. I feel a new sense of power, personal drive, and happiness because of dance.µ -Anonymous The reality is that we live in a world where not everyone is safe to be around. There are people in the world, some even who may be close to us, who will hurt us, and for no other reason than personal, selfish gratification. But it has been my experience that there can be havens of safety from carnal individuals who have caused pain, whether intentional or not. Such havens can be found in homes of kind, loving family members, or in the company of good friends, who are supportive and caring. Social dances have also shown potential in offering a safe place for social gathering. It has been a source of pride in the dance world that social dances in ballroom atmospheres never have alcohol in attendance. These communities support an environment of mutual respect for others and one·s self. Ballroom dances are safe for the whole family, and for individuals looking to meet others for friendship, or a relationship. After all, ballroom dancing is about generating trust between people. Dancers, like anyone we might meet, come from many different backgrounds and are likely to have difficult circumstances that they are striving to overcome. This next story is of one such individual named Rebecca, who has overcome the challenges of her upbringing and had

some unexpectedly pleasant results come with it. Rebecca is a high-spirited dancer, with great passion and drive for the exercise and stimulation of it. She·s fun, social, and eager to be involved. But, it was not always like this for her. Home life often made it very difficult for her to be herself and do the things she wanted. Her mother worked all day and into the evening, and so there wasn·t anyone around to help with the family. Rebecca began feeling a lot of aggression toward her mother about this, but felt she had to keep it bottled up inside because she knew her mother had to work. To make matters worse, she had a step-father who wasn·t involved much in family affairs. ´At home I was the parent. I had to watch my younger siblings every day. I couldn·t dance because I had to watch them. So there were times I snuck out during the night to run, or go dancing, to work out aggression. I had a lot of aggression back then. At age sixteen, I looked at dance and felt that it was something I could do the rest of my life and be completely happy. It became a way for me to express myself and get out emotions. I knew it was something I could be good at. My stepdad was verbally abusive and gone all the time. None of us knew what he was doing, but the responsibilities were always shoved off on me. Anything that went wrong was my fault, and it seemed that he was always angry, usually at me. I talked with my mom about it one day and she had no idea that I felt the way I did. But she was not around very much.µ Rebecca went on to explain that it was soon after that, that her mother realized she needed ´a big change,µ and started to think a lot about divorce. In the meantime, Rebecca kept dancing as often as she could. ´I felt like it was the one thing I had that was mine that I could escape to. It helped keep me going during the tough days. Then my mom came to me and said, ¶I want to do this with you, and build up our relationship again.· We danced in classes together and soon started talking about other things which made us appreciate each other more. We have a better relationship now. We talk with each other all the time now, and we both keep dancing.µ Rebecca also has an older sister who loves dancing but had left for school during this transition in her life. I asked her what her sister thought about all this new interaction with their mother. She told me, ´She can·t believe the change that has taken place.µ Before this point in her life, Rebecca hardly had any relationship with her mother at all. So it seems that not only did Rebecca·s dancing help to save her from the challenges of her home life, but it has had a hand in saving the relationship with members of her family as well. -Rebecca Lamar, Candonton, Missouri Student of Ballroom Dance This next story is one about the dedication and perseverance of one individual. When Carly turned nine she saw a high school performance by a team called Dance Line. At that point, she got excited about dance for the first time in her life and wanted to be like them. ´Mom put me in dance when I was three. I would cling to her and scream the whole time. I was horrible. They all remember me for that. [Dance Line performed] an exciting, energetic routine that looked fun. They all had such big smiles and I wanted to be like them.µ

After watching the performance, she quickly got back into classes, and a few years later made the same team, Dance Line, in high school. But, soon after that difficult problems came up that couldn·t be ignored. ´By my second year on Dance Line my knee started hurting. Sitting was fine, but standing hurt and my knee swelled up at the end of every day two to three times bigger than it should have been. I spent a lot of nights watching TV with my knee elevated on ice.µ Surgery put Carly out of practice for two months during the competition season. She explained that the doctors had to open the knee and get under the patella (knee cap) to scrape out loose and jagged calcium deposits that had accumulated there, doing damage to the surrounding joint. During that time, Dance Line had shows for every halftime of the basketball season, and she felt like she was letting the team down. ´It hurt so much that I couldn·t be out there with them performing. Sitting there watching my team, knowing that I couldn·t be out there doing what I loved, broke my heart, and I was jealous because I was the injured one not able to be with them«µ After the initial two months, there was still several more months of painful physical therapy, and her knee would often swell up again. Eventually her knee was able to heal fully, and she returned to dancing, thankful that she was able to. ´I keep dancing today because, for me, dance has become an escape from day-to-day stresses, and a release that makes me feel more alive. It has taught me that hard work and dedication can get you anywhere. It is something that is exciting to me, something that gets me up in the morning, and helps me get through my day.µ -Carly Student of Modern and Ballet For many, growing up is a hard experience, one that many don·t often wish to remember, for many different reasons. This next story is one I·m sure many of us can relate to, as we remember that childhood peers can often be cruel. This individual was a target of that cruelty. She expressed to me how she had a very hard time in school when she was young, and how dance has been a healing activity for her. ´My first experience with dance was probably the most pure experience. I didn·t know about technique but I put the most into my movement. No other thoughts and feelings interfered. I could drop almost everything and be immersed in whatever dance I was doing. Dancing different choreography allowed me to explore thoughts and emotions, and deal with them. That helped me let them go.µ The new experiences she found after getting on a dance team opened new doors, showing the potential for new life and expression without judgment from those around her. ´Team experience was really phenomenal. You have to work with [your team] in such a different way. You have to be aware of that person, connecting you to that person in a much deeper way. I always

had the most fun with the people I was with on my teams. You can let go and have fun with them but also be serious and disciplined.µ -Anonymous In life we may feel we are moving down a path toward an end goal, fairly certain of where we will end up. But sometimes we find that our path has led us to other places and grander heights than we would ever have believed were possible. This individual shared deep connections with friends she made on dance teams that she couldn·t find in other places, which freed her to express herself and become more the person she was meant to be. Working now as a talented artist, she uses much of the creativity that dance allowed her to explore in her youth, to create beautiful art pieces. She still dances too, and finds it a healthy and vital part of who she is and has become. During my interviews for this work I found it hard to get a lot of male participation. This was mainly because there weren·t a lot of serious male dancers available to interview. But then I met Taylor. We were two of only a small handful of male dancers in a class dominated by talented women. He always had great enthusiasm and a drive to improve his work in technique and style. As I got to know him I found out that he had grown up in a dance studio owned by his family, and so I asked him about his thoughts on dance. In our interview he gave me some great insights to what it was like for him growing up as the only male dancer in his community. ´I started dancing when I was three at my mom·s studio, and I was probably the only guy dancer in my town until I was about sixteen when a friend of mine joined. Dancing back home was kinda hard for me because I was the only guy who danced, so I got teased a lot. It was really hard at first, getting bugged about dance. Mostly it happened at school from certain groups of guys. Girls never bugged me. That was nice, so most of my friends are all girls. I got teased up until junior year of high school. Then it all quit because TV shows like ´So You Think You Can Dance,µ and ´Americas Best Dance Crew,µ started coming out, and I was the only kid in my town that did Hip Hop. Then everyone realized that I actually could dance, so there was a drastic change during my last two years of high school. It opened up so many opportunities for me to go have fun and be who I am. Dance was kind of a love/hate thing for a lot of years, but once I got past the point of caring about whether I got teased, it opened up to me all the greatest things in my life. I grew to love it so much that it·s now the biggest part of my life and I don·t think I could ever stop. Dance is what my personality is. If I didn·t have dance, I don·t know what I·d be doing. I·m probably going to dance forever, or until I·m extremely crippled. Life at my mom·s studio was hard because I was the son of the owner, so I got worked the hardest. It made me practice even harder so I wouldn·t get ¶attacked· in a class by the teacher for not knowing the steps, which made me a stronger dancer, which I·m thankful for. I·m glad they got after me because I did have quite the lazy attitude for a few years. It was fun; a really good atmosphere to grow up in. My mom was like a mother to the entire studio, and I got some of the closest friendships I think I·ll ever have there. For me, I dance because I like to be on stage and perform for others, and make others feel as happy as I do when I dance. I also dance whenever I·m sad. Or if I·m really happy, I got to start a groove in my kitchen or make up dances in my head. It·s how I know how to react with what I·m feeling in my head. It·s a good way for me to let out my emotions, without being angry or showing sadness. That·s why I·m generally a happy person, because I put all of my emotion into my dancing.µ -Taylor J. Boschman, British Co. Canada Student of Hip Hop, Tap, and Contemporary

Now I want to introduce to you a friend with really great energy. Thea is an actress and dancer, hoping to teach one day. In all the time I·ve known her, she has had great passion and energy for her work, and dance in general. A fun, caring individual, she is eager in all things she puts her mind to. For her, dance is another character she gets to explore on stage, and this helps her to explore her inner self. She remembers dance being the first thing she was ever passionate about. For her, it has been something to look forward to. ´I was so clumsy when I was little. I bumped into walls constantly and my mother didn·t want me to hurt myself any more. She said, ¶We need to do something about this, so let·s put her in dance lessons.· I started out taking several classes: Tap, Jazz, and Lyrical, to start with. I just liked it so much that I practiced all the time and in the first few months I was moved to the advanced Tap class with the teenagers. I was eight years old.µ Thea·s early childhood experience with dance, her enthusiasm, and her obvious talent, was motivating. Her sister and mother soon joined her in taking lessons, and later they entered the ´Prescott Valley Days Competitionµ [in Arizona] together, taking third place. Thea recalls her little sister wanting to follow along to all her practices. ´I remember her saying, ¶I want to do it too Mom.· The studio apparently had a great family deal of $75 for three people. So my mom said, ¶What the heck, let·s all join.· Dance is all I did back then. I went from school, to home to dance class. You have to be dedicated to something to make it work, and if you mess up, you keep on going. I love dance because it·s unbiased. You don·t have to look a certain way, or act a certain way, or have a God-given talent; you just have to have love and a willingness to work hard. Anyone can dance because dance is unique to us. Dance allows us to interpret it, and therefore put an extension of ourselves within it. It allows us to tap into our creativity and move our bodies in new and exciting ways. It lets us explore unknown ground and push our body to its limit. But most of all, I love dance because it comes from within. It is physical, yes, but it is also mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is never the same because none of us are exactly the same. Dance gives you immediate results, which allows you to look at yourself and improve, if need be. Dance is movement, but I think more than anything, it is an expression of the soul.µ -Thea Woodruff, Apache-junction, Arizona. Student of Clog, Tap, Modern Dance, and Theater Challenges in life exist for all of us. On occasion, you may experience some that seem to set you apart from others. There are problems we face that are ours to deal with the best we can. The impossible challenges seem to affect us and push us beyond our perceived limitations more then all others. This last story is a very personal one, about a woman who battled both with herself and with real dangers that seemed to suffocate the best parts of her life. ´My husband was an angry, abusive man and I was afraid of him. We had gone to counseling together once years before and he had participated in treatment for alcoholism and anger management a couple of times during our marriage, but he never managed to get control of his temper and he had returned to drinking. [One year] we had a difficult and strained vacation in Hawaii, but my youngest daughter and I stayed a few extra enjoyable days when it came time for him and my older daughter to return home to

their jobs. During these few days we relaxed, explored the island·s restaurants and watched a surprising number of movies. One of them would inspire me to make a decision that would ultimately change the course of my life. The movie was ´Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.µ As we watched it I felt that the dancing was amazing and I found myself constantly thinking, even dreaming about what it would be like to move one·s body in a way that was sensual, expressive, and spoke of freedom³not to mention the fast, upbeat rhythm was energetic and looked like a lot of fun. I bought the movie and then the soundtrack when we returned home from the trip. I played the music in my car and on my computer at work every day for over a month. I imagined dancing salsa in a club with my partner and I the center of attention as we moved in perfect unison, communicating movement through energy and touch. But this was not me. Except for the basic Swing my father taught me when I was a girl, I had never danced a step in my life; and far from the young, sexy, daringly clad women who danced in the movie, I was middle-aged, out of shape, overweight and had a closet full of loose-fitting clothes. I got winded just walking up a flight of stairs. [One week] I took advantage of an opportunity to visit my parents during my lunch hour from work. The ´Dirty Dancingµ soundtrack was playing in my car as I pulled into the driveway. I thought of my parents and their lives together. The one thing that stood out in my memory is they danced and did it often. They turned the garage into a dance studio of sorts, took classes, practiced, went to dances, practiced with friends, had dance parties, and practiced some more. As a teenager it seemed to me their entire lives were wrapped up in dancing. When they weren·t working, they were dancing. Even their arguments were usually about dancing. I sat with my Dad and visited while he finished his lunch. I took out the CD and asked the question I secretly wished I had asked thirty years earlier, ´Dad, could you teach me to dance to the music on this CD?µ Right away he got up and put the CD into his sound system in the living room. He listened, frowned, tried a few steps in place and then announced he thought it was a fast tango, which he simply couldn·t do anymore. He immediately suggested I take some lessons and promptly got out the phone book. We looked up dance studios and found the closest one to my home and work. I wrote down the website and brought up the schedule of classes. There was a salsa class starting the next Monday evening! Over the next couple of days I brought up the website and contemplated what it would be like to take a dance class. Once I even drove to the studio to see how long it would take me to get there on my lunch hour³ten minutes. That was doable. But it was ridiculous. I didn·t believe my husband would ever agree to take lessons with me much less allow me to do it during my lunch hour with another man and paying for it without his knowledge would be a problem. It was an insane and dangerous idea. I pushed the thoughts of dancing out of my mind and threw myself into the activities associated with my work. The first day of the salsa class came and went, but I couldn·t keep away from the studio·s website. I had missed the start of the salsa class, but a beginning swing class was starting the next Sunday. Swing was my Dad·s favorite dance and as a young girl he had shown me the basic step in one of my weaker moments when I actually allowed my parents to teach me something. Occasionally we·d dance it together, always to Glen Miller·s ´In the Mood.µ Swing would be fun to learn and maybe [my husband] would agree to take that class with me on a Sunday. He had been given assignments by our counselor to interview me in the hopes of getting to know me better. He had absolutely no idea what I did in my work, what my dreams were, and not a clue of what my fears were. During one of our ´interviewsµ I got up the courage to talk to him about my interest in dance and gave him the website information. I told him I would really like to do Salsa, but there was also a Swing class starting on Sunday. He actually looked up the website and called the studio. He said he·d signed us up for the Swing class. I was stunned and then panic stricken as I realized I was actually going to take a dance class. When we arrived, several people were waiting to register. A man was standing at the counter. When we walked in he flashed us a big smile and welcomed us in a voice that seemed too loud for the

panicked state I was in. I had read about him on his website. His dance career spanned over thirty years. With his experience, I wondered how much patience he would have with someone like me, who was not only a total beginner with no natural talent, but who was also likely to cry or throw up at any moment. I made it through the first class without doing either and actually felt good about my ability to at least keep up. The Swing lesson my parents had given me all those years ago served me well for this first class. I enjoyed myself and was excited by the prospect that maybe I could learn to dance after all. Even my husband seemed to have a good time. As we left the studio that evening, our instructor told us he had a beginning Salsa class on Monday nights, which we could join a week late if we were interested. He assured us we wouldn·t have any problem catching up because he always reviewed the previous week·s lesson. Salsa³this was the dance I had been dreaming about for weeks and I was feeling just confident enough at that moment to say yes. I was anxious about what other people would think of me if I turned out to be less than an ideal partner, and because of my husband·s erratic behavior, I was also extremely nervous about interacting with other people, especially men. I felt sick to my stomach, but resolved I would not give up the idea I could learn to dance. I recognized I had a fear, which at its core had roots both in my personality and in my dysfunctional relationship with my husband. This fear might prevent me from learning, growing, and enjoying myself, or fulfilling a dream. I was determined to dance, do it right, and have it look good. When my husband was angry, he was scary. He·d sometimes go into out-of-control rages, threaten and intimidate, throw and slam things. My oldest daughter and one other daughter were living on their own now. Both were afraid of this man they called dad and had left home because of him. On separate occasions he had threatened both their lives. Days and weeks would pass, but I was still driven by fear and I vacillated about telling him our marriage was over. One Monday night my husband came back to the bedroom to ask what I was doing. I reminded him I was going to the Salsa class and told him I planned to meet my friends for a bite to eat before going to the studio. Never in all our years together had I ever seen him so enraged. As he yelled, threw things, hit doors and walls and called me every vile name he could think of, I tried to stay quiet and calm, knowing I needed to get out of the house quickly, but not wanting to become the direct recipient of his violent rage. He threatened to go to the studio so he could see what I was really up to, and told me he was always watching me. I was shaken, but followed through on my plans to meet my friends and attend the class. My life was turning upside down, but still I danced.µ Later on, Rae Ellen was able to leave her abusive husband and get settled in a new place where healing began. She continued lessons, and later went on to compete in a dance competition. She has since done many competitions and attributes the freedom and sense of peace she now enjoys to dance, as it motivated her to step out of her shell and dare to challenge herself once again. This excerpt was taken from, and can be read in full detail, in ´Dancing on Roller Coasters.µ ´Although sad about the difficulties my children had experienced, I had no regrets. I couldn·t choose over a different path from the one I had started down fourteen years earlier. Nothing would be gained by wishing I·d turned right instead of left. The experiences I·d had, the choices I·d made all contributed to the person I had become. Our strength and power lies in our ability to make new choices each day and in recognizing that the choices we make today determine who we will become tomorrow. The [competition] was my ´tomorrow.µ My now ex-husband couldn·t touch my life anymore. I was free of him and I was okay. I was better than okay³I wasn·t afraid.µ - Rae Ellen Reas, Seattle Washington Social Dancer and Area Competitor

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