Open Letter to My Line Dancers

Dear Line Dancers,

Thank you for sharing Friday’s class with me. I wanted it to be special as we neared the one-year anniversary of Robert’s death, so I announced that we would devote the whole evening to the contemporary line dances that Robert choreographed for us.

Instead of reteaching the familiar ones that we dance frequently, I brought back some older dances: Night Traveler from early 2001 — the first line dance we choreographed together, before we became a couple. Oh, how I already fantasized sharing more than dance steps with this vibrant, dancing man who brought grace, skill, and enticing hip rolls to our class.

I also taught the lovely Baby Grand, I imagined Robert teaching this slow, graceful, jazz-style dance to the class in 2005, before we knew how few years he had left. As I looked around, I saw other dancers wiping their eyes and I knew we were all dancing with Robert.

When we closed with Music to My Heart, his most popular choreography among our dancers, I couldn’t hold back the tears. Several dancers hugged me, others looked about to fall apart themselves. In the room were people who had never experienced dancing with Robert because they had joined the class after Robert had left it, but they, too, seemed moved and grateful to know him better through his choreography.

After class, I started bawling in the locker room, and cried all the way home. Then later that evening, I realized something: The one-year anniversary of Robert’s death is also the 8-year anniversary of our first kiss. Now that is a day to celebrate, not mourn! I felt that the intensity of the line dance class had helped me purge the grief and invite the light of the love we started sharing with that first kiss on August 2, 2001.

You can see videos of some of Robert’s dances from my line dance page. Many, however, were before the days of ubiquitous digital videocameras and YouTube. I’ll update this post if we record some of these older dances — we do have a plan in the works.

This excerpt from Mary Oliver’s poem, “In Blackwater Woods,” resonates with me today:

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal:
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


  1. mediamix51 on August 1, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Dear Joan,
    What a wonderful letter. I enjoyed so much coming to class last night and dancing those dances. I could feel Robert in the room and the dance moves reminded me so much of how much I loved to watch him move. Congratulations on the anniversary of the kiss – that is truly the special day to remember.
    Love, Dana

  2. Marsha Diane on August 1, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Dear Joan,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts…your heart.

    It was a wonderful gift you gave all of us last night, dancing with you to Robert's choreography. And we didn't even know we were celebrating the first kiss! There was joy in the sadness.

    Mary Oliver's poetry is so calming. May her poems, your memories, and your dance be with you and comfort you.

    Much love, Marsha

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