A message from UUCW member Nicole Grandstrand

I started taking dancing lessons when I was 6, to my mother’s relief since, apparently, I was an excessively “energetic” child, and she was happy to have somewhere to channel that.  I remember always hating having to stop whatever child play I was engrossed in to leave for dance class, but once there I LOVED it.

I started competing when I was in fourth grade.  My dad saw my name posted as a first-place winner and went running across campus and straight into the dressing room (much to the chagrin of the other occupants there) to break the news to my mum & me.  He hugged & kissed me quickly before being shooed out of the area.

I was born with a club foot.  The doctor gravely told my mom that I would probably have to wear expensive (orthopedic) shoes for my whole life.  She giggled about that every time she wrote out another check for tap shoes, ballet slippers, or jazz shoes.  The other dancer moms just groaned.

I continued competing until I graduated from high school.  By that time, I had become weary of trying to dazzle and wow judges within 2 ½ minutes.   At the University of MN, I took my first modern dance class and fell in love with the concept.  Bare feet!  Choreography that spanned up to 45 minutes!  Quirky, creative, and oh so physical.  I met and worked with choreographers that exploded my mind and my narrow definition of art & performance.

After graduating with a BA degree in Dance, I danced with the (very) avant-guard dance company Vox Medusa, headed up by the wildly creative force of Kristin Freya, for 15 years, and teaching ballet & modern dance classes at her studio in Apple Valley, MN.

Performing on-stage is a wild experience as, you are entirely alone, hoping you remember the choreography and that you won’t slip or fall or freeze up.  Once the music starts and I begin moving, something downright magical happens. . . energy starts flowing out of my arms and center, my legs and feet move according to muscle memory, I become elated, full, & confident.  It’s purely “flow.”  Dancing transcends words, can articulate intense emotions and complicated ideas with a gesture or phrase.

When Lee & I decided to move to Waukesha in 2010, I decided it was time for me to retire from dancing & teaching.  It brought up a lot of conflicting emotions.  On one hand, it felt so good (So. Good.) to not always be sore/hurting/exhausted; on the other hand, I felt like I had lost my identity.   But a move to a new town, and having 10 & 11-year-old sons keeps a person very busy. . .

I was sitting in church one morning listening to Suzelle talk about what “gifts” we had that we could bring into our beloved community.  I swear she was looking Right At Me.  I was un-nerved.  There was a part of me that wanted to leave my dancing behind me and be someone/something else.

I went to a rehearsal for a winter solstice service headed up by the talented Julie Rowely.  She leads us through meditation-based movement, providing imagery and descriptions that we could explore through our bodies.  I was overwhelmed with the kind of feeling you get when you see a dear friend after a long time apart.  I desperately wanted that part of me to be present, again—only healthier and on my own terms.

On this International Dance Day on April 29th, I encourage you to explore a way of moving that feels good & right to you or, make a plan to attend a dance performance (dancers LOVE an audience!)

Go barefoot and feel the new grass under your toes

Play a favorite song-LOUD-and dance for only yourself

Sing a song, and note how your body feels

Stretch and reach for the sky

. . .touch the earth, and make a joyful sound!

Nicole