How Dancing Saved My Life & Made Me Beautiful
Summer 2006 Intro To Dance Journal by Shoshana Rose
“Dancers are instruments,
like a piano the choreographer plays.”
– George Balanchine
I’ve written hundreds of pages in my journal this summer. Here are some excerpts from my primary journal, in addition to specially written entries just for dance class. Look at that!—it would appear I am a writer and a dancer! Whatayaknow?
I guess it’s not all that surprising and unusual for a person to be inspired toward more than one artistic bent? Especially if that person has been lucky enough in this life, not only to fall in love with themselves, inspiring their own heart form within, but too, to love the art forms they practice and then be lucky enough to find teachers who inspire, encourage, exhort and praise you—that’s the icing on an artist’s cake!
Introduction To Dance
Written During Summer Semester
By Shoshana Rose
Here is where it all began, three years ago on a community college dance floor. I have a journal from that first summer’s class. And the summer after—2004—and last summer, 2005; finally this summer, 2006. Might be fun someday to put them all into one book and read straight through all 4 years, observing myself and my progress? Watching how the tie to my inspirational blood line thickens and deepens.
This class has been my savior! This class brought me hope to start life over after much pain, sorrow and loss. This little 1 unit Introduction to Dance Class will stand out in my life’s history as a turning point of turning points. Believe it or not, this little dance class saved my life!
I’m feeling choked up just now, thinking about it. Doubtful anyone could really understand? For it’s hard to admit or even believe, that something as common as dancing, I mean, the love of dancing, could actually give a girl hope to go on living. Its hard to believe that inside her heart, when she laid upon her bed four years ago, fantasizing slitting her own throat, watching the blood run down over her pink paisley bed spread, that the one thought pervading her mind, over and above the joy at the thought of death and it’s subsequent release from pain, is that if she does herself in, she’ll never dance again! So she didn’t kill herself, even though the thought thrilled her to the point of near orgasm. Instead, she hung on to hope for guidance; and, she prayed!
She prayed for weeks on her floor; for six hours a day; with gut-wrenching tears; hardly eating; crying out to the Creator of the Universe; reaching out for the light. And by-and-by the answers came; and inspiration too; then desire. It only took a phone call—619-644-7000—”hi, yes, could you please send me your current class schedule? My address is 15805 Rosemont Lane, Ramona. Thank you.”
The next summer, after more pain had flooded my heart and soul because my son had left me, I finally signed up for one class at Grossmont College—Introduction to Dance with D. Mullen. I couldn’t remember if D. Mullen was the same as the one whose class I’d tried to take in 1998 or ‘99 (can’t recall which year it was) but I found out it was the same person when I saw an old friend of mine at the Orthodox Synagogue in Rancho Bernardo, on Rosh Hashanah 2002.
“Lilo! (Big hugs and kisses) Oh my God how are you?! And there’s your son, he’s so cute! What are you doing here?! My God, you look so…so….so ‘Orthodox’! Are you, um….have you, converted?”
“Shoshana, it’s so good to see you. Yes, yes, this is my shul; mine and Avishag’s. And Shoshana, no one knows me by Lilo here; my name is ‘Haddasah‘ now.”
“Oh, OK. ‘Haddasah’? –hmm…very nice. What’s new with you, besides being so J-e-w-i-s-h? Last I saw you, you were studying dance at Grossmont College.”
“Yes, and I finished there and now I’m a religious studies major.”
“So you’re a professional student?”
(Lilo smiles big) “Yes, yes I am.”
“And that supports you and Avishag? Do you have your own place or are you still with your Mom?”
“Yes, we have our own apartment in RB. The money I get from school, along with help from my Mom, supports Avishag and me. We’re doing well.”
“How about you Shoshana, how are you, still folk dancing? How’s Shabtai?”
“Shabtai and I broke up July 4, 2001 and I’ve been living in Ramona.” “Oh, I’m so sorry Shoshana. I really thought you two would get married. You were such a nice couple. Everyone loved to watch you dance together.”“Yeah well, what can I tell you Hadaasah? He was never going to make the leap and actually marry me. Like my therapist said: ‘Why would he when I give him everything without his needing to commit’? I’ve lost everything Lilo; again!” (sigh)
“I’m sorry Shoshana. So are you dancing at least? You haven’t given that up have you?”
“Well Lilo, sorry, I mean Haddasah. Actually I’m thinking of taking some dance classes at Grossmont again. It didn’t work out last time, Shabtai’s mother dying shortly after the semester began; he flying to Israel and me being left with the burden of the machine shop. Everything was always his agenda, you know? But now I’m free to try again. So I think I’ll go back to school?”
“Whose class are you taking? What instructor?”
“Um, I don’t know who it is exactly? There are no first names in the schedule, it just says: D. Mullen.”
A big grin spreads across her beautiful face and for a moment Lilo gazes at the synagogue ceiling. With a sparkly, far away look in her eyes, like she’s remembering fond memories, she then said:
“Ah, that’s Dave. He’s great, you’re really going to like him and enjoy his classes.”
“Oh, D. Mullen is a man? I wonder if he’s the same man who screamed in my face years ago. He really scared me, Lilo!”
“Well it must be Dave because he’s the only male dance instructor at Grossmont. But don’t worry Shoshana; his bark is worse than his bite. Go to his class, you’ll like it.”
“Ok, I will. Thanks!” (more big hugs and kisses)
At that point in our conversation an Israeli guy, Gabi Moyal, who recognized me, comes over and says: “Hey, aren’t you that Israeli Folk Dancer? I recognize you. How are you? You’re a great dancer, you’re Israeli, right?”
“Yes, I was an Israeli Folk Dancer, but no, I’m not Israeli.” And with conviction I add: “But I should’ve been! It was mistake that I wasn’t born in Israel.”
He laughed. And Haddasah laughed. Then services began again and we said good bye. I haven’t’ seen her since, but Shabtai saw her at a Chanukah event that year and told me that she asked about me, giving him her business card. He showed it to me; I remember it said something about healing dance.
I told that whole story to illustrate the point that I believe it was ordained-of-God; destiny, that I go to the Intro Class. For I’ll tell you, the morning of Rosh Hashanah 2002, when I woke up, I had not planned to go to the Chabad synagogue, but I felt prompted inside my spirit to go; felt pushed. I never went to services at that particular synagogue. The only other time I’d ever been inside was for my friend Allen’s wedding.
It was kismet that I saw Lilo there. It was foreordained that we have the conversation we had. And I believe it was Devine guidance putting the seal of approval upon my choice to go to Grossmont Dance.
So there you go. God wants people to dance! God and dancing saved my life! Healed my heart; gave me back my beautiful body—as Shabtai used to call it—and now I find myself on the cusp of great and wonderful dancerly things about to break forth in my life, after this 4th summer in Intro to Dance with David Mullen.
Here’s the journal of my progress.
July 8, 2006:6:52am
Here I am on a Saturday morning, sitting a top my bed, eating raw chocolate, drinking my Mate’ and writing in my journal. It’s easy to say what I will write about today because I have to get started on my journal for dance class.
Now let’s see if I can remember back to June 13th, the first day of classes?…..
I do easily recall the exact date classes began because I’d looked forward to the summer session for so long, and had it marked on my calendar. And even though I was in anticipation, I remember feeling very nervous upon arrival at school. In fact, my knees felt like Jell-O and my tummy did these flipping motions as I pulled into the school parking lot. It made it difficult to walk from my car, up the steps and into the studio. But once I made it to the front door, I was fine.
Class had already begun and everyone was sitting in a circle for the Professor’s first day introductions. When it came to my turn, I clammed up, telling very little about myself. I don’t know why, I just chickened out to open up. Guess I was scared to get the “evil eye” on me and get injured again? Superstitious, I know.
Now I have to tell you how FUN ballet was this year! I have to tell you how much I have missed it! How my body longs for the postures. How I’m addicted to it and even the mere word, “ballet”, makes me to stop and sigh with reverence and awe.
What an amazing thing it is, this dance form created by a man. Sometimes, when I’m at home practicing my postures, getting into the positions, it feels like there is a cosmic energy force traveling through my limbs; my soul also. Like as to when I pray; or sing; drum; or have sex! It’s very similar; but there are degrees to the feeling; the experience. Ballet is something more than meets the eye and I only wish I could’ve experienced it from childhood.
Professor Mullen was very good at helping me with my ballet and I really liked that. It’s helpful, no, invaluable to me when I am corrected at the barre. Because I’m concentrating really hard, you know? I want to force my body to do the shapes and movements! Since reading my nutrition guru’s books, I am convinced that my age—42—is in actuality a young age. The human body is meant to last long and be vital, well past the hundred year mark. If fed living foods such as I now eat.
So when I stood at the barre that first day of class, I couldn’t help but just pretend I was 14, and not 42. I played a game with myself and it worked. The brain is a powerful thing. And the great thing about the mind is that it believes whatever you tell it.
There I was, focusing on my reflection in the mirror, playing a make believe game in my head: “I am just a girl, here in this dance class. Ah yes, I am fourteen—the same age as Degas’ famous statuette: “Little Dancer, Age Fourteen”. I love dancing and I am good at it. Here I am in dance class, learning from a ballet master. Here I am having fun!
All these words I told myself that first day. The fearful censor, she was no where in sight. She’d been banished and I was born again!
I hand gotten back into pretty good shape before beginning this summer session of dance classes while working my active job house cleaning and taking ballet classes twice a week at the Academy. But I have to tell the truth…..nothing kicks my butt into shape faster than being in a College dance class. The instructors really push us. They push and push and push until I burn; until my muscles scream for relief. It’s wonderful. “Wow! By the time I’m done here, I’ll look 14! Not just feel fourteen. ha!”
Seriously, I was most happy with the barre work, even though the pace was slower than Askar’s class. Of course it had to be because it is an Introduction to dance. Still, I knew I’d further myself and my dancing, and too, continue to lay a good solid foundation for my dance future.
“Welcome to student hood, Shoshana Rose.”
(Studentship? Student……student, what? Oh forget it.)
Welcome to being young again—-
being happy dancing
Today is Monday, July 10th, 2006—the day of the full moon. Tonight, I’ll try to get some howling in!
Sadly, I didn’t make it to African dance yesterday because I woke up sick! Fever, nausea, headache, exhaustion—the works! I don’t know how I got a bug, unless it was from the Palestinian market and those pickled eggplants I ate? Groan. Well no mind, I’m better now. It’s amazing what a day and night in bed will do for ya!
So now I’m going to do some writing about Thursday, June 15th, the second day of dance classes……
I can see my reflection in the mirror: my black leotard; my pink tights; the tight bun in my hair. Ah yes, ballet makes me feel so lovely; I really like being here; in this studio, at this barre, watching myself, following the teacher.
I said in my last entry about class, that I was excited and in anticipation for weeks to start this class. And once I got here, it felt like a dream come true. Because no on but me knows the pain I suffered in my body since last summer. No one knows how I’d cry in agony at night, first over my foot, then my back. Truly, when I began my current job on January 2nd, 2006, all I could think about was how I’ll finally have enough money to buy good foods and supplements, so that I can get well and get back to dancing!
Standing in class that second day, June 15th, looking at my reflection, realizing the truth—that a person can age backwards and that ballet is the best exercise in the world—well, I felt very happy, very lucky, and very thankful that destiny had answered my prayers and led me to healing, and now long last I will learn to dance.
I found it much easier to do ballet this time around, than in prior years. You know what?—it really does help to know those French words! And it really doesn’t take much to get them. What it takes is repetition. Going to class and continuing to go to class. By and by they sink in.
The other thing I recall about class that second day was how flexible I’ve become. The reason I love the summer session so much is because of the length of class time. This allows for a prolonged period of stretching and by the second class meeting I felt I’d made further progress with my splits. Turnout is another story however. Who knows if I’ll ever get that? But I try, aye?
In closing this entry, I want to share a thing I like about Professor Mullen’s classes, as compared to other dance classes I’ve taken. And that is his observation capacity, with resultant correction. He notices exactly what I do wrong and then helps me to realign, reposition, or try again. I find this to be the most valuable aspect of his classes. He’s not quiet about correction and this is what I need, if I am going to further myself in dance; in other areas too, huh?
I do so love to dance! You know? It’s my passion-of-passions. And I want to be good at it. And now that I’m physically well and have turned back the years, there’s no reason whatsoever for me not to pursue my dance goals. No reason at all.
Praise God for dancing! And thanks to that guy who invented ballet! What was his name?…..King Louie? That part I can’t remember. But I’ll look it up and let you know.
July 11, 2006:5:50am
Now in my writing, I come to the third class session, which was Tuesday, June 20th. It’s going to be difficult to write about June 20th and not also write about the most exciting thing that has happened to me all year! But now that I have newly found self-control, I’ll forego telling about that encounter and get on with my observations of dance class and my personal progress…..
June 21, 2006:4:00am
I feel beautiful! Uh huh, I do. I really started to in that 3rd class.
One of the chief reasons I love dancing is that aspect right there. i.e. its “beautifying factor”; ballet especially. (With hands in prayer position in front of my breasts, eyes raised to the heavens: “Oh dear God, please give me the strength to dance in those pretty Pointe shoes one day? Thank you. Amen.”)
So yeah, Tuesday, June 20th does stand out in my memory because it was the night my confidence returned to me. Like it used to be years ago at Israeli Folk Dancing. Not only because of my feeling younger and more beautiful, although that does have a lot to do with it, but mostly because I saw for myself my own dance progress. Finally, I was “getting it”, you know? I could go across the floor, hold my head up, and look in the mirror at the same time—wow! such multi-tasking! Ha!
And when we danced the combination in front of the mirror, I stood really close to my reflection, admiring the times I remembered to stay turned out, and point my toes. How pretty and feminine I feel while dancing ballet.
Thursday, June 29, 2006:6:00am
I am in a great mood today! It’s because I slept in! And it’s because I had such a spectacular and fun time in dance classes Tuesday night. And now that I feel more confident when going across the floor, I think I am dancing better too? My instructor said that my dancing has improved and I believe him. His teaching style has improved too. I believe him when he says I’ve improved because I have eyes and can see for myself my own improvement.
**Oh! I surly loved it when we all held hands on Tuesday night while going across the floor! **
Now I want to comment on seeing the video David showed us from the dance concert. The ballet was beautiful and I so want to do that someday!—To dance in a ballet. The modern piece about war made me feel heavy. The music was something I could never dance to because it so pounded my brain, I felt my eyes going to sleep, which was the same reaction I felt at the dance concert live. Now I get to Professor Mullen’s work. The dance with a title, I don’t know what it means? The dance with no music; and the dance where the girls forgot to wear their dresses, ‘cuz all I saw was their slips! Yep! David did that! He choreographed a dance to no music! And the girls are dancing in their underwear!
Bravo artist Mullen! Getting’ your mind out there; out there! I loved it!! His show made me giggle and feel happy. I wanted to go play with those girls! They looked like they were having fun!—made me remember my childhood on the playground as a girl. Kids are so free, aren’t they?
***David Mullen’s dance was about liberation!!!***
Maybe next spring, I will get to dance in the dance concert? And if I do, I hope it will be just as fun and free? And maybe too, I can dance in my underwear!? Or, maybe we can all dance in French maid uniforms? Wouldn’t that be sexy?
Another comment I have about dance class is from Professor Mullen’s lecture on Modern Dance. Even though he spoke of Modern, he did make reference back to ballet and when he did, he mentioned Dame Margot Fonteyn. I wonder if I ever told him that my Israeli Folk Dance teacher, Yoni Yakovee-Carr, met Ms. Fonteyn.
Oh, here’s something I can say about myself….I am sore! Ouch. I am hurting in places I haven’t hurt in years. Isn’t that wonderful?
Oh yeah, here’s another thing I can say about my dancing….Guess what I’m getting myself? Go ahead, try to guess. Ok, I’ll tell you—drum roll please—I, am getting myself my very own BALLET BARRE for my room!! J I am going to order it from newyorkdancewear.com. With shipping it’ll be just under 300 dollars. There about? And it’s a double barre, easily disassembles, and can be transported in a small car. Cool aye? I’m so excited! Wow, I’m really getting into this “loving myself” routine. About now, it’s become habit.
You know, I am really happy these days. As long as I don’t drink too much wine; nor do stupid things to give away love and sex energy when it is not beneficial to myself; and as long as I dance and stretch every day, as much as possible, eating my raw and living food diet, I’ll be OK. I will survive. “I am impervious to New Rome and all of its lies and oppressions. I am like the eagle—free, brave, cautious, and at the top baby! At the TOP!
Maybe all those things the angels showed to me at the cottage, really will come true? Time will tell.
Thursday, June 29, 2006:9:57am All morning I’ve been thinking about dancing! I feel so inspired! Right now I am sitting at the dining room table; the house is quiet as I write and drink my super food-protein smoothie. Having already fed the dogs and cats, taken out the trash and cleaned my boss’s room, I decided to do a little more writing while I’m feeling the muse. So, this morning after I wrote my dance class journal entries, I went online and looked up some things about Margot, Yoni and Ruth. ‘Cuz I remembered there were photos of Yoni with those famous lady dancers on Yoni’s website, in her album.
What fun I had finding so many informative and inspiring articles about dance and women! It’s funny, my heart and soul are feeling FULL & lively today. I think I’ve fallen in love? In love with dancing In love with myself In love with dance classes! IN LOVE WITH BALLET! Or should I say: “Re-fallen” in love? Yes, that’s more accurate. For I have felt these feelings before. I think I probably printed around 40 pages of information on Modern dance! And I just can’t wait to put all the pages into my new dance binder and then study~study~study! Before I close this segment of journal entries, I want to share something I read about Ruth St. Denis:
“St. Denis looked on dance as a life experience and considered popular Western dance to be superficial and more concerned with skill than spirit. So she drew here inspiration from other cultures, continuing to find in Eastern movement the spirituality and inspiration that she felt was missing in the west. She based her choreography on the dance styles of India, Egypt, & Asia—first to the amazement, and then to the appreciation of audiences.”
Friday, July 7, 2006:6:00am
To talk about my dancing, well the truth is I finally feel like I’m starting to dance. Like David talked about last night in class. There’s a difference between just doing the steps, and dancing the choreography. The last couple of classes I feel like I am now beginning to do that—to DANCE! And wow! It feels so great!
I find I want to learn all I can about dancing because nothing makes me feel better! Now that I am single, dance is all the more extraordinary for me. It is my outlet-of-outlets; it is my wings.
July 12, 2006:11:49am
This journal entry is the beginning of a new era in journaling for me! I think that I have finally arrived at believing I can succeed at separating my fantasies from realities. Or to put it in the cosmic sense: separate my other world reality from the mundane.
Now that’s not to say that journaling about dance class will be a dull activity. Neither do I consider it to be mundane. Ah contraire, dance classes drive me to “cross over”, and that’s why I love them. There are times I feel that “slip” from the physical realm, into the otherworld.
Last night was class 8—my favorite number—and the beginning of Jazz. I have to say that I still haven’t gotten a firm grasp of the Jazz dance history. When Professor Mullen lectured about it, I just could not seem to get my mind around the inception he described. Or is it, the way he described it? Whatever the case, if I can’t visualize something, I can not remember it. So I hope he doesn’t test us on Jazz dance history because the only thing I remember is something he said about Scott Joplin and ragtime. And that only because my ex, Ken, would play Joplin’s rags all the time when we were married.
As far as the class went yesterday, I can say that I felt really good. I feel not only that I’m making progress as a dancer, within the context of these various forms, but also as a person. Loving dance and embracing my studies at Grossmont College, is helping me in ways I can not even begin, nor do I dare to express.
I feel, in a sense, that to dance is to have come home. Dancing is my soul; it keeps my spirit alive! And when I can be there in dance class, listening to the instructor and working at the things he gives us to do, I can honestly say that I feel like my value as a human on planet earth has gone up. That’s saying a lot.
And talk about progress!—wow! I actually got a perfect score on my movement exam for the modern segment. And I don’t think it’s because David was being nice; he’s not like that. He grades fairly and honestly, according to the guidelines he’s set forth before he tests us. Oh! I’m so jazzed!
And guess what? The music he played last night while teaching us combinations, is the song Fever! Amazing! That’s the very song I practically overdosed on from just before Valentine’s Day this year, on up into May; I have the Michael Buble’ version.
You know, it really does help in dancing to like the music. In fact, it’s everything, right? If the music doesn’t’ move you, then you’re not going to move! As for me, I like to move! Oh yeah. And I like this Jazz stuff, because as David pointed out, it’s in the hips! And God knows how I love to move my hips!
One last thing I will say about last night’s class. Chiming off of Professor Mullen telling us that beginner dance students have a hard time learning cross over movements; I found that fascinating. As related to creativity, I recall having read in a book about creative flow that cross over movements of arms and legs actually makes the brain work in a more creative capacity. The author sited a study and then went on to encourage readers to get up and do cross over movements in order to increase their creative brain power.
It rang true to me when I read it because at the time—late 1990’s—I was doing a lot of folk dancing. That time also proved to be the beginning of a huge creative flow pouring forth from me. In folk dance we do an extreme amount of cross over movements of all kinds; arms & legs, in all directions. Clockwise, counter clockwise, forward, backward, sideways. So next time David has cause to mention cross over movement, he can tell his class that the creative side of their brains will be activated by doing so.
July 16, 2006:9:09am
I’m sitting here in bed, stressing out! There are volumes of journals and dozens upon dozens of loose journal pages laying here a top my bed with me. I’ve been trying to sort out what to include in this summer’s journal and what not to include. It’s frustrating. And I haven’t even written about last Thursday night’s class! Perhaps I’ll do that first and worry about the rest later?
At the beginning of class, David handed out dance terminology sheets and gave us the run-down on which terms to study for each dance form: ballet, modern and jazz. This summer I feel confident that I’ll remember the answers much better than in previous years. It’s helpful that throughout the semester, Professor Mullen has gone over and over and over the movement terms and functions. So much so, I can hear him talking inside my head. And this is good for me because I need a lot of repetition—drilling into my head—before I can remember these things.
And now I just have to share something about plie. Do you know how I love it?! Do you know how plie has made such a difference in my dancing; in my life? Even when I clean house, or lift anything, I try to always do it in plie. Eyes over hips, knees over toes, drop the tail bone straight down. Fantastic!
Last year when I went back to Israeli dancing for a few weeks, I used plie a lot. And man!—what a difference it made! I was like: “Oh my God, so this is Yoni’s secret for ease of movement?—Plie.”
I felt like it doubled my ability to get around the floor. Even yesterday in African dance class, I found that when I had forgotten to stay in plie, it seemed I could not move at all, as compared to when I remembered to plie. David taught me this. He drums it into our heads, this plie thing. Years from now when I look back on Intro to Dance, I will say to myself: “That’s the class where I learned the singular most valuable aspect for dancing—plie.”
Oh, oh!—now I just have to tell about the jazz combination from Thursday night!—wow!….guess what we were doing? Mambo moves! And cha-cha-cha! In Intro to Dance! Oh my gosh (pant-pant) it’s SO incredibly FUN to move the hips this way; to the Latin music! It really got me excited and I found myself loosening up and beginning to really get into it. To unleash! ‘Cuz I’ve been slightly scared to let go and really groove, but with this newest combination, I can’t help it! I’ve just got to boogie. You know what I mean?
And yesterday while driving, in my mind’s eye I was dancing the steps and suddenly I had the idea to make it into a partner dance. So I imagined I was dancing with a nice man: I faced him, and together we danced; me doing the pattern in reverse. Our steps mirrored each others. It looked very cool inside my mind and I think in reality it could easily be done. How fun!
I’m anxious for class on Tuesday because I really want to dance this dance and move to the groove. For this is what I came here for…..
Thursday, July 20, 2006:7:49am
Today is the last day of dance classes. It sure has been fun! I only cried in frustration, once. That’s a record!
Tuesday night’s class was fun and I feel good about the progress I’ve made these past 6 weeks. I notice that I am more flexible and also, gaining what is called: ‘muscle definition’.
The combination in the Intro Class is easy for me and Tuesday night, while group one was dancing, I tried it backwards. It does work to partner the first part of it.
In closing this short journal I just want to say what a super time I’ve had being here and I look forward to returning for the fall semester.
Funniest thing, the day after I turned this journal in to Professor Mullen, as I was walking to my car in the school parking lot after class, who should I see but Lilo/Hadassah! Wow! It had been since Rosh Hashana 2002 since we’d spoken, and here she was in-the-flesh, standing before me, smiling her beautiful smile and saying: “Shoshana? Is that Shoshana?”
I had to laugh at the synchronicity of it. Seeing her after all these years, and right when I’d just written about the last time we’d bumped into one another.