Images tagged "chicago"


  1. Niki S.

    I love that you are not a victim, but a survivor. I’m a survivor too. Thank you for this post.

    • Tambrey

      I can’t bleieve I’ve been going for years without knowing that.

  2. Monica

    سأهب ألي شقكة وساط قي وسبوين.

    I don’t know if you even speak Arabic, and probably not so you’ll never notice my horrible spelling, but I am also going to the middle east…I’m going in two weeks, and as a sexual assault victim and a woman, and an American, I have also wondered how to deal with the almost universal self image problems and my desire to have shoulders and calves hang out. I’m going to Jordan, not Egypt, but I suspect I’ll have some of the same issues. I want to dive in Israel, go to Egypt and be on the beach in far less than a Burka. I am going alone, for a study abroad while my husband and children wait for my 8 months of learning to finally come to an end. It’s going to be hard. But I too will be amazing.

  3. April Norman

    THANK YOU! This really touched me. I was 13 when it happened to me. Babysitting. A female friend was helping me and she invited over some guys. Something I would never have done. When I was done sitting, we went to their place. He was making advances. I said no. Over and over. I pushed, I hit, I kicked, I rolled him off of me. He got more aggressive and violent. Then I thought about how I would explain the bruises to my family, at school to my other friends… 9 months later I had a little precious baby girl. She is 25 now and amazing! It is such a hard thing to deal with. Being called all the names they call young girls that are pregnant. I cant imagine not having a choice. My parents had wants, but let me decided. At that age I couldn’t fathom putting my baby up for adoption, or abortion, but how would I support her??? My family helped so much. It really angers me to think that any woman would be told she wasn’t really raped, and forced to have her rapists child. Although, if you do choose to have the child, NEVER look at your child as anything less than sheer perfection. Or you will have lost again.

  4. Allison

    I read this post through the Mary Tyler Mom page. Just wanted to say thank you. I shouldn’t have gone into that basement, and I shouldn’t have been there alone and drunk. But I was. Maybe I should have said “NO” more and cried less? I suppose mine was “illegitimate” as well then. Unreported. Unacknowledged by me for years, except with guilt. Im glad she wrote this. It was actually therapeutic for me to read in a strange way. I dont talk about it much, but i am glad im not alone in my strange form of guilt….thank you again for posting this. We shouldnt be ashamed of ourselves. we should be proud and not afraid….

  5. jennifer

    THANK YOU for your courage & grace. The girls in this world need excellent role models, like yourself. Please, keep on inspiring…and being amazing.

  6. Kim

    Thank you for your courage to post this and to Mary Tyler Mom for sharing the link.

    To address your Navy man experience: you exercised poor judgment but that does not make what he did right. A good man would have put a blanket over you and slept in a chair. The man you were with did a bad thing to you.

    As for Cairo, I did an two week internship there. That was a few years ago, so I don’t know what has changed since the revolution. I will say it is the only place I’ve been where I was uncomfortable going out on my own, specifically without a man. The one time I was going to try to explore on my own I headed back to my hotel after 10 uncomfortable minutes after having rude noises made at me by a variety of men including the city police and the US Embassy guards. (At least at that time US Marines guarded the interior of the Embassy, but Egyptian officers guarded the perimeter.)

    I tell you that not because I want to scare your or dissuade you from going. I tell you because I want you to steel yourself because you may be faced with some very uncomfortable situations. I hope your are not, but I want you to be prepared just in case. Good luck. I hope you have an amazing time. (I found Cairo fascinating despite the uncomfortable situations.)

  7. Monica

    I was 20 and still a virgin. He was in the Army, an old friend from childhood. I made the 14 hour drive to visit him on base after I worked all night. By the time I got there I was hungry and exhausted. I got there. He didn’t give me time to eat, just locked the door, blared the music, and threw me on the bed before I knew what was happening. I was confused, ashamed, scared. I was crying and yelling no. Nobody could hear. When he was finished some of his buddies came to the door. He threw a brush at me and said, “Do something with yourself.” This was 26 years ago. I finally said something 7 years ago when my brother was going to invite him to his wedding…I couldn’t bear to face him. For the most part my family was supportive but some of them said, “What did you expect?” I’m not sure what I expected but I certainly didn’t expect to be raped. There, I said it. I was raped. I’m sorry to ramble but thank you for being brave enough to tell your story. I cried because it made me think of mine. I rarely talk about it. And my husband (of 12 years) has a hard time understanding sometimes. But he puts up with my issues and loves me for me.

  8. Liz

    Found your blog via Sheila’s link on Akin, but it was this post that brought me to tears. You are one amazing, compassionate, thoughtful, generous, beautiful, sexy woman. I hope you turn Cairo upside down. I’m choosing hope for you, my friend.

  9. Jim

    We’ve all been there, on both sides. Was she drunk, sure. Did I like her, you know it. But real men know when she’s drunk and throwing herself at you because of it. Real men know when she’s passed out and needs help.

    Rapists know how to make a person vulnerable. Rapists know only what they want. It doesn’t matter what you wear, how much you drank, how long you knew them, or where you went. It is the rapists’ fault, not yours.

    A real man never would have put you in that position. I know, I tucked her in, kissed her forehead and walked away.

  10. Kim

    I saw this Tweet from Violence Unsilenced in case you’d like to share your story with a wider audience:
    @VUnSilenced Are you a survivor/blogger who wrote about Akin this week? Email links to [email protected] if you’d like to share.

  11. JV

    Your journey shared with all of us shows us your power. Keep sharing your experiences in your own words and we will continue to learn from you.

  12. Brenda

    I gave in, but it was still rape! And in the armed forces culture here, so many women have been assaulted. Was in the news alot, now it’s all quiet again! Stay strong! And glad to say I’ve taught my 14 year old daughter to defend herself, apart from the fact her older brother would kill them! An unwise choice is not a reason to rape!

  13. abdo

    ur welcome and safe in Egypt

  14. jennifer

    inspired already. one step…and then another…and another…

  15. Bev

    Hi Shawn, loved the pictures, cheers song and posts, keep them coming. My only question is, Your door guard Ali sits righr outside your door, like he’s right there, no fences or gates? Is he there all day and someone else comes later? Need to explain that to me. Are you scared where you live? thanks, Bev PS love ya

  16. Heather Hornik

    Don’t be intimidated, Ms. Shawn. You know things they don’t know and they know things you don’t know. I am confident they will come to appreciate your many special gifts. Be yourself, and you will meet them in a place of communication and respect between your knowledge and theirs. You’re terrific–a magnet for people who are eager to expand their world. Soon they will love you.

  17. shawnlent

    I just read this, and I just want to say thank you, realllllly thank you, for sharing. I worked with dozens of women who were sexually assaulted, most of whom by men who were their “friends,” and who have felt so conflicted and sometimes even destroyed since. I’ve had my own experiences with abuse and unhealthy relationships with men that brought me to a) be involved in women’s rights, whether case work or advocacy and b) report on these issues — and I just want to thank you for sharing your story, it’s so brave and always more difficult to tell your own story, and hearing how far you’ve come is really inspiring — for me in my own issues, I’m not there yet, but hearing your story and seeing women like you who are facing their issues but demanding a healthy life and taking control back gives me hope that I’ll be there some day too.


    • Xantara

      You write so hsoently about this. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Annie

    I found you through a mutual friend (MTM) and am so glad I did! I wish you the best of luck on your journey ahead. I tried to “follow” your blog, but the link was broken. I would love to get email updates of new posts.

    • shawnlent

      Hello, Annie! Thank you dearly for kind words and for the notice. I think I worked out a better follow/subscribe option.

      With gratitude and hope,


  19. Elaf

    u r such a great women and u r doing a great things to help,keep doing this and i hope when i become older i can help them just as u do………..

  20. Elaf

    like i can’t believe u wrote about me here and on fb i really appreciate it, i was checking out and then i saw that u are writnig about me, really thanks, u are adorable <3<3

  21. shawnlent

    Happy Birthday, lady! Many joys to you for this birthday and the years to come. And much hope to Aleppo.

    “Brazil, Morocco, London to Ibiza
    Straight to LA, New York, Vegas to Africa

    Dance the night away
    Live your life and stay young on the floor”

  22. Elizabeth Vanover

    Happy Birthday from Ann Arbor, Michigan! You were so brave to go over to Shawn to practice your English! All the best for this year and every happiness and hope for a bright future!

  23. Maria Gray

    Have a great and magical birthday!!!

  24. Sarah J.

    Happy Birthday from Chicago!

  25. Mohammad Nabeel

    Happy Birthday to you 🙂 wish Syria issue will settle down very soon !

  26. Elspeth Murray

    Happy Birthday, Elaf!

  27. Bev

    Happy Birthday from Saginaw, MI, Shawn’s home when she was a little girl, you’ve met a wonderful person, enjoy her.

  28. Kaye

    Happy Birthday from Shawn’s family. You must be really special to leave such an impression on her. She’s pretty special also.

  29. Kaili

    Birthday greetings from Champaign, Illinois. Blessings to you & happiness abound!!!

  30. Ginger Menard

    Happy Birthday, Elaf! Wishing you all the best on your special day!

  31. Shayla

    Happy Birthday from Dallas, Texas. Praying for you, your family and your homeland.

  32. Elaf

    like guys i don’t know what to do to say thank you all, u are really all amazing, really thanks it’s mean alot to me <3<3

  33. Elaf

    Shawn really u are an amazing person .
    “dance the night away,
    grap somebody drink a little more
    tonight we gon’ be it on the floor”
    “I know you got it,
    clap your hands on the floor
    And keep on rockin’
    , rock it up on the floor
    If you’re a criminal
    , kill it on the floor
    Steal it quick on the floor, on the floor”
    and my best sentence “don’t stop keep it moving, put your drinks up”

  34. Really?

    Thank you for representing our State Department and our country on such an emotionally charged day (for us and the Middle East) with a complete disregard for modesty and cultural sensitivity. Keep up the good work, Fulbright Scholar.

    • shawnlent

      Thank you for your comment. The outfit was business professional and covered shoulders and elbows. The skirt just had a bit of my personality. Nothing too inappropriate and similar to other women I had seen at the Fulbright Commission office and Children’s Cancer Hospital. In my opinion, finding a balance between cultural relativism and being oneself is important. I am representing my story as well as my country, other dancers, and my Egyptian friends.

      Again, I thank you for your criticism.


  35. Liz

    I, for one, am incredibly proud to have Shawn representing our country abroad, today and all days. I can’t think of too many people who embody the essence of diplomacy so fully. And by “diplomacy” I mean both in the formal sense– acting as an ambassador in more nations than I can count and positively impacting international relations– and in the informal sense– responding to unkind and unhelpful comments with grace, decency, dignity, and humility. Shawn is a class act, and brave as hell to be doing what she’s doing in a nation where she not only risks bodily harm but also confronts countless daily moments where she has to learn traditions, customs, and unwritten rules on the fly, with no guide to help her.

  36. Joe

    Shawn, fortune favors the bold, and you definitely have guts. It is little surprise you are living such an interesting life. Not sure I would have taken such a chance, but your post lends balance and nuance to events that might at first look seem universally extreme. Egypt is not Libya and one Muslim is not all Muslims. I applaud your efforts but for God’s sake, be careful!

  37. Anu

    Be careful, Shawn. I’m so glad that I know you and am constantly amazed at your gumption.
    Love you!

  38. Frugalistablog

    Found you through Mary Tyler Mom. I know folks are saying that you shouldn’t have gone because of attacks on women from previous protests. But I’m so tired of women hiding indoors because of the threat of rape. Like WE are the ones who are given the burden to prevent it. When THEY should be the ones to practice self control.
    I’m so sad how now there will be Americans, like you say who vote for Romney, because they see this as a weakness on our US part. Instead, it’s a misunderstanding on the Egyptian’s part.

    And do be careful. I’m sure your mama is worried!!

  39. Elspeth Murray

    Amazing reportage, Shawn. Take care and keep talking, listening & sharing.

  40. Tim

    What an incredible post…I’m glad you came out of it unscathed and with an incredible story which I actually find uplifting in the midst of it all. Take care and awesome work!

  41. Suzanne

    Found you through Mary Tyler Mom. Thanks for your courage and your post. We need more people (and women, frankly) who are willing and bold enough to represent the US in the way that you are. Hopefully, some day, I won’t have to qualify that with women and I’ll just be able to say “bold people.” You are paving that way. I’ll choose hope with you.

  42. Jen

    (Found you through Mary Tyler Mom) Kudos to you for what you are doing, and also staying true to yourself. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of your blog. Stay safe.

  43. Jen

    I hope your birthday was safe and happy and amazing, Elaf. I hope your family is able to return safely home as soon as you can.

  44. Paul Higgins

    Sorry you were scammed, Shawn. I was harassed by a guy outside the amazing ruined temple in Baalbek, Lebanon, a few years ago. He wanted me to buy some old coins. I politely said no and he angrily told me he had a wife and children. I told him I did, too (not facetiously – I was touring a play on minimum wage). He then asked if I would just hold them in my hand. So I did. When I tried to give them back he wouldn’t take them. He wanted paid and I was now determined that he’d get nothing from me. It turned into quite a stand-off. Luckily, I had an Iranian-born friend nearby, who took the coins from me and gave them back to him with a few words of Arabic. She also got comments from a small minority of men for wearing modest western-European clothes. There are ignorant people everywhere, which brings me to Really?, the fearless commentator with no name…

    I don’t think you’ve been to Cairo, Really?. If I’m wrong, maybe you could spend a portion of your free time looking up the words ‘complete’ and ‘disregard’ in a dictionary.

    Shawn, the Metro is a great way to get to the Coptic Museum and Hanging Church, if you haven’t been.

  45. Jennifer (Hall) Feltis

    Thinking of you Shawn, stay safe ♥ I hope you will continue to show the people around you that much like your Egyptian friend wrote, we are not all the same- we do not all hate people who are different than us.

  46. Karen

    amazing story..they dont even know why they are sad..u are a far stronger woman than I will ever found u also thru Mary Tyler Mom:)

  47. Bev

    You write beautiful wods, I think you need to write a book. Your words make me feel like I am there with you. My concern is that you stay safe and always let someone know where you are. Much love

  48. Teresa


    Above all else be smart and safe. Your story of last night’s events were amazing.

  49. Aaron Jackson

    Truly inspiring- but then you’ve always been one of the most truly inspiring people I know…
    Much love,

  50. Darren

    Have just caught up with your inspiring and fascinating blogs from Cairo. Keep them coming and keep safe.

  51. Mike Amling

    “students cleaning their own studios”

    For the benefit of those few of us readers whose closest approach to a dance class is the balcony of one Joffrey performance per year, what is the story with students cleaning their own studios? Is that commonplace in America? Are we talking about wiping the sweat off the bar as one would with gym equipment? Or getting out a mop and pushbroom? Or …?

    • shawnlent

      Thank you, Mike. In the U.S., it is not uncommon to see students with a broom or wiping the mirrors and barres. In some schools, there is an actual cleaning rotation. In others, scholarship/work study students take on cleaning responsibilities as part of their agreement. Even where these systems are not in place, students are not likely to wince if you hand them a rag or ask them to all lend a hand.

  52. Mike Amling

    Just wondering if you’ve tried the women-only cars of the Metro and if there’s a difference between your experience there and in the mixed cars.

    • shawnlent

      Goog question. I’ve taken the Metro four times so far and have had four different experiences. Once in a mixed car, where I my only concern was a hole in my shirt as I raised my hand to hold on to the strap. Second time, I tried the women’s car. Found it safe but a quite unfriendly. Almost more judgmental. The third experience, I rushed into a packed car last-minute then realized I was the only lady there. It was fine and a bit empowering. Lastly, I was in a car with all men once again, but this was far less crowded. I had some great conversations with some students and then helped fan a man who had passed out in the heat. Every trip is a different adventure.

  53. "J.R."

    Great writings Shawn. Wonderful site. Love the click here for something to do tab!
    You’re rockin’ it!

  54. Kerry M.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am a married woman, living in the Chicago suburbs. My husband is Egyptian, although he was born here. And most of family is still in Egypt, BeniSuef, and they are Coptic. I have wanted to travel there, to meet them, but our first planned trip, in Jan 2000, had to be cancelled due to unrest in the area and violence against tourists. And sadly, it’s never seemed to get better. I still await our trip, but as a mom of 4, I can’t imagine bringing my children there right now, nor traveling there without them. We watch and read and discuss with his parents, but I so appreciate hearing your experiences and seeing through your eyes. I’m proud to have you in Egypt as a representaive of America. Wishing you all the success! And I look forward to hearing more of your story, ‘in shah allah.’

    • Ketlyn

      I can say it in arabic. من أجل شعوب الشرق الأوسط؛ 0 أو العرب والأتراك والفرس ، وعليهم أن يتصرفوا وفقا لذلك، مع الكرامة، لا التطرف الحب، والرحمة. هذه هي الطريقة التي مانديلا، رئيس جنوب افريقيا، بحيث أصبحت مشهورة جدا. وأحتاج أن أذكر مارتن لوثر كينغ؟ وكان مالكولم إكس ليس تهديدا، لهذا السبب انه قتل على يد رجل أسود. وكان الملك تهديدا، لهذا السبب انه قتل على يد رجل أبيض. أنا متطرف من الحب . كانت تلك كلمات مارتن لوثر كينغ. الكلمات التي البقاء على قيد الحياة اليوم.

  55. leah

    I’m loving this.

  56. Tamzin

    Going to start a blog soon and yours is a real inspiration Shawn, as are you yourself of course. The kind of blog that makes me read the previous posts…! So glad you are well and doing great things.

  57. Bev

    beautiful words Shawn in all your stories, you are amazing, love you, I thought some boucy good vibes today and sent them on their way. I loved the picture of the dinner place Al Azhar Park, very nice

  58. Jeremy Blair

    This was insightful and informative. Thank you and be safe.
    Best wishes,

  59. Heather Hornik

    I can’t wait to hear about your classes. Thanks for the posts and pictures, Shawn.

  60. mr

    Awesome story. I had been looking all over to see if any Americans had gone down to the protests to talk to people. I’m glad to see that there were, and I’m glad to see that people chose to engage with you in a meaningful way. Keep doing what you’re doing 🙂

  61. Heather Hornik

    Until recently I thought that sex trafficking was a problem limited to a very tiny number of women and girls here and there around the third world. My eyes have been opened by Dining for Women, an organization that is a giving circle supporting projects for women and girls living in extreme poverty throughout the world. Each month members gather for a pot-luck meal and learn about a program that is addressing fundamental challenges faced by women around the world. Dining for Women members then contribute to the program, many giving what they might spend to dine out in a restaurant.

    Sex trafficking is rampant enough that it is frequently cited as a significant contributor to the precarious lives of women in extreme poverty. As an example, at a recent DFW meeting I learned about girls in a rural African region who had stopped going to school. Their parents forbid them to go because several girls in the region had been abducted and had disappeared, presumably into sex trafficking as they walked the three to five miles each day to school. Dining for Women supports a program that was developed by villagers and regional educators to provide an itinerant teacher who visits the villages, oversees the girls’ education with tutoring, books and supplies, and consultation to the adults in the village who provide daily teaching.

    Keep up the good work, Shawn, and keep telling us hard truths.

  62. Dar

    FELLUCA RIDES!!!!!!!!

    Shawn, I am enjoying hearing about your adventures.

    Be safe. Be smart. Be sensitive.

    🙂 -Dar

  63. Frugalistablog

    Shawn! You are a light in this world! Thank you for not hiding it under a bushel. But bravely going forth and shedding it everywhere. I’m a Mary Tyler Mom fan and found you through her. I think that art and dance and music are the key to civilizations. Thank you for the inspiration!

  64. Liz

    Shawn, this makes me so happy! It sounds like for every challenge you face, there’s an amazing presence of love waiting right there in the wings. So glad to know they appreciate you!

  65. Heather Hornik

    I love your capacity to have and give fun!

  66. Joanne

    You are where you are supposed to be….think of what you are doing right now! Bringing so much of your life force to this new place and helping to create beauty and love

  67. Bev

    I just love what you’re doing, you have touched so many people, i always knew you were special, keep it up, love your words, you are very open hearted too

  68. Bev

    well, did you kiss him? where? loved this blog, happy you’re having fun and spreading love

    • shawnlent

      Yes, sure did, in front of my building, but not as much as I would have liked. Still figuring this whole thing out. And many thanks, Bev.

  69. Mohamed Mohsen

    I’ve liked it Shawn . But you didn’t mention any hint about our night chats . I loved them alot .

  70. Mohamed Mohsen

    sorry for my bad English . I mean (I liked them alot 🙂 )

  71. Mohamed Mohsen

    I’ve liked it Shawn . but I think there were people with no trends at the begining of the revolution , not only the liberals and secularists .

  72. Irene

    Shawn – all of your options are excellent. I’ve been faced with similar extremely opposing choices in my life. The important thing is to not regret and dwell after the decision has been made. A lot of what you write doesn’t have to be done right now (the traveling options) or can be combined, shortened itineraries, etc. Your gut may help you eliminate close to half of them, I’ve always found. And if you choose A OR B, we can meet up! Good luck, follow your heart. I wish your mother all the best.

  73. Joanne

    I love that you are thinking of your path to deepen commitments that you have in your heart. I would think of it as a Chinese menu – you can do a fabulous combo of many of your choices over 2013. The work you are doing now is inspirational to watch and i can tell it is your calling.

    (Speaking like a mom, you should try to come home to see family for a couple of weeks- it is important to touch base before you go on your next quest)

  74. joanne

    We are all still smiling here – the President just did his usual traffic tie-up and now is at O’Hare – flying back to his home away from home- The White House!

    Stayed up until he spoke at 1 AM – glad that you also saw it all unfold. I was starting to think that Romney was going to refuse to concede. (Karl Rove was doing all the talking). Rachel Maddow almost had a fit at the audacity of their refusal to concede Fla.

    It comforts me to know that we all now understand that the world is not the same place that Romney embraces from the 50’s- The world is now all colors and all sexualities and all beliefs…Embrace it, Republicans or perish!


  75. Jacqui

    Well I certainly hope to see you at some point in 2013 Shawn….maybe I’ll come to Cairo at some point too. All I would say about the options above are don’t chose H – you are too vibrant a soul to be desk bound (which you inevitably will be) in a government (or pseudo government) job. J x

  76. Joe

    Clearly, you made a wise decision to come to Cairo. The heavy, tragic beauty is inspiring something lyrical in you. I am glad to have found your blog and find myself reassured by the thought of you making your way through the dusty streets. I will keep waking. You keep posting.

  77. joanne

    There is a lot of attention being paid to Secretary Clinton’s visit and her work in the region. It is really the only news outside of the holiday madness – there is a sense of now or never – given that Hilary is planning on leaving. This cycle of conversation has been documented across so many administrations and numerous attempts that then cycle into disfunction or complete breakdown.

    I hope that it is a peaceful demonstration on Friday and you come back to a peaceful Cairo… Safe travels!

  78. Heather Hornik

    I sense your somber tension, as you make it real for all of us who read your posts. Thank you and Take care.

  79. Sheila Quirke

    We will miss you at our Thanksgiving table tomorrow, Shawn. One thing I am grateful for this year are your posts that give me an insider’s view of what is happening in your neck of the woods. Everything where you are is that much more important and real to me these days. Thank you for that. As always, be safe. All our love from Chicago.

    • Kathleen

      Beautiful pics, beautiful words. It makes one wodenr how many time Egypt has seen uprisings and drama and yet somethings always withstand the changes of time, like the pyramids. It sort of puts it in perspective, huh?

  80. marina

    hey shawn ..Iam Marina who met u in the trip of Bani Hassan in Miniya
    miss u really..u seems be so cute really.. 🙂

  81. Molly

    Shawn – You’re amazing, an inspiration and someone we could all learn a lot from. Thank you for sharing this… just wonderful and such important tips and reminders. Thank you.

  82. Joanne

    Thanks for your reality reporting – your connection to people that you are living with and your connection to the impact these actions mean to the people who are living it hour by hour

  83. Bev

    loved every word you wrote, i still want you to be careful, keep those bodyguards close. Are you just a little bit scared?

  84. cynthia weiss

    Oh my Shawn, what a beautiful post and stunning photographs. How wonderful you get to witness and participate in this extraordinary moment. Our hearts are with you. We miss you tons in Chicago, and are so inspired by your words and deeds, courage and vision. much love to you.

  85. joanne

    This entry made me cry – Inshallah Shawn Lent!

  86. Carol Rundberg

    This is such significant work. I wonder how you can expand it so that many more people will benefit, as teachers, children, family members? I hope you will find a way.

  87. Alice George

    Shawn–catching up on your blog-feel privileged to hear your inside-out heart-felt, passionate and compassionate insights!

  88. Bev

    you said it very well, our hearts are broken.

  89. Heather Hornik

    amen, Shawn. You are so right. It takes a village to not shoot a child.

  90. Pasant

    Well-done Shawn

  91. Irene

    First – great post. Second – wow. I am certain you’ve had an incredible impact. It is precisely the anomalous that we remember. The person who urged you to be creative, helped you have confidence in your abilities and potential, who introduces vastly new concepts and experiences, this person could have an influence for years. When I think of teachers I had for less than a year, enthusiastic, special teachers, I know they had a strong effect on who I am, who I became. And how incredible to have to have worked within such a seemingly arcane system. I’m so looking forward to hearing how the exam went. I don’t know what the other teachers do, but it’s brilliant you’ve given them such a good chance at accumulating points for hard work and outside study in advance of the practical test. It could really affect their grade. Much luck to you. I’m rooting for your students! So looking forward to seeing you next month!

  92. Really?

    Your narcissism has never failed to amaze me throughout the duration of your time in Cairo.

    Actually, what’s most surprising is none of your other readers seem to notice.

    • Alyssa

      Perhaps you should explain your comment a little more fully, allowing her other readers to understand what you see that we clearly don’t? Then it might be more of a discussion as opposed to a general insult of Shawn’s work, and her readers’ ability to discern between authenticity and narcissism when working and teaching abroad — which is probably the somewhat unproductive and tiresome point you’re getting at.

  93. Really?

    Congrats on the 10,000+ views, obviously I am still reading what you write.

  94. Bev

    beautiful words as always Shawn, glad you know about your mom’s pneumonia, hoping they’d tell you. She does sound better, talked to her last night, hope to see her tomorrow and send them some mexican christmas eve dinner tomorrow

  95. Irene

    Shawn – your words and actions are beautiful. Please don’t take the comment about narcissism to heart. Perhaps it can be seen that the act of keeping a blog is inherently a bit “showy” to use a nice word. Asking for attention, like an open diary – hoping people will take notice. That said, the opposite can be true. You are sharing of yourself, and you are keeping a fundamentally important record of your experiences, which are indeed unique and generous in this world. I keep a blog that is much more narcissistic than yours, and I don’t feel bad about doing so. Some of us need to express ourselves. It is the choice of others whether or not to read.

    Have a marvelous party! I will be thinking of you. It must be difficult being away from home, but it looks like you’ve built a strong family of friends in such a short time. I look forward to seeing you soon. Much love from Israel.

  96. Nick Hu

    Best wishes for an upcoming year of greater fulfillment, joy, enrichment and enlightenment, Shawn.

  97. Bev

    I just loved reading your beautiful words, you say it all so well, can’t wait to see you, had a good visit with your mom today, her voice was strong today. She is amazing and is fighting so hard in her battle for good health. I haven’t given much thought for 2013 yet, can’t wait to meet Jackson this month though, that will be my first plan for the year.

  98. Elspeth Murray

    Love the memorabilia montage and list poem!

  99. Bev

    more beautiful words, keep us posted on your travels, enjoy riding along with you, can’t wait to see you.

  100. Bev

    I loved reading this blog Shawn, very interesting.You should pretend to be married, do they ask for marriage license though? Have a great trip. I just figured it out, Bob and i have been together for 45 years, yikes!! Two thirds of our lives, that’s scary.

  101. Bev

    this makes me sad, 5 people is a 12 x 12 space, can’t imagine it, boy Shawn, this must be so overwhelming, stay safe and healthy.

  102. Caitlyn

    Hi Shawn,
    My name is Caitlyn Baylor and I am contacting you because a friend of your friends sent me a link to your blog, knowing that I am interested in the overlap of dance and activism. I just graduated from Grinnell College last spring, and I am now doing Grinnell Corps, which is Grinnell’s post-graduate service program. The director of Grinnell Corps, Doug Cutchins, knows Jeremy Hornik and Sheila Quirke. He told me that you taught dance to their daughter, Donna, when she was fighting her brain tumor. I just wanted to make contact with you because I really believe in the work that you do with dance and because I have been thinking so much lately about what can be achieved through movement. When I was at Grinnell, I did a “Mentored Advanced Project” on dance and/as activism with Celeste Miller. We explored the capacity of dance/movement to become a form of creative non-violent dissent both in the subject matter it addresses, but also in its very nature—the implication of bringing issues and challenges and ideas into the body. My sister (also a Grinnell grad very interested in dance and activism) and I have been talking a lot lately about the role that dance may have in violence prevention. I think that dance can emulate both extremely strong human emotions and also extremely strong group bonds. What if young people at risk of being pulled into gun violence could work through their anger and group allegiance through dance instead of violence? This might seem like an overly simplistic way to address something very complex, but I believe that working through experiences by bringing them into the body can be indescribably effective and cathartic. Sorry for going off on a digression, but I guess I just wanted to hear if, from all of your experience, you have any thoughts on this particular subject. Are you still in Chicago? I’m from Rockford, Illinois, and although I’m currently living in New Orleans, I would love to (someday) start up dance and violence prevention work there. It has been great reading your blog!
    Take care,

  103. bev lumsden

    this really touched me Shawn, give your mom a hug for me, love ya, I brought my present with me to AZ

  104. Joe

    Lovely post. I agree that Uganda’s children are indeed bright lights. I had the chance to spend some time there in 2005 when I volunteered at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology’s teaching hospital. I was supposed to be the attending but really I became a student, learning about how to do much with little, how to diagnose and treat without the benefit of costly and often superfluous testing. I became a great admirer of the Ugandan resident physicians who had to care for a large volume of very sick patients with just their minds, their stethoscopes, and with a scant few labs values. Unforunately, though quite understandably, most of them dreamed of taking their knowledge and skill from the third world to the first world once they graduated. A physician in Mbarara could expect to earn about $300/month in salary. Though, you are right that the Ugandan roads are a challenge to say the least, they led East Africa in addressing HIV as it arose, with public education and preventative measures, including condoms. As a result, HIV prevalence dropped and they became a test case of how a developing nation might act against the virus. People from all over the world were in Uganda studying HIV prevention and why it worked there. It is a shame that Uganda is now in the public eye for its condemnation and legislation against homosexuality. It is truly a place of great contradictions.

    Amazingly, just after reading your piece today, a Ugandan man I knew from my trip linked to one of my Facebook photos, a picture I took of him and his family. His name is James and I met him through my uncle. Nearly 40 years earlier, my uncle was traveling through Kampala and was approached by a boy on a bicycle. This boy asked my uncle if he might practice his English with him. They spent a big portion of that day together and remained in contact through letters. The boy grew up, had a family, built a house in the hills of Kampala and kept sending letters, as did my uncle. Though they never saw each again, I was able to close the distance a little by visiting James, that boy on a bicycle. He opened his home to me, took me on a whirlwind tour of the city, including Makere, and enlisted his daughter to drive me out to the mouth of the Nile. I hadn’t heard from him in years, nor he from me, I must admit. I am not nearly as loyal a correspondant as my uncle.

    Thanks for your consistently wonderful posts. This one brought me great memories and luck.

  105. Karin

    Beautiful post! That event last year was definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life. Love and light to you!

  106. Ja'Miya

    Hey, I’m from Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy and i wanted to thank you for taking the time to come talk to us! You did an amazing job and i hope you can come back soon! By the way i love the dance you showed us and your site is awesome!

  107. Bev

    once again, lovely words and great story, safe flight, I’ll keep an eye on your parents for you. love ya

  108. Christy

    Hi Shawn, We’re not familiar to one another – I found your blog via reading about Donna. I followed her original story and was glad to have a chance to read more about you via this blog.

    I just wanted to post and say “Thank you” for your openness to others; joyful spirit; and being such a positive ambassador for the U.S. I appreciated your comment in this most recent blog about religion – loosely Lutheran, knew a few Catholics, Presbyterians and Baptists. Nothing about non-Christian faiths, growing up.

    I am Catholic and firmly believe that we need much more openness and respect between all faiths throughout the world. As the saying goes – we have much more in common than differences.

    I felt the need to just share that with you. Kudos to you for your work. You are in my prayers for safe travels and always being met with the same open heart you bring to each experience you try, so your positive spirit continues to spread.

  109. David Asher

    Great article Shawn, and a very interesting blog too. (Your Momma sent me! ) 🙂

  110. Joanne

    Enjoyed reading this- the road has many forks…keep following your heart, it has served you well so far.

    Be safe and happy ( you have shown that this is possible,!)

  111. Jamie

    Happy Mother’s Day to the best mom ever! Hope you have a wonderful, green-filled day!!

  112. Stephanie

    Happy Mother’s Day!

  113. Tugba

    HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Hope your day is sunshine and flowers with happy thoughts to fill the house.
    My favorite color is Green too 🙂

  114. Sara

    Happy Mother’s Day, beautiful, strong mama!

  115. Nila

    Happy Mother’s Day Mrs. Lent!! Hope you have a wonderful week ahead 🙂 I pray that all your treatments go smoothly and successfully 🙂

  116. Patsy

    Happy Mother’s Day, Mrs. Lent! You are truly an amazing woman who raised an incredible daughter!

  117. Joe

    Happy Mother’s Day!

    Before you ask, the answer is yes. Sis did have to remind me to send greetings. I’m embarrassed but I think I am making progress, as I am pretty sure that I thought to think of it this year. Things are going pretty well in Chicago. The weather has finally broken, the sun is out, and the mood in the city is noticeably better. Bicycles and short pants everywhere you look. Thank goodness.

    I was surfing through the ESPN website and noticed that Jr is 4th in Sprint Cup points which must make you happy. He seems to be getting better and better. Hopefully no concussion this year. Those guys crash so often, it’s ridiculous. What do you think about all this business with Danica? The divorce and now this driver’s feud with what’s his name? I think the press pays her way too much attention.

    Congratulations to you and Dad! Did I send I card. I definitely thought to think about that one…

    And good luck with the surgery. I’m pulling hard for you. I know that you are strong and will continue to lay a hellacious beating on cancer. Here’s to a speedy recovery. I’ll be thinking about you a lot this week.

    Big love! I promise, Sis won’t have to remind me next year.

  118. Ryan Lawrence

    Happy Mother’s Day Mrs. Lent! Anyone who raised Shawn deserves the mother of the year award! She is an amazing woman and I know you are too. Sending warm wishes your way!


  119. Julia Rae

    Happy Mother’s Day!

  120. Pamela Nonken

    Happy Mothers Day! I met your daughter at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival when we worked there together. Shawn is the kind of person you never forget. She embodies so many of the things we all need in our fellow humans like compassion, humor, unconditional love. I am pleased to learn here that she was raised with hipppie heritage. Apparently you passed on all the right hippie influences.

    I was adopted before birth. I have no idea who I came from. At seven months old I had to have surgery to remove a tumor from my spine. This was the first of many tribulations that my adopted mom had to endure with me. Until I read Shawn’s blog I had no idea she had health issues as an infant too.

    My wish for you this Mother’s Day is that some time in the near future you will look back at this time in your life and think of what a miracle it is to be healed and well. That is how I see myself thanks to the mother who chose me and raised me.

    I will pray for your health, especially this week as you conquer this challenge.

  121. Bev

    I love your mom like a sister, known her for over 35 years and consider her a great friend and I am so proud of her dealing with her sickness. I pray for her daily and hope I’ve been supportive. I just love this mom for a week post, read every one of the replies and love you so much Shawn. You are a great kid and I know your mom is so proud of you. Just had to put this post in today.

  122. Heather Hornik

    Sometimes I wonder, how do you stand it, knowing your daughter is so far away and sometimes in dangerous places. Then I step back and realize that Shawn’s sense of adventure, her courage, her righteousness, her readiness to offer love and respect and dance must have been learned from you and her Dad. Happy Mother’s Day to you, Mrs. Lent. You raised an amazing daughter. I’m sure I would love to know you better!

  123. Kaili Salyers

    Have a beautiful inspiring love-filled Mother’s Day Sunday & beyond!!! Blessings, happiness, & strength abound!

  124. josephine and daniel

    Happy mothers day auntie Kay we love you.

  125. Grace Bower

    Dear Mum – that’s the Kiwi way to say it.
    First of all i am one daughter up on you – my twins are older than Shawn. And I am also one up bercause at the moment we are all on the same island (North Island of New Zealand) But it hasnb’t always been that way and it won’t always be that way so i know what it’s like to be apart. The other thing we are in this together is no grandchildren – yet?!? You never know what is going to happen so just wait and see.The lucky last thing is that November 6th 2012 I went in for hip replacement replacement surgery. It turned out they call it hip replacement revision and it turned out that not only was I off driving for three nmonths but off weightbearing too. So after six months I am ok with the driving and getting back to walking – and very thankful too. But my gift to you is to google 10,000 reasons by matt redman. It was my motto – to sing like never before and still be singing at the end of the day. It really helped me to go one day at a time. You know the phrase about new every morning – new mercoes i see… I’m sending heavy duty prayers for you and yours. Hugs and blessings for a special time and angels around you. Love from Grace

  126. Jo

    My mum passed away in 1996 will you please be my mum for a week

  127. Tammie Delles

    Dear Mom,

    Mother’s Day is around the corner and this year my resolution was to try and be on time–I know you don’t mind the Mother’s Day in August and the Christmas in July but let’s try and be “in the norm” for a bit, shall we? (Shh, I can hear you laughing now…)

    Seriously, you have touched many a life and formed many a spirit without so much as a backward glance sometimes at the seeds you have planted along the way. It’s quite the field of beauty by the way, full of many colors as your peeps have grown, each in their own way, at their own rate, some into magnificent trees, boughs spread wide and reaching for the sky….some into the most fantastic array of flowers, some into the thistles, and many into the soft and dewy carpet of grass beneath our feet. (Speaking of which, when are we going go for a walk, roll down a hill and watch the clouds pass by?–I was doing that with the girls the other day and we saw a turtle, a whale and Totoro!)

    Our Mother’s Day adventure is bowling this year (I’m not supposed to know this but you know how kids are–can never keep a secret!) –maybe I can get a strike! Wouldn’t they be so impressed??? Hasn’t happened yet but you never know. We won’t share our little story with them about the time I crossed the line and wiped out on the waxy lane-you and dad thought that was hilarious! Will keep you posted on how I do (LoL)

    Well, best get on with the day-there’s kids to feed and adventures to have! Kiss dad for me and be on the lookout for a gem from the Universe telling you how much I love you—could be the full moon, a shooting star for you to wish on, or a field of flowers out of the blue (Noooo, I’m not telling, you just have to wait and see—Sound familiar?? (yes, I am smirking now–I get my mischievous side from you , you know!)

    xoxo Tams

  128. Kaye

    Thanks to all my children for remembering me this year. I feel so much better knowing that I having such caring and wonderful kids. Maybe in this life I did a great thing. Love to all


  129. Michelle Vanstrom

    Happy Mother’s Day from Niagara Falls, NY.

  130. Christine Lucianek

    Happy Mother’s Day! I hope that today brings you hope, sunshine, and a few moments to feel the warmth of your garden. I know that you must be an amazing woman because you have raised a pretty incredible daughter. I look forward to reading Shawn’s blog posts because they inspire me to do and be better.

    Know that you are loved from near and far.


  131. Paula J. Kelly

    Happy Mother’s Day! I hope your day is beautiful and you get to enjoy digging in the dirt of your garden. Celebrate being a wonderful mom.

  132. Lynne Adams

    Happiest of Mother’s Days to you!
    You’ve done an incredible job raising your daughter – she is one amazing firecracker, and all that love and caring you give her is a big part of who she is.
    Sending you love and good wishes for the challenges ahead. You’re not alone!
    From one mom to another,
    All the best!

  133. Paula Kelso

    Hi there, beautiful mama!

    I’m wishing a wonderful Mother’s day to a mom who must be quite inspiring and amazing, as you’ve raised a daughter who is all those things.

    I met Shawn at Millikin where I had the good fortune to dance in a few of her awesomely choreographed pieces. I then transfered and danced at St. Louis Ballet, but I never forgot your daughter and then looked her up on FB some years later. She is an inspiration to many, including me.

    My favorite color is green. I’m also Lutheran. And my own parents recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary! My dad is a Vietnam Vet…and I turned out to be a little hippie too. 🙂

    I’m sending you lots of love and healing and comforting thoughts your way this Mother’s day, especially since Shawn will be abroad. You’re in my prayers.

    All the best!

    With great respect and love,

  134. Jen Steele

    Hi Mrs. Lent! I was lucky enough to meet your amazing daughter in Jerusalem a few months ago. I have continued to be inspired by the contributions she is making to better humanity on a daily basis! Her adoration for you was clear then, as it is now. I can tell that you are one incredibly special lady and I wish you much joy as you celebrate the joy of being the wonderful mother I know you are. And don’t forget to put yourself first more often; you deserve it! Sending appreciation and strength, Jen

  135. kelly roe

    Happy Mothers Day to a strong, beautiful, inspiring mother! May your day be filled with sunshine, laughter, and most importantly……LOVE!


    Kelly Roe, Saginaw, MI

  136. Alex

    Happy mothers Day! Thank you for everything you have done. You are a very special mom 🙂

  137. Jason

    Happy Mother’s Day!! Have a wonderful day!
    Love from Chicago! Jason

  138. jenny

    Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for giving the world the amazing gift that is Shawn. Sending you peace, strength, and much love this week and all weeks.

  139. Ginger

    Happy Mother’s Day, Mrs. Lent! Sending love and healing wishes from the Berkshires!

  140. Bonnie

    Dear mom,
    Sending you best wishes from Cairo Egypt from your Asian daughter!! 😉 Hope you are having the best day ever

  141. Kaili Salyers


  142. Matti

    Wishing you a beautiful Mother’s Day from Chicago!

  143. Sana

    Just wanted to give my support! I’ve been in Cairo for almost a year now. I am not a survivor like you, but I am a feminist, and I do believe that there is no such thing as “illegitimate rape”, there is only consensual and non-consensual, and if you did not consent, then it is definitely rape. So i say all power to you for overcoming the hardships, loving your body, and taking risks and living life to the fullest. As for the sexual harassment, it is difficult. It still irks me that I can’t wear proper clothes for the weather. I have a hard time in general to give up traits of my personality to adapt, especially if they conflict with my principles. Despite what you wear, you will still get harassed simply for being a woman, but sometimes covering more might draw less attention and save you from some harassment. Choose the area well! I always think of the parents of the men who harass women, particularly the mother who teaches her child that she herself has no value outside of her body. It is surely a shame. Above all, trust yourself and what you feel!

  144. Joanne

    Great piece- your vision of the world has changed as you are gone for almost a year. The life of any place has its goods and not-so- goods and then the really bad.

    Are you looking to relocate back to Chicago or are you open to any city?


  145. really?

    You leave me speechless, Shawn.

  146. Heather Hornik

    Shawn, this is profound. It goes far beyond dancing with kids with cancer. It could be a guide for anyone seeking to be with people in any kind of helping way. Yet, as a guide for dancing with kids with cancer, it strikes a balance of respect for the individual as he or she is and challenge for the joy and development that are potential for them. Each of your seven principles is central to the work you do, and I love the relationship implied in “Smile and look them in the eyes not in the tumor” . You do good work, Lady, and the world is richer for your courage, intelligence and humanity. Donna’s Grandma

  147. Joanne

    This is a moment to be part of…thanks for sharing yesterday’s events. Safe passage in the coming days.

  148. Khawaga

    What a wonderful Experience for you and I am a bit jealous! My first visit to Egypt was during Ramadan at the millenium change. The Eid coincided with Coptic Christmas and there can’t have been a more magical time in Cairo until perhaps now. Egypt has such amazing people! Enjoy your time their and the fasting. Sunset is about 8:30 here in Chicago so the days are long but it does feel good. Thank you for continuing your blog posts.

  149. Joanne

    May you have a spiritual journey during this month of reflection. It is good to know that you have a country of people engaged in this activity in Cairo at such a liberating moment.

  150. Liz

    Wow! An incredible post. Having only known you since Donna, I have never thought of you as anything less than amazing. I am sharing this post with one of Shea’s best friends, who is entering her second year of dance at Western Michigan U. Your life is a beautiful example of the way an education can be used in many ways, sometimes in better ways than ever imagined, sometimes for the greater good. I am proud and honored to have crossed paths with you… and that was so before I knew you’d met Twyla Tharp. Rock on, Miss Shawn.

  151. Laura Walters

    Scott Walters forwarded your post to me. You are not a failed dancer. You are a successful human being and I wish I knew you. Had I had your vision 40 years ago, I might have taken a completely different path. I left dance even after Helen McGehee told me, rather overdramatically, “YOU SHOULD DANCE.” I could not justify spending so many hours upon hours in the studio and in rehearsal so that for one hour wealthy people could come see me perform. I went into social work instead. Keep dancing. Keep being at the table. You are magical.

  152. Nick Perry

    Awesome post Shawn!

  153. Jenny Weaver Barbieri

    It kind of pains me to know that a student from our alma mater would ask that of you. You especially. But then I think of what we all were learning about when we went there. And I did read Scott Walter’s article. I feel school kind of went in that direction of marketing every side of yourself. But not enough. Not enough to know that if you don’t make it big you’re not a failure. You inspire me Shawn. Everytime that I see you do something wonderful, it doesn’t surprise me this is the route you took. I definitely don’t see that you gave up on your dream. And every time I have to do something crazy in a dance class or a movement audition I think of you. Every time someone talks about Twyla, I automatically think of you. Keep it up girl. You’re amazing. You are the perfect example of not giving up.

  154. Grace

    I am also a Millikin Alum, graduated last spring with my BA in Theatre and a dance minor. I cannot tell you how much of this resonated so deeply in my soul. I’m currently working in Chicago as a choreographer and theatre artist for the Beverly Arts Center (and freelance), where I go into schools on the south side to choreograph musicals or teach outreach programs for underprivileged youth. Its pretty satisfying, especially since I find myself pondering the same questions you do about the purpose of creating art. Should it be for profit, or should we be focusing more o n creating positive impact and change on our world? Its something I struggle with, and find myself in an existential state about sometimes – what the hell is my purpose in this whole realm of theatre, in the whole wide world? I know I am meant to make art, and to lead others in creating, but how and what? I’m so passionate about social change, about ecological awareness and so many things that are in such need of serious attention, but I’m at a loss as to where to start with it all. I’m sure I’ll find my way with it – I always do with everything else in life – but I seriously could not have read this at a more perfect time in life. One year out of college, and its like I’m finally starting to form my personal vision and trajectory for how I can change the world through my art. I hope to join you in this absolutely REVOLUTIONARY movement of using our art as a tool for influence and change.
    If you ever get the chance, I’d love to talk more with you. Thank you for being a comfort and an inspiration in my early and somewhat painful time in my career. KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON!!! 🙂

  155. Joseph C Burke

    Ms. Lent:
    What a brilliant, thoughtful and lovely post. And your story so reminds me of my own and others I know of, who turned their talents to the world instead of just executing on stage or camera.
    As a young actor who took a year in NYC (after 2 years as a theater major), only to get crushed by the cattle calls and the body count, I then went back and finished college with a wider sense of the world, but still got the degree in theater, plus more. Then I entered the working world and have spent 30 years bringing theater into business. Today’s explosion of videos and exciting pitches and presentations make me laugh because it feels like this was waiting for me to get here. I also contributed to arts in schools and their curricula, participated in community theaters, and of course tried to play a major part in my own children’s sense of how to apply talent in myriad ways besides selling it for the chance to go to the next audition. Today my daughter works for the Met Opera, classically trained singer, but she is not on stage, she is in the business.
    From age 61 I can tell you that looking back at this path doesn’t ever hurt, it feels great. Keep going.
    Joe B.

  156. Yoav Kaddar

    So, so very true. My philosophy and motto is that: Everyone is a dancer
    Bravo Shawn!

  157. Sean Morrissey


    As one of your teachers sitting in the back of the room the day you were asked the question about your dreams I couldn’t have been prouder of how you handled that moment. As a retired professional dancer, I couldn’t have been more inspired, by how you handled that moment. As an artist and educator, I couldn’t have been more impressed by how you took ownership of that moment and turned into a valuable teaching opportunity.

    Dancers have a shelf life and with the exception of a few genetic anomalies eligible to use medicare to pay for their physical therapy bills, (Chita), we all must eventually make a final exit from the performance stage. However, those with their eyes open realize that the exit they are making is actually an entrance – to the next phase of their careers. Embracing the notion that dreams can change and being courageous enough to let old ones go and welcome new ones is a liberating feeling and nourishment for the artistic spirit.

    You’re a smart, talented, creative woman willing to take risks and open to new experiences. That is what will take you as far as you want to go. National Endowment for the Arts, Entrepreneur, Pioneer of Groundbreaking Arts Education Pedagogies, US Ambassador, It’s yours for the taking. You’re already changing lives and leaving lasting impressions… How far are you willing to take it??? I so look forward to finding out.


  158. John Schratwieser

    You have inspired me this morning through this post. Thank you.

  159. Michele Fischer-Paul

    Thank you for such a wonderful article. My 15 year old daughter, who has been a hard-core ballet student has had some recent difficulty breaking out of “the mold” and tried a different (modern/contemporary based) summer program this year; the Earl Mosley Institute of the Arts. Many of her peers (and some teachers) did not accept this. It was not “ballet”. However, in the 4 weeks she has been there she has been exposed to so many different mindsets in dance, culture, and family. It has helped her see that the dance world is a very big place and much more goes on “beyond the barre”. Your story emphasizes that. I foresee my daughter also taking a non-traditional dance path in life…maybe dancing professionally for a while but educating and giving back to our community.

  160. Jeremy Blair

    Great article Shawn. It sounds like you are doing well. Good luck with your future endeavors.

  161. Desiree Marie

    After graduating with a degree in dance, I find myself traveling the world and learning about life with my whole body. Thank you for the article.

  162. Anne-Marie Duchene

    Wow Shawn. Thank you for your eloquence and forthrightness. Your post provokes long moments of pause and awareness in what it means to have a meaningful life as an artist. I agree with you: we need to be at every table. I will keep showing up inspired by you 😉 Love to you kindred spirit.

  163. Deanna Doyle

    I love this. I give you a big thumbs up. Thank you for contributing your artistry to the world.

  164. Deana

    I am a former dancer that now works on large-scale healthcare projects as an interior architect. I’m often asked how I made the move to architecture, and the answer is simple: it’s still about shaping space, I’m just working with a more tangible/permanent story now rather than with movement exhisting in the moment only. My interest is in creating successful and dignified enviroments for people healing from injury; both mental and physical. I’m currently researching successful and the not-so-successful urban housing developments and am curious about the way we treat housing for low-income house holds.

    I completely relate to you and your story, Shawn. I was educated at Ohio State University and have a BFA in Dance. The question I’m asked the most is, “Do you miss it?” I can honsetly say, no, because there is nothing to miss. Dance is integrated into my life everyday. In fact, just last week I remembered a crucial lesson I leanred in Ballet; to move faster, you have to slow down. So many of my life lessons and the reason why I think I’m well adjusted is because my years living in dance. I’m not ashaimed of my recent move to interiors and architecture and dance COMPLETLEY RELATES to my life and always will.

    I think I will stop defining myself as a FORMER dancer, and just call myself a DANCER. Thanks Shawn!

  165. rishauna

    This is great you took the time to write about that question posed to you that is so common and unsettling! Your post resonated with me as I am someone who also studied dance for most of my life and continue to do so, but also went on another career path than the dance-focused my younger self thought I might pursue. I went into social work, focused on community organizing. I have found that as long as I do work that is meaningful in the world and also get to participate in creative processes with performance opportunities-things feel in balance. Sometimes the desire to marry dance/arts work with community work is strong and other times I am happy with keeping it separate and glad I can connect to the joy of dance more deeply than if it were something my income depended upon. I decided it was okay to be more selfish with dance as a source of self-care and not something I had to make as part of my work. This year though there was a beautiful melding of dance and my work when I led my co-workers at a domestic violence prevention agency in a dance for 1 Billion Rising, the event founded by Eve Ensler to get people to rise up the world over, to stand up against violence and to DANCE together!

  166. Megan Manzi

    This post was incredible. It really struck a chord with me and I know it will with many of my artist friends as well.

    Thank you for sharing! And thank you for encouraging me to allow my dreams to grow into something bigger than I initially thought they would! Your fearlessness and passion will help so many other do the same.

  167. Jessie

    Dear Shawn,

    Like so many others who have read this, it struck something in me that has been sitting silent for a while.
    I am just at the edge of figuring out all of these things for myself- how dance, career, money, life, my real life goals, my many dreams, and my ‘job’ on the planet, all intermingle. The struggle with ‘success’ is more with an idea that society has given us, more of a problem we put in our own way- now I am beginning to see that success is not actually explainable or quantifiable- except as it relates to each person as an individual. What will be success for me will not be success for you. When someone is successful, it is because they have fullfilled their own goals, and their own purpose- not anyone else’s.

    When you speak about artists being needed all over the world, in all aspects of life, it reminds me of a point that is made in the book “Imagination First”, by Scott Noppe-Brandon and Eric Liu. If you have not read it, believe me, it is worth a read. It is associated with the Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education, which has a really incredible and unique approach to the Arts in Education. I had the privilege of completing a 6-month Fellowship there, and am now trying to find my path post-college gradation (BFA in dance) and post-fellowship.

    Thanks again for your words, they mean a lot to many people.

  168. Gretchen Vogelzang

    Brilliant! You have captured in one beautiful, thoughtful post, the immense depth that an arts education can take you. It is so far beyond just the stage! Artists change lives, create circumstance and instigate deep thought in ways those within the rigid corporate walls cannot. I applaud you for your candor and all that you have done/continue to do. Well done!

  169. Gwendlyn Miller

    As a mother of two teenage dancers reading this made me feel more positive of the road ahead. They work so hard and sacrifice so much.. I couldn’t help but question (silently ofcourse) what all this would be for. We all have to be honest … a true star dancer is rare.. and the road is rough. I want more for them.. they love dancing.. so I try to keep positive and open minded. Still, as a middle income family, the extra training is not affordable so they will hopefully be choosing a college with a good arts program to chase that dream.. and explore the wide horizon of options we haven’t even thought of until now!

  170. JENNA

    Main takeaway: Milikin University Dance majors don’t make it.

  171. Bill

    I was sent to this post by a friend and student of mine and it really touched me. You are an amazing woman with a wonderful life. I am also a dancer…over 50 years old, and I THOUGHT I had given up on my dream at 34 years old. But life takes us on a journey, and I was hired, yesterday, as a ballet teacher at a major conservatory. Dancers’s lives can have many paths.

    As my beloved mento Luigi always says “Never stop moving”

  172. Jenny Barrett

    Hi, I live in Berkeley, CA. and I believe there is an opening for staff at a SUPER COOL program here called Destiny Arts… incredible place, check them out!

  173. Joe Phillips

    Once had an editor offer me a job for her magazine at a time when I was trying my hand for the umpteenth time at auditioning for acting jobs (I have appeared occasionally in regional, summer stock, etc. — now the closest thing I do to prof. acting is occasional paid children’s theater, occasional summer stock, and being a standardized patient at a med school, which I call half a teacher, half an actor. I also direct community theater, act frequently…) Anyway, at the time, I told her no, I was hoping to leave my time free to pursue acting opportunities. “Oh,” she said. “Call me back when you decide to take a real job.” From my perspective, I’m still an actor and artist, by vocation and avocation — just not on Broadway or in anything high-profile. Her magazine went under, followed by another… and I wonder where she is now?

  174. Elena

    Wow! This resonated with me in so many ways. As a dancer, I have always thought of myself as a dancer, even when I took a year hiatus. I started dancing with ballet at 3 and Bellydance at 12. Bellydance is what I stuck with, physical limitations from a car wreck posed too many problems for ballet. But it was not my dance career that this spoke to me about. My dancing has always been with me and recently the hiatus ended and I am back at it.

    I got a B.A. in theatre, graduating over a year ago. Promptly after graduation I began working in healthcare. First, home health, then eventually ending up working for a psych hospital. This is what spoke to me and I felt I could help people. I want to help people not only through healthcare but through programs with theatre and dance. And honestly, with a fiancee an apartment and bills to pay, the idea of traveling about everywhere to do theatre without a steady job, just didn’t seem as appealing. But I felt like I had somehow sold out. Taken the easy road, although let me tell you, working in a psych hospital is not easy. I know I want to integrate the dance side of my life somehow, eventually into helping people through dance. But I’d like to do that with theatre too.

    And honestly, until I read this, I don’t think I thought I could. You are doing amazing things, and this post brought me to tears. Just because you don’t perform professionally doesn’t make you any less of a dancer. And just because you don’t want to do someone else’s things doesn’t make you less valuable as an artist. It just means you have too much creativity to be harnessed like that. You have inspired me. Thank you so much.

  175. Anna

    I am a classically trained ballerina who had plans to pursue a professional career. Like you, I do not have the ideal body for dancing, so I chose a different career path- youth development. I started working at a Boys & Girls Club recently, and I am planning on starting a ballet program with the kids in the fall. This post has inspired me to work even harder at the program. You are right! We need to share the arts with young people. This should be a priority rather than keeping it as a selfish discipline only for the privileged few. Thank you for all of your hard work around the globe, and I hope that I can have the same impact on my kiddos as you!

  176. Leslie Teitsort

    Dear Shawn,

    Your post is inspiring and impressive. No, I don’t see you as a dancer that has given up. (I worked in arts administration for a few years.) I see you as a dancer that uses your gift of dance to help and inspire others. I see you as a woman that discovered that we are most fulfilled when we are serving others.

    May the Lord bless you and open more opportunities that even you can imagine.

    Leslie Teitsort

  177. Diana Dart Harris


    This post is beautifully written, articulate, and is a godsend to me right now. I, too, am a dancer – nothing will ever change that, but now I work with special needs children, lecture about healthy dancing, teach conditioning for dancers and teach dancers ranging in age from 4 to college students, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a stage…I have been struggling with the idea that perhaps I am no longer a dancer….your post has helped me understand where I am in my life and has validated it for me. For that, I thank you.


  178. Julie Pilon

    Bonjour !
    Félicitations pour votre superbe témoignage ! Ça me rejoint complètement ! Je travaille exactement dans la même perspective de développement de la danse. I live about an hour from Montréal, Québec and at 23 I got hurt (hernia) while dancing and my carreer got another tangente…I teach dance and choregraph mainly now and at 36 with a child with Down’ Syndrome, I still dance afterall… almost !Thank you for your words. I feel really much like you. Merci !
    Julie Pilon, Sainte-Béatrix, Québec, Canada

  179. Jacqui

    Brilliant post. This is something I too have struggled with over the years – I never danced professionally and found a passion for teaching fresh out of high school. In addition to working with children & adults with special needs I am blessed to train teachers as well — and lately I have felt that those who pursue teaching feel that they’ve given up on being a dancer, perhaps I have felt this myself as well. Recently I found myself talking to a new group of teacher candidates, reminding them that we are still dancers — who teach. We create dance for our students, we translate music and movement for our students, we share our passion for dance with students & teachers of all abilities, therefore we are dancers. Keep on growing the dream!

  180. Patrice

    Incredibly inspiring. I will share this with my teenage daughter, our dancer.

  181. Sampada Moholkar

    I want to Thank you for putting it in words!!! I guess a lot of Dancers who haven’t given up on “being a DANCER” wanted to voice it… Thanks alot !!! You inspire me!!!

  182. Gretchen Barton

    Shawn – Beautiful. I so connect with what you wrote here and what you experienced. I too felt the same way after I transitioned to my current work. I was tired of being judged solely on the basis of my profile, my line, the shape of my smile or how perky or bubbly I could be at any given moment. And you know, sometimes, when I was making the transition I remembered why I was doing it, which was to fulfill a greater passion of healing people and creating a place for healing, and sometimes I didn’t remember why and looked back on my time just pursuing acting as entertainment with a sense of loss. But ultimately, I really agree with you – our dreams just got bigger. We wanted more. We felt we were more than what our careers held for us and we moved forward – not on – we moved forward. So – from an actress to a dancer – I salute you and am so excited for what you will do! It’s only going to get better!

  183. SJo P.

    I’m not sure that I can express how much this meant to me in the space of a comment. As yet another classically trained ballerina who didn’t have the body – in my case, my hips were too wide, no matter what I did – I’ve struggled with my identity after giving up the dream of a professional career. What you said made me realize that I didn’t give up a dream, I made it bigger. As a different kind of artist, a writer, I use what I learned from ballet every day, every minute. I use what I learned about myself, about my body, and about my heart each moment.

    Thank You.

  184. Karo

    You’re a super kind, sensitive & amazing person. I admire leaders like you and wish you came to teach in my community! 🙂 All the best!

  185. Barbara Saunders

    Beautiful post. It gives me a lot to think about, as I feel I am moving in the other direction — back to the sense of finding a gift to give from the arts that is more directly person to person and less bound up in roles outside of the moment of creating or apprehending.

  186. Rachel

    As a former dancer on a pre-professional ballet trajectory, your post affected me profoundly. Like so many other posters, I deeply struggled with my identity after deterring from my ballet dreams to attend an ivy league university. I continued to take class, but but when my technique started to suffer, I lost motivation and wrestled with an eating disorder that I thought would still make me at least “look” like a ballerina. Though I study science and engineering, your post helped me realize that no matter where my career path takes me, I am still a dancer and an artist, and I can’t thank you enough.

    • Kiwi

      Gosh, that sounds awful but I understand and sympathise. Just because we’re not ballerinas in a company does not mean we are failed humans xx

  187. Donna Newman-Bluestein

    Way to go, Shawn. I look forward to hearing more about your contributions to the world. And just so you know, dance/movement therapists do similar types of work with many people in need and all over the world. It’s an awesome field, and you get to be supported in your thinking, moving, influencing by other like-hearted-souled people. You are inspiring.

  188. Sharon Gorberg

    This is a beautiful article Shawn. I am a visual artist and art teacher for 34 years. Yours is the career I yearn to have next! I think there are (at least) 2 ways to view the arts. One as a means to an end in itself ie professional dancer painter etc, two as a vehicle for change, growth education etc.

    As a trained educator I tend to fall in the second category although I produce and sell my own work.
    An artist, dancer musician actor– they ALL need to be at the table.

    More power to you woman!! I am very impressed.

  189. Emily

    This resonates so strongly with me. I started acting and dancing professionally at 10, went to NYU for acting, and worked for a little while, and then quickly found that I liked teaching better. I had learned so much about myself and the world through my acting training, and I found it more important and fulfilling to pass these ideas on to others than to just act and dance myself. Now, I’m also teaching yoga, and I love every moment of what I’m doing! Lately, a decent number of people have been asking me why I’m not auditioning. No one has been malicious, or asked if I failed, they just wonder. But, I still feel kind of weird about it.

    This article made me feel like I’m not alone. Thank you.

  190. Rob

    No, you are not a dancer who gave up. You never were a dancer. SORRY, but you do a dis-service to those who are dancers and did not give up. It is an insult to those who DO dance, and work hard to do so, that you would even consider yourself to have been a dancer. I read the entire article, downloaded your “CV”. You are a smart, and motivated woman. You MAY be an artist – but I am guessing patron of the arts is more accurate.
    Just because you are in a garage does not make you a car.
    Just because you are in a studio, surrounded by dancers, does not make you a dancer.
    A dancer PERFORMS! I have far greater respect for the cruise ship dancers you look down upon than you – a quitter.

    • Freya Vass-Rhee

      Rob, I was a professional ballet dancer (16 years, international companies) and if I may say so, you are simply wrong. The identity of “dancer” is not in any way “owned” by those with professional contracts, any more than it is “owned” by those performing in specific genres (and yes, I do remember the days when some types of dancers sniffed at others and called them “not real dancers” — I imagine that many still do). Tell me, just how are you going to split the hairs of who exactly is a dancer and who isn’t by your definition — What sort of contract? How many years/weeks/months? In what genre? Etc., etc.?
      Anyone who dances PERFORMS. Get over your pompous, self-righteous self.

  191. Gina

    No one’s dreams look the same at 35 or 40 as they did at 18 or 20, thank God! If our dreams don’t grow, neither do we. Kudos to you for living the dream, Shawn!

  192. Cristina

    I will add my voice to the chorus of “thank yous”. A professional actress/singer turned social worker focusing in health policy. I will always be an artist, and it helps me in my work ALL THE TIME. The life of a dancer/singer/actress/performer is not as glamorous as it seems. I am so much more fulfilled now than I ever was. And while working in a home for homeless women with HIV/AIDS, I sang a song in the talent show with one of the residents, who was developmentally disabled, that brought everyone to tears. That was more meaningful to me than the performances I gave in front of audiences of thousands in the national tour I did. There are a lot of us out there, Shawn! We stand in solidarity :). Isn’t it amazing how many artists go into public service jobs. Speaks volumes about the heart of artists everywhere.

  193. Dar

    Best of luck in your job hunt. You are doing an amazing job getting yourself out there, that’s for sure. May your efforts be fruitful and may you keep dancing.

    I don’t know a lot about dance, but it seems like the traditional training really screws a lot of people up based on these comments! I like the way you see it better. Good luck Shawn, I hope you find a job.

  194. David N.

    Amazing story Shawnie. May the bigger dreams be realized, and you then dream even bigger still!

  195. Adrienne Mincz

    Shawn ….remarkable post, remarkable life, remarkable accomplishments. I applaud you and you had me fervently cheering you on until you said…..A career as a professional dancer focuses on one’s faults, not one’s contributions. I disagree. Dance is hard…no dancer has ever become successful riding on their natural born talents. I had the great good fortune to have a wonderful and fulfilling career as a concert dancer dancing repertory that included works by Donald Byrd, Warren Spears, Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson and many other dedicated and talented artists. I am now still choreographing and teaching and hopefully inspiring young dancers to fulfill their dreams…whatever those dreams may be.
    As performers we are there to inform and present an artist’s vision or our interpretation of that vision…it is important to have an open mind and an ability to collaborate. There is much you can’t control about this process which makes it both exciting and frustrating and in need of an artist with an open mind and a willingness to explore. Being strong in your identity, your technique, and being able to embrace your uniqueness is key to success in this art form and in many other walks of life. Ultimately being “the best” is not important…if the work makes you happy you will find success in every accomplishment and grow from every bump in the road. I am so happy you found your passion and that you are teaching others that dance is more than just the stage , accessible to a large population of people and that a career in dance can mean many different things. Kudos to you!!!!

  196. Really?!

    I think the real question is, Are you a dancer that will get a job?

  197. Jennifer

    Wonderful! This was the perfect blog for me to read today. As I view myself in this profession, I understand that regardless of the amount of times I am hired, I will always be an artist. Validation does not come from the jobs but from your core. I also can understand and relate to an artist being at the table of non-entertainment specific professions and using their gifts in the service of others. Great post! Thank you for sharing.

  198. Alyssa

    Although not a dancer I am a Musician. Recently I have found inspiration working in a managerial capacity and love it. This is exactly what so many artists need to read. Your statement about how our education focuses on our flaws could not be more true, and for some people that works. But the opportunities our creative process and passion allow us reach far beyond entertainment. Thank you for a wonderful read and an inspiring story!

  199. Jennifer

    Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I feel the same way you do. I was trying so hard for so many years to get into the music industry with failed attempts. I thought i was no good at being a musician and i quit playing music for the first time in my life. I thought “well thats its, my dream of being a professional musician is over so what’s the point?’ Oh how wrong i was in this thinking. I started to get perspective that not everything is about me and i started to write inspirational music and now i am reaching out to people in the community that need to hear songs just like the one’s i now write. I once wrote for the world singing about failed love, sex, cheating, hate, everything negative about life and not being satisfied writing this type of music. Now my life is full of purpose and love. Its not about me but about encouraging others.

    So did i give up on MY dream….. No…… my dream just got bigger and better than i could ever imagine!!! Thank you for making me realize this even more!!

    Thank you for what you are doing Shawn!!!

  200. Nick Saldivar

    Thank you for sharing. I’m in the midst of a career transition and your story is truly inspiring.

  201. raphael xavier

    I can feel that!

  202. Kitty Skrobela

    If ever a post deserved to go viral, this is it! I know so many people who make the world a better place through what they do but still cry because they are not rock stars. I myself sometimes find myself looking down at myself because I don’t “do” anything. I’m grateful that there are others out there who seem to feel that I DO a lot.

  203. Margie Anich

    A friend of mine posted this on facebook, and it spoke to me in ways I can’t even say. I’m 50 — an actor/director/teacher and sometime creator — and I never felt I was cut-out to be a “traditional” actor. The whole business — the obsession with head-shots and agents and physical looks, the expense of keeping up with all of this — did not appeal to me. I just loved the WORK — I loved sharing stories with an audience in all kinds of ways. This is still what drives me, and has taken me off the “beaten path” for the most part, which has its own rewards. Even at 50, I sometimes still struggle with the whole idea of “success” and what that means. But I believe each artist has her own path to follow, and trying to compare one’s path with that of other artists is pointless. Thank you for sharing your journey (thus far!) with us.

  204. Kim Faires

    Beautiful. Giving your dream space to grow however it wants to grow, to become whatever it wants to become. That’s what it means to follow your dreams. Lovely post.

  205. Laura

    I totally agree, Shawn, and I loved what you wrote! May everyone’s dreams grow like yours! Sounds incredibly fulfilling!

  206. Anne Dean

    I hear you. I wish you every success. My oldest daughter asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said “a dancer… “She said (aged 7 then) “well you didn’t want it enough”
    It struck me that she must be correct, but with a little compassion and a lot of luck I’ve been dancing for the past year , I’ve never been so happy or felt so complete. It is healing. I agree with your future plans, dance should be a part of everyone’s life, it heals ,a balm for all. Thank you for this amazing post x

  207. Erin Parker

    Thank you so much for this well written, thought provoking post. Your outlook and your self security is an inspiration. This was a very timely read for me. I’ll be cooking on it for days, I’m sure.

  208. Sunny Savoy

    Shawn, I do not know you, My alma mata is University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, masters. I am the director of a contemporary dance company en Monterrey, N.L. mexico. I would love to know more about your work. I am amazed at your honesty and security of who you are and of how being an artist is one’s own desicion and committment. I always work and strive to help my students find that. Your story is an example for all looking for themselves. Thank you for sharing. I am on Facebook, Sunny Savoy and compania sunny savoy. Would love to talk about sharing or collaborating. Un abrazo.
    Sunny Savoy

  209. grover dale

    Your story inspired me in many ways. First, I came away with a greater understanding of what I’ve been doing for 70 years (I’m 78 years young!) and why I will never stop dancing.

    It also inspired me to post it where the 1500 dancers who visit A4D daily….can see it.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you,

  210. Barbara M. Murphy

    Shawn – I, too, was sort of startled by the question from the youngster at your Alma Mater. After thinking about it, the sad part was not that it was asked, but that this young person only saw dreams as HUGH fulfillments with no expansion on the original dream. It looks as though your dreams surpassed where you were initially headed, but, the most important thing, you seem to be very happy. That is a successful dream in itself. Continued success and I wish you many more wonderful dreams that you will fulfill. (I am a former dancer who gave up on that dream too soon and some days I regret it – a little – but I have a wonderful, beautiful daughter who is also a dancer and she has given me a great son-in-law , who is also a dancer/singer and two beautiful grands. I am very happy now.) All the best.

  211. KAS

    I’m so brilliantly proud of your beautiful insightful words. There is a reason why this post is going viral…you are the heart of dance…

    I’ve always admired your true art and talent at every one of Millikin’s Dance Concerts, always a story behind your choreographed piece and I always wondered what those stories were…I didn’t ever ask you, but now I know.

    I know great things are happening and I couldn’t be more excited or happy for you & our world…
    In fact, I just sent a card to my “mom for a week” a few days ago to let her know how amazing “my sister” is, as well as her mom!

    Continued blessings & love abound,

  212. brent

    this is perfect. thank yo so much for posting.

  213. Lucy

    This post is exactly what I needed to read. I’m going through the same phase where I’m a dance graduate but still searching and interested in other areas off stage. It’s not a lie that I’ve been afraid and sometimes feel bad or unsure of my decision to pursue a career that doesn’t involve the crazy costumes and lights mostly because of what people say, many of my classmates and dance friends say I’m wasting my time or giving up on dancing, thankfully my parents are supportive and know that besides dancing I have other interest that I want to relate to dance. Really thank you for this post.

  214. Arlene

    What an inspirational post! I struggle with feeling successful in my work for various reasons all of them relatively meaningless. As a very mature student of dance (taking it up in my early forties) I gave up studying ten years ago because I thought it was foolish as I could never be a ‘real’ dancer! I have this year returned to classes and feel my world and my work is enriched because I have dance in my life. Thank you for all your good work in the world and most of all for sharing your story!

  215. You As A Machine

    Very nice to read your post. I studied dance for ten years (when I was young!) and then slowly transitioned away from it, but I think that a dancer will always be a dancer; professional or not we take that training with us and it is incorporated in whatever we do.
    Congratulations for not giving up and for finding your own definition for your gift of dance and creativity.

    “Sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” – H.H. The Dalai Lama

  216. Steven

    Hi. Someone shared “am i a dancer who gave up?” on Facebook. I can’t remember who now. Very inspiring to read. 2 suggestions for your site (like you have the time, I understand, but consider them when possible) Put a link back to your Facebook profile page so you are easy to find there. Add an RSS feed for your blog. I prefer to read my blogs there and I really appreciate your on the ground perspective of what’s happening in Egypt.

  217. Linmayu

    Awesome awesome awesome. I think I actually considered myself a failed dancer until I read your post, because I also have always lacked extension and plies and all that good stuff (and I’m short and stocky no matter how much I diet).

    Thing is, even without a perfect body and even while enslaved to a demanding job that leaves little free time for training, I’ve still been able to inspire people and make their lives better through creating and sharing dance experiences.

    You’ve made public what I’ve always hoped and suspected was true. Because the arts should be for everyone. They are not something we can or should simply outsource, even though there are extremely talented and hardworking professional artists and dancers out there. People want to *be a part* of creative things, and think they can’t because someone told them they weren’t good enough. You’re part of bringing art to everyone and I take my hat off to you. Blessings!

  218. susan

    sour grapes! Those that can do…those that can’t teach!

    • Rick

      Good luck living via trite sayings. To quote Frank DeFord, “Those who work solely with their bodies are inevitably doomed to fail.”

  219. Matt

    I wish I could be one of the positive voices here. If you had this in mind when you were 8 years old in you dance classes and dreaming of your future career as a teen, then yes, you have achieved your dream.

    If, as I suspect, you had similar aspirations as your friends to have what we think of as a traditional Professional Dance career, then you have fallen short. Perhaps you’ve changed your focus as a way to deal with it, or perhaps your second dream is the management and you’ve happened to incorporate the dance aspect.

    I teach, I perform when I’m not at my main day job that is not something that I want to do, but that kernel of a dream that fueled my passionate study of my art is not gone. It will never die. And it feels dishonest and inauthentic, for me at least, to say that some other form is equally as good as that initial dream.

    Believe me, I wish I could let it go…

  220. Luis G Canton Rocher

    Wonderful story! I completely relate to it. I have found myself in very similar situations in my dance career when after so many years of dancing for professional companies and resorts on an ongoing basis, I moved to a new country where I had no connections and all the arts contracts are mostly allocated to the same people. Now, I dance mostly for my mentally challenged students, community events and schools. There is not always an opportunity to be on stage on an ongoing basis but we are dancing in the world real life stage making our unique contributions to the lives of others.

  221. Billy

    I wish I had time to write more… I will simply say, “YOU GET IT.” The world needs more thinkers like you.

  222. Caroline

    Well said, and well done! I absolutely agree with you.

  223. Johanne


    Wonderful words! You will always be a dancer because you have a heart and share it…

  224. Fran Spector Atkins

    We have a lot of parallel paths. From Twyla to Cairo. I am eager to communicate with you about several things. Great article in the Huffington Post.

  225. Greg

    I’m sorry some people are responding negatively to this. Only shows their ignorance, lack of insight, and also lack of experience. Anyone that is a working dancer of actor understands and appreciates the importance of education, of an artistic presence in the world. It’s those that are bitter they aren’t working who have opinions and ideas of what this profession is or Should be, without really knowing for themselves because they aren’t in it.

    Keep being the inspiration you are, the dancer you are, and the joy that you are. Your dream is bigger than all of tbis

  226. Amanda

    LOVE your outlook on dance and expressing it. If you ever want to go to Germany, let me know. I live here in Ramstein and teach dance at a local studio. Keep up the good work!

  227. cynthia winton-henry

    Hi. My freind Leah Mann forwarded me your article. I know what you mean. I trained in Dance in UCLA in the 80’s. I like to say I have perfect turn-in. I wound up founding an improv technique and philosophy called InterPlay that is being used to support health and wisdom for all kinds of people all over. I just followed the thread one step at a time. Learned I could teach, organize, fundraise, learn, write, be an artist and run a non-profit. None of this was on my radar.

    I love your writing and this piece. I am posting it on the InterPlay page and also to our Art and Social Change Millennial InterPlayers. THANK YOU!

    I sense that whoever gets to play with you is lucky! If you are in the bay area, I’d love to say hello. Great studio at the center of Oakland’s art and social change explosions. InterPlayce!

  228. roche

    hi! thanks for this wonderful post! definitely resonate with it!

    i’m working with a great group of dancers in SF, starting to take some agency and change this up:
    “A career as a professional dancer focuses on one’s faults, not one’s contributions…”
    it’s always nice to hear other folks sensing what we’ve noticed and finding their own ways to make a gorgeous life!

  229. maryadelyn

    Dear Shawn,

    AMEN and RIGHT ON to your post “Am I A Dancer Who Gave Up?”!!! This is what I teach my students and what we all need to encourage now, more than ever, in the arts. Yippeeeee!!! 🙂

  230. Fanchon Shur

    I would love you to look at my website we share so much in common. I have a program called fight flight freeze the power of instinct I have used this program in the inner-city schools for seven years in Cincinnati Ohio and I would love to discuss my work with anyone. I have just finished choreographing a spectacular experience called global water dances Cincinnati the film of the work is coming out it is Stan’s activism edits most delicious and exciting. I hope we will stay in contact.

  231. Fanchon Shur

    I wrote the last comment and I use dictation because I have a tremor in my hands so I made a mistake. In the last sentence I use the word activism but the words surrounding it are gibberish. I dictated it into my phone and my phone often guesses words that I have not said. And I did not check it before I sent it. That I meant to say was that my work allows a combination of activism and expressive arts and community and aesthetics and beauty. The film will be out very soon and I would love people to contact my website in order to see it

  232. Kwok

    I agree with you, you’ve never given up hope, you’ve just chosen your own path to happiness.
    Something that all will envy you for in the long run.
    Thanks for this wonderful post.
    Looking forward seeing your next dream projects come true.
    Thank you for being such an inspirational dancer

  233. Kwok

    Amazinggggg !

  234. Laurie Corzett

    shared on The Healing Dance Network

    The Healing Dance Network: a web between the various healing dance studies, theories, practitioners and proponents through which to find, share and expand the study of healing through dance.

  235. Ellen Shriner

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  236. Marianne

    This is exactly what I needed to read.

  237. Susanne Thomas

    I am so impressed with your boldness in bringing your art out into the world. Thank you for this post.

  238. KAS

    I still live in that everyday is a dance of life…

    Those that cannot physically dance, are not limited to dance positions…they have even more ability to dance than accomplishing 6 pirouettes in a row…simply by using the profound imagination we have all been blessed to be born with.

    When the trees move their breeze, they dance.
    When the air moves the sky, clouds dance.
    When we laugh our breath dances.
    When the crowd walks, they move with a dance in their step.
    Our deepest thoughts in our mind dance freely or frantically depending on the hour, the minute, the second, the day, the moment.
    Our hands dance when we write/type essays for school, checks for bills, perform surgeries, create poetry, and the likes of all hand dance.
    Our voices dance when we speak compassionately, use calm after rage, sing (even when we can’t carry a tune), and when we whisper sweet nothings.
    Our eyes dance when we sleep.
    Our ears dance when we listen.
    Our noses dance when we smell.
    Our toes dance when they’re tickled.
    Our souls dance when we touch someone else’s or when someone’s soul touches ours.
    Our spirits dance during kindred moments when we realize we are all a free spirit.
    When we give freely, we take freely, we live freely, we dance freely, we feel freely, we love freely.

    Lastly, our hearts dance through love…and love is dance, love is us, love is you, and love is me.

    The point is, dance is all around us. Dreams are through us. And, should we all dare to dream, we all dare to dance in our own way. And, I will not give up on my dreams, my love, or dance. And, I know you won’t either…(we’re kindreds that way).

  239. Jeanne Camp Williams

    You are spot-on! Artistry and Life are inseparable, indeed! As an artist, singer, musician, psych professional, business creator, non-profit supporter, mother, wife, daughter, sometimes professor and conductor, educator, wearing lots and lots of hats… EVERYTHING I do, breathe, touch, see, hear, taste, is visualized and expressed via music and theatre. In fact, my artistic journey has blossomed over time, totally integrated within my being and being with other beings. It is a spiritual connection to life as it unfolds. Thanks for your wisdom. I love this post.

  240. Lauren Klingman

    I just wanted to say thank you for this. Midway through graduate school (MFA in Theatre Performance) I decided to leave and become a physician. I have often both questioned myself and been questioned if I simply “gave up” on my arts career. I have tried to emphasize that it isn’t possible to lose the artist within yourself, but rather, it is integral to take your innate creativity, ability to compromise and collaborate, and your unique perspective on life and use it to help the world and change people for the best. Art for me was about service, and I fully intend to bring the gifts theatre gave me to my practice of medicine. Thank you so much for being brave enough to put this out there. You have put to paper, the words I have been thinking for the past few years. You’re awesome!!

  241. Amanda Cantrell Roche

    Thank you for this. As a 43 year old dancer and social justice choreographer, (and yes, I, too, define myself that way although it is rare I am financially compensated for my work), my profession is as a Teaching Artist. I so appreciate and agree with your perspective. We must teach others that to dance is not only to learn technique; the real learning comes when one introduces kids or adults to the fundamentals of dance and choreography, reflects upon and discusses a chosen theme, and then provides just enough guidelines for them to creating their own, expressive movement. They need not be able to leap or point toes or balance on releve to do this; it is authenticity and expression that matters, hopefully made more dynamic by the artful use of body, energy, space and time. As a culture we need to steer more towards developing the artistic voice in the arts rather than so much focus on technique only, as well as process over product. Spending a few hours with students reflecting upon and then creating their own dances which express community and what each one has to give back to their community, for instance, is likely to go much further in cultivating understanding, empathy and empowerment and making their community a better place than time spent learning plies or barrel turns. I think we are inching closer to the understanding of this. Good work ~ keep it up.

  242. Christopher

    It can be an odd feeling reading a blog of someone you’ve never met, and it bringing tears to my eyes.

    The most moving part of reading this is knowing the impact that a single person can have on so many lives. When I would go in for chemo and radiation, often times I would be taken near the children’s clinics. I can tell you that there is nothing in the world more heart-wrenching than to see those children. Nearly every pass through the clinic would bring me to tears, as I felt so helpless.

    I admire what you’ve done. While I had no idea who you were before this day, and will likely never meet you, you’ve had an impact on yet another person’s life. Good on ya.

  243. Carolyn

    These are the kinds of stories that make me think artists can use art as a tool for activism and outreach, and maybe that is a part of an artist’s responsibility to our communities (maybe not, but I feel this way about myself). I think it is possible and I feel like this is the kind of thing I want to do with my life. I perform spoken word poetry, and have recently had some possible glimmer of direction in life (at least as something to do for a little while) in that I realized I really enjoy creating spaces where people feel comfortable to express themselves and to speak their truths in a supportive environment. This past year I took an Indigenous Community Development class that used popular education and art as a teaching tool, and through that and my experiences with spoken word I realized that opening up venues for people (especially youth, though I haven’t done much of that yet) to express their experience of the world is something that is really satisfying. It’s good to be reminded that there are people, artists of all kinds, who are doing this kind of thing, and doing it all over the world. Thanks, this was inspiring to read.

  244. Shannon

    wow, it is truly an inspiration reading your blog. i am moving to cairo in 2 weeks, and would love it if you could find room sometime in your schedule to meet up, or perhaps tell me where i could see your students perform. i am an artist, former dancer, and teacher, and have directed family who are nervous about my impending move to read your blog. my email is [email protected]. keep up with the inspirational life!

  245. alena

    as a dancer turned yoga teacher/social worker, i applaud this post! i still identify as a performing artist, and i know well that all of my accomplishments and contributions following my 10 year professional performing career are because i am an artist. as a dancer who taught college students and aspiring professionals, i relished being in a position to encourage young dancers to follow their dreams, and KNOW that they can give themselves permission for their dreams to expand and flow into other dreams and passions. one will always inform the other. it’s all about permission. i loved my time in the business and i’m so proud of the work i’ve done. without those experiences, i wouldn’t have had so much to offer my clients who have suffered chronic homelessness, addiction, severe mental illness, and physical disabilities. i just loved what you wrote. thank you.

  246. Joanne

    Over the next two weeks, I will be working as a volunteer on a community mosaic mural for my neighborhood with thirty youth workers and three lead artists. The goal is to complete this mural by August 17th for a celebration of this wonderful project.

  247. Heather Hornik

    Shawn, what a beautiful idea!

    Joanne, I love public mosaics! I would love to participate in a community mosaic mural some day. I’m keeping my eyes out for one in western Massachusetts.

  248. Chris Han

    definitely inspirational and insightful to read. good to understand there are others out there going through similar feelings about paths in the dance industry anyways. very admirable and i respect where you’ve been and are going with dance. i encourage your purpose and dreams!

  249. Ashley Fargnoli

    Just spent a week volunteering as a dance therapist at the Orphanage, Dom Bjelave in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

  250. Isla Rose Forgeron

    Going through this right now! I left the U.S. a week after performing with “No Doubt” to travel the world, teach dance and English. After my Mothers passing I was able to wake up from the narcissistic world of Hollywood and realize that a part of our purpose is inspiring and loving others. Dancing professionally in LA for 6 years was not as for-filling as I thought. I was concerned about my body, my paychecks and the whose who of Hollywood. I lost my passion for dance and was sufacating! I later got a job at a non-profit teaching dance to at-risk youth and army veterans. Thank you for the encouragement and the reassurance that I am not “giving up” I’m “Getting Up” and doing something more!

  251. Kay

    (Trigger warning)

    I was 23 and the guy was a boyfriend I’d been seeing for just about 3 weeks — we’d had consensual sex together, but then he’d started doing things like lying about using condoms (he’d say he’d put one on, but then I’d realize he hadn’t.) He’d also been very selfish and cruel and dismissive at times. I was brand new in the country, didn’t speak the language, was sick, and didn’t have much money or many friends. He’d come into my life like a guardian angel at first, helping me when I got lost. He always hosted travelers from around the world, and at first it seemed like he was a hospitable, generous guy. Now I realize he just wanted to be seen that way so he had power and could deny accusations of cruelty.

    He’d been dismissive of me that morning when I was upset about missing my family, so when he tried to initiate sex, I wasn’t feeling overly amorous. I told him to touch me instead of having intercourse. He did that half-heartedly for two or three minutes, then flipped me over and got on top and forced himself into me. It hurt, and I told him to stop, but he didn’t. He wouldn’t listen. I finally pushed him off, and thankfully he didn’t try it again. I started crying even more, but I hadn’t consciously realized what he’d done was rape. I was just upset that he was treating me badly. He tried to soothe me for a minute, then left abruptly and got on his computer to mess around. I kept crying, thinking he was coming back. When I realized he was not returning to the room, I grabbed my stuff, told him I was leaving, and ran away. I cried for a long time, but it wasn’t for many months I realized the name of what he’d done.

    I still don’t feel like I was a “legitimate” victim. Akin sure wouldn’t think so. I’d had sex with the guy before and I was in his bed engaging in sexual activity when he did it. In so many people’s eyes, my “no” wasn’t legitimate, not something to respect. In their thinking, I wasn’t an innocent victim: I had it coming, I should have expected it.

    Due to that, I have trouble calling it rape. It was also short and not too physically painful afterwards, so I feel like I didn’t have it too bad compared to others. Classic minimizing… I wouldn’t say such things about someone else’s experience, but I have about mine. I also was mad at myself for hanging around with him after the first signs of trouble, but I was young and vulnerable and confused. I only saw him one time after that, at a party, and I realized there that he truly was a selfish jerk. So at least I got myself out quickly.

    It’s been over 3 years now, and I’m in a much better place. For a while I had a lot of trouble with intimacy and it was hard for my current boyfriend to understand. I’m mostly okay now, although every now and then it hits me. I’ve tried to channel my feelings into being kind to others and fighting for women’s rights and against rape of all kinds. (Sometimes I have to take care of myself, though, and duck out from advocacy for a bit.) Thank you for sharing your story. It’s very hard to do so, and I’ve never shared mine publicly with my name attached. But I believe our stories are part of a loud chorus of voices rising up against violence and rape. We’re sisters (and brothers) fighting a good fight. I wish you the best in your continued work!

  252. Douglas Wood

    Like several folks who have posted, I am a Millikin Alum and a Musical Theatre major (class of 1985). I am so proud of you and your amazing outlook on art, dance and social responsibility. For many years I pursued success in the music industry and then transitioned to teaching here in Hollywood. A lot of students think they know what their dream is, but they really don’t. There are a lot of dreams worth having and a lot of dancing careers that aren’t worth having if achieving them means being miserable or behaving miserably to others. The successful artist is the one that both makes art part of her life and contributes to the world we live in. I would have saved myself a lot of heartbreak if I’d learned that earlier. Stay open to art, stay open to dance, stay open to experience and happiness and joy.

    After having taught singing for 20+ years, I recently decided to go back to school for an MFA in creative writing. Who knows what challenges and rewards this will bring? What a fantastic thing life is. It sounds like you’re enjoying yours. Brava.


  253. Really?

    PS. You don’t want to know who I am, it would break your heart. You have no clue the damage you do to people you think you are helping.

    • shawnlent

      Dear Really?,

      I thank you for your ongoing criticisms which I do very much take to heart. As you say, I probably do know you or have known you as a friend. I am calling for a more productive dialogue between us as I do wish to address the harm you say I am causing. This is very important to me.

      Social media and blogging have become a source of communication and personal development. I turn to friends for advice often and am sorry you seem to feel very negatively by that.

      In any case, I respect that you wish to remain anonymous. But if you do so, please provide some concrete and clear points of criticism for me and my readers to learn from and address. If you are not willing to do that, I kindly ask that you let me know your identity so we can discuss this privately.

      All my best,


  254. Really?!

    I have great respect that you want to listen to me. I’ve wanted to say these things to you for years. I do believe you are a good person with important ideas.

    Check your email.

  255. Joanie

    Agreed! And Bravo! This is so inspirational.

  256. Shannon

    shawn… it is always a pleasure to read your perspective. i have been here a few days and am invigorated by the energy here, and the lack of violence (at least from my view in maadi). and on the topic of thinking with one’s uterus… did you know that egypt has a fledgling women’s roller derby league? i used to play in the states and it’s all about girl power – something i think egypt desperately needs right now. i organized a gathering of used derby gear in the states to bring with me to help facilitate participation for local girls that might not have the means to participate otherwise. it may be a sport, but it is a spot filled with passionate, empowered women – many of them artists. it is such an exciting time to be in egypt, and i can’t wait until the curfews are over and they can resume practice. i’ll be there! i hope some day you can come to a game with me. keep processing the labor pains of the new egypt and sharing what you perceive with the world. you are doing valuable work. i look forward to meeting you soon.

  257. Eric Harper


    I quite enjoyed your article and have been speaking with some friends about opening an outreach program/business that teaches dance to underprivleged children all over the globe. Mostly focusing on Summer camps. I have pondered this idea and would love to talk to you over email perhaps about how you took your dancing abroad. I hope you read this and you are able to get back to me; it would mean the world.


  258. haley

    You DID quit. You couldn’t make it. The entertainment industry demands the best of the best in mind, body, and talent. If you didn’t have the body, didn’t have the face, didn’t have the drive, or didn’t have the talent, eventually you leave, or you figure out a way to get it. Ballet is one of the toughest. I hope you don’t regret this when you’re older, because that’s just sad.

  259. NoraY

    Can we be best friends?

    I feel a deep kinship. I have recently wondered if I am wrong for leaving the drive to perform and audition behind in pursuit of work that I can build a career upon with meaningful dance components. I feel the pressure of “why don’t you perform more?” but as much as I love dance, I love dance in a bigger way than I ever have before.

    Thanks for this, and best to you.

  260. Lynette Potter

    Very nice blog, I love Maurissa! She danced with my daughter who also used the scholarship program. I hope she does get her work published. It seems to be off to a great start. Lynette Potter

  261. Kelsi

    I’m a sophomore dance major at a major conservatory and have found myself constantly thinking about pursuing a sociology major instead. I have always danced and always thought I wanted to perform my whole life. The idea of dropping dance as a major has left me with a sense of failure or settling for less than my dream– until I read this. I want to do SO much more than twirl around on a stage for onlookers. I want to give back to the world the joy and passion that dance has given me. Thank you for giving me the courage to do so.

  262. Heather Vaughan-Southard

    Yes to the meaningful philosophy of life but also yes to the dance present, dance future, and dance civics. Yes to thinking dancers have a right to leadership roles because the nature of our work encompasses or can encompass all fields. Thanks for sharing, advicating, and representing so gracefully.

  263. Connie Chin

    Hi Shawn!
    Would tap shoes and ballet slippers be appropriate?

    • shawnlent

      Shoes are not the priority but would be appreciated. Ballet especially. Tap shoes might be a bit dangerous in the hospital setting. Thank you so much.

  264. Donna

    I have Tap shoes….could you use those?

    • shawnlent

      Unfortunately, tap shoes might nit work for this. Soft sole shoes would be ok. Thank you for reaching out.

  265. Christy

    Hi Shawn,

    Collecting at my school for the next 2 weeks. My 5th grade students are excited to help. Will let you know as items start to come in!

    • shawnlent


  266. betsy

    Sending various colored leotards, leggings, tights, small dance skirts, tutus, matching soft dresses and head accessories – best of luck –

    • shawnlent

      This is great! Much gratitude, Betsy.

  267. ann barrios

    Shawn, I have a box of my daughter’s( Joanna Q) ballet costumes ..sitting in my trunk wondering what to do with them.. with her permission .. some of them will be on their way….

    • shawnlent

      This is wonderful. Thank you.

  268. Cathy

    I have several child costumes, most matching and brand-new from our studio that they would be welcome to have. Are there any modesty restrictions? None of my costumes are belly-baring but they are sleeveless with waist tutus. Would this be okay? I may have up to 20 for you.

    • shawnlent

      Thank you so much. Most of the families do not apply restrictions until age 12 or so. With the sleeveless costumes, we will simply put a long sleeve shirt underneath. What you described would be perfect!

  269. Dee Nelson

    I have various costumes and practice gear also. Will get them mailed out tomorrow

    • shawnlent

      A very big thank you. Will share photos of the event.

  270. heather hornik

    Will do, Shawn.

  271. Lee Sayer

    Greetings Shawn Renee Lent=

    I enoyed you writtings and glad you have come back to Saginaw for a visit.

    If your still in the area I would recommend taking your husband to the Castle Museum,Hoyt Library,Hoyt Park and the Temple Theatre.

    Have a great day

  272. Beth Creighton

    Shawn – I have no doubt your speech will be full of passion and hope for the future, no matter how you choose to present it. I look forward to hearing it all!

  273. Kathy Cull

    I’ve been to both the Holocaust Museum in DC and Dachau. They were both life-changing experiences that I’ll never forget.
    Also visited MOMA and the Louvre. Great.

  274. Joe A

    Another moving, thoughtful piece. Makes *me* feel like dancing. I hope a book is forthcoming. If one still rightly hopes for such things in today’s electronic age. I also hope you are taking high quality photos to further document your time in Eqypt.

  275. Shawn Lent

    I want to make it clear that my dance education was an awesome blessing and I am ever grateful to my parents for doing whatever they had to do to keep up with the costs. I just wish that it weren’t so segregated (as the schools and towns in mid-Michigan are themselves increasingly segregated). More and more dance studios are growing in diversity, offering scholarships, non-traditional classes and performance opportunities, culturally and racially aware costuming, that is true. There are some great examples. But I am calling for more and more of it! No excuses of it being based solely on where you live. For example, the dance studio I grew up in is not too far from some areas of real need. There is poverty and violence, shelters and homes with kids who really need dance, maybe even more than I did. There are also Muslim and Hindu families just down the road. Time to reach out and find ways to open the doors to them. In doing so, maybe the choreography will have a little less racial and ethnic appropriation.

  276. Kerry

    It can be so challenging to negotiate family dynamics when you’re in an interfaith/intercultural relationship during these heady times. Thank you for writing this…

  277. Mardon

    THANK YOU from an angel mom. Our Jake is FOREVER 6.

  278. Kitty Cat Chronicles

    LOVE this story! Thank you so much for sharing. Lamara is beautiful, and isn’t it amazing how CH kitties can be so resilient and learn to do things they “can’t” do? I remember when Sophie (my CH girl) climbed up onto our bed by herself, which eventually turned into a jump, when she climbed her first flight of stairs, when she got up on the cat tree on her own. She loves going on outdoor adventures too. CH kitties can be so inspirational!!

  279. Sherry

    I love this story. We too have a CH kitty and you couldn’t have chronicled this venture better. Way to go little girl. She is a survivor and you are great parents.

  280. Michael Abraham

    As an Arab-American, everything about the Zurah Shriners facade is racist, insulting, and a grand contributor to a larger phenomenon in American-European culture of malcharacterizing, belittling, fantasizing, dehumanizing, essentializing the Arab and Islamic world. This phenomenon is called Orientalism in academia (as coined by Edward Said) and has been written about extensively. Shriners have no knowledge of the Arab world beyond tokenism that befits their own petty ideas of amusement.

    Search Edward Said Orientalism on YouTube and watch the 40 minute video. Then maybe even by his book by the same name.

  281. Shawn Evan Lent

    Hi Shawn. I keep coming across your name on the internet, for the obvious reasons. Anyway, It makes me smile seeing a Shawn Lent making such a difference in the world. Keep up the good work.
    The family and I are heading to the park now. We’ll send sunny thoughts your way.

  282. Nancy Clare

    This man rocks my day…..don’t know how we could get by without him. Such a great person!

  283. Sherrie

    Your dad is a kid at heart. Has been and will always be! Love that man, my “neighbor-dad” when I was a kid and my son adores him when he goes up to Michigan.

  284. Sara Pearson

    Bravo and thank you for the countless people you are helping through your generosity and knowledge.

  285. Haifa

    Dear Ms. Lent,
    This Haifa abu Khdair from Jordan. I am painter, and I am interested in Fulbright artist scholarship, but I need more information on how Fulbright commission choose artist portfolio? What makes my portfolio eligible for Fulbright grants? I would appreciate any advice. Thank you for your help in advance.
    Haifa khdair

  286. Anne Alexander

    I was the fortunate grantee of a Fulbright to The Dominican Republic in 98/99. I am a sculptor and studied the Art of The Taino Indian and created a body of related work and carved wood, clay and alabaster. I also taught rather intensive schedule of 3-D Design courses to The College of Design at Altos-de-Chavon. I was a public school art teacher when I applied. Some difficulties- Hurricane George hitting a month after arrival, finding child care, and difficult to contact home. But what an experience for me and our family. The application was daunting and time consuming.

  287. Marin Leggat Roper

    This is amazing. I am so glad I saw your FB post and thought to read more on your blog. I am moved to act here in the D.C. area. …might be calling you for advice….

    You are so incredibly resourceful. Congratulations!!!

  288. Lucy

    I need to thank you for writing and posting this. I’m also a dancer, I finished my degree on dance and after some years of pursuing the traditional path found out I had much more to offer the community and other interests I would also like to explore, so I got back in school and started learning about business, somehow I could deal with topics I never knew I could, and I still could see how I could relate them to dance and humanities/social studies; I thought back then that I was giving up on dance, I was giving up on my dream, that I would never dance again and the truth is that I’m still involved in it, I’m still dancing, taking and giving lessons regularly, I even have learned a new style of dance just because I wanna try it, and I’ve learned so much more in other areas. I’ve grown as a human being and I found myself stepping out of my confort zone. So thank you, reading this always reminds me I made a good decision.

  289. Adelle

    I think this post is great and it is definitely true that you have NOT failed at being a dancer or for that matter a great contributor to society. I do think though that perhaps the way you frame being in fishnets and feathers or seasick on a ship is a bit demeaning to dancers/performers. It’s cool that that this isn’t your goal (and it isn’t mine either) but that is some people’s dream, and it is a hard and competitve one to achieve. It’s amazing that you work with such great causes but once again your reference to Broadway compared to the other causes you list implies that Broadway is less significant when I don’t believe you can support this proposition. I think it is great to share that your life is still fuelled by the passion you have for arts but it is better said when you are not intimating that your goals are more powerful than someone who wants to perform for families on a cruise ship or millions of people on Broadway. Your goals are awesome just don’t compare them to other people’s and of course don’t let other people’s compare theirs to yours. Just a small and subjective critique for an otherwise great article.

    • shawnlent

      Thank you so much. I very much agree with you. My intention with this post three years ago was simply to process what was going on in my head, exploring my career and starting to define my profession for myself. In that process, I had wanted to show respect to my dear friends who made the choices I had not. When this piece went viral three years and was republished by Huffington Post, I wasn’t able to edit. With that said, I did make the difficult decision to let it stand as is because it was personal exploration and not an overview of the field. Since then, I have created career/college guides and workshops that give equal weight to all career avenues with dance, including commercial work as well as social practice and community-based arts and work in other sectors.

      • Adelle

        I understand completely. Thanks for the response! 🙂

  290. Haley

    I love this! I had kind of the same thing happen to me; i thought I wanted to be a dancer. I ended up teaching and I love it, and I can’t wait to grow it into something even bigger!

  291. Shallu

    I can very much relate myself.I am a dancer and had great success of my dancing school.After being in a classical dance teachinge field for 22 years I felt my priorities and vision of looking at life has been changed.I could see a suttle ego of being a classical danceer and teacher in me as well as other’s which was condemning the further growth just because of self image.I decided to close down the school and living without identity as a dancer but continued the dance of life.travelling,meeting new people,dancing with joy,exploring other forms of dance movements,helping people with therapeutic dance movements,playing with slum kids……is my Dance.My dance of life! …and I am loving it!

  292. Beauvais Lyons

    As a Fulbright Lecturer to Poland in the Fall of 2002, I can testify to the many positive outcomes of the program. I have built lasting connections there, including hosting and international conference in Berlin and Poznan in 2005, and a program linkage with the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Art and Design in Wroclaw and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Thanks for this informative post. Fulbright is one of the most important ways that the US is engaged in the world.

  293. AnaKarina

    This made me cry… I’ve always been a dancer myself. Self taught mostly, not extensively formally trained as most studios & companies prefer. I chased my dream vigorously for some time but after years of body shaming, as the dance world does, I began to accept it & slowly convinced myself I’d never get anywhere in dance. Not even in contemporary companies or small projects. My turnout wasn’t turned out enough, my thighs were too thick, my chest too voluptuous, or I was too short. I, in a huge sense, did give up. I occasionally choreographed or helped others improve certain skills for future auditions. It always made me sad and angry to see the perfect technical dancer that was unwilling to be emotional or vulnerable. But then I’d quickly be reminded that technicality got you further than just heart. I felt disillusioned by all the dance movies I’d grown up watching because the reality was quite different. I became a worker bee and only danced in my living room for me, as exercise. I forced myself to come to terms with the idea that a career involving dance in any way wasn’t going to happen. Even less without formal training, plus I couldn’t afford college and was unsuccessful at getting financial aid. I accidentally discovered belly dance many years later. It taught self acceptance, self love and I became an avid recruiter for the dance form. And one day in the studio the teacher said there were performance opportunities for students. I didn’t know whether to be excited or petrified. I signed up, learned the choreography, rehearsed, got fitted and then show day came. It felt like the first time I’d ever stepped onstage and although I was happy to have faced a lot of my fears I was confused.

    I still loved dance but wasn’t sure how it fit into my life or how I fit into dance, period. I’ve performed a few more times since, attended numerous workshops, intensives, even traveled to Morocco to experience the culture first hand. That experience was beneficial for an assignment I asked for at work. It involved diplomacy and the arts so not only was I tickled pink but when I was thrown into a room with nearly zero prep or experience, I had to brief a group of artists traveling to north Africa. Completely panicking I knew there was only one thing I could do, improvise and it worked like a gem to my surprise. I gave them more information than they could handle but I shined in the eyes of my superiors.

    I guess that my point is (very drawn out) that had I not experienced the beauty, cruelty, strict discipline, grace, technicality & vulnerability of dance I probably would have fallen apart & given up on life a long time ago. It was my therapy, my form of communication when words weren’t enough, my stress release, my confidant, my safe zone.

    I’m currently unable to fully dance due to an accident. The healing process is long and I’m forever impatient with it. However, due to all that I have learned in the last decade of world dance forms I’ve had the opportunity to learn, even just a little, have enabled me to find avenues to dance from a sitting position if my back decides it’s not a good day.

    Learning any type of art form I feel allows the soul to grow. It forces your mind and body to look for something new. Finding belly dance made me fall in love with dance again and taught me that society doesn’t determine my value, I do. I’ve learned to recognize that although I may not be on stage, actively in a strict dance regimen or teaching, like you said: it’s part of you, you take it with you & the dream changes.

    Forgive the life story but I had to get that out because every word that you wrote and I read struck an immense cord with me.

    I’m still going to continue trying to make those dreams happen…

    Thank you

  294. Heather Hall

    Such a beautiful and affirming article. I still consider myself a dancer although I now work with children and their families as a clinical psychologist. Growing up as a dancer has prepared me in countless ways for the work I now do and my background as an artist informs every aspect of my relationships with others, both personally and professionally. I loved your article and value your perspectives on this topic from the reasons that a professional dancer lifestyle didn’t feel like a good fit, to the ways in which we can more broadly envision success. Thank you for the inspiration!

  295. Michelle Pauls

    Completely inspiring!
    I have been searching for a different direction for my artistry. After I read this post, it hit me–theatre and hospice care/death & dying. I am on the search for how best to utilize my skills, talents and heart to bring the artist’s eye to this aspect of being a human. Anyone want to join me? Let’s get talking!

  296. anya

    There is a bigger world out there, than just a 2 by 4 box with mirrors. I was lucky as a former dancer to realise this early on.

  297. Randall

    You are missing one track. The dancer who never danced at a studio and found their way in college and are constantly finding new ways to demonstrate that artistry is a product of all the histories they come in contact with. This dancer has struggled to be seen. This dancer has struggled to find their writing voice in academia. This dancer constantly is proving others wrong, even in adulthood. This dancer is a rebel and is prompting their dance students to find their own truths. This dancer in their old age is constantly learning and solidifying new information into their teaching philosophy.

    • shawnlent

      Brilliant. Thank you. Curious to know, in what direction is this dancer is headed?

      • Randall

        This dancer is me. I am working toward my tenure while bolstering my scholarship profile and keeping my professional body in Armitage Gone Dance! I am doing this while keeping Dinald McKayle’s legacy alive.

  298. Judith Lynne Hanna

    convention/competition dance —
    At MDEA, students bemoaned the university dance department stigma against it, unaware of its benefits

    • shawnlent

      Thank you for that contribution to the conversation.

  299. Judith Lynne Hanna

    See Dancing to Learn: The Brain’s Cognition, Emotion, and Movement (Rowman & Littlefield) –discussion of dance venues/genres

    • shawnlent

      Thank you for this resource!

  300. Awesome Memento

    Thank You So Much !

  301. Alicia

    This resonated deeply. Thank you for sharing this!

  302. Sylvani

    I am overjoyed to see that I, as a dancer, can still be successful even though I want to be a humanitarian, a traveler, and an anthropologist. I don’t see myself as the best technician as a dancer, but I have always been told I have heart. The problem is, heart doesn’t always get you jobs in the dance world. And I have always struggled with the idea that if I create my own profession, using the dance which I have trained in and love, to do something other than be clay for someone else to model, or settle for nightmare jobs just for the sake of “street-cred”, that I would be a failure as a dancer. I am dealing with this great struggle between the desire to create myself, and the fear of instability, and trying to redefine success.

    I am so glad to know I am not alone in this. This story gives me a great deal of hope.

  303. Joanne Vena

    Sounds amazing and I hope we can get together in early 2017 to talk about your work.

    Joanne Vena

  304. Awesome Memento

    Thank You So Much Shawn

  305. Karen Bradley

    Beautiful, Shawn.

  306. Amanda

    Beautifully written! My condolences.

  307. Kathy Cull

    Your perspective is beautiful, Shawn.
    I didn’t know your mom, but knowing how much she was loved by Bev & Bob and you makes me admire her spirit.

  308. Connie Chin

    Oh Shawn, this brought tears. You are not alone – I lost my mom 16 months ago. I love how even in grief your writing draws together community and sister/brotherhood. Sending warm thoughts and prayers for you, your family, and your mom.

  309. Monica Morris

    In the early 80’s I worked with your Aunt Sharon and she talked about your mom a lot. In 1985 my mother died, I was alone with her and my experience was similar to yours. I still dream she is alive and walking (she was partially paralyzed from a 1980 stroke). Your blog is moving tribute to your mother and her family. God bless you in your journey.

  310. Lori Bush

    Shawn that was beautiful. She is so proud of you.

  311. Lisa Nalven

    Thanks Shawn. I really like this post, as I do all of them btw, but it is hard to be aware when you’re really trying out of your humanity to do the right thing.
    I appreciate you, I appreciate all of us who care and do what we can for family of man. If I ever get to Chicago I’d love to either take your class or take a class with you!

  312. Karen Bradley

    Hi Shawn, The metaphors are lovely! I think so many young artists are totally into doing ALL of the above! The distinctions are important to understand different purposes for but the skills needed cross all of those distinctions. For example, understanding and using best practices in social justice is required for all of the applications, although the skills may be more obviously needed front and center in some more than others. Knowledge and experience in dance techniques, styles and genres, and somatics practices are also important for all, although perhaps more front-and-center in some. etc. Lots of food for thought here!

    • Sara Reed

      Yes, these were exactly my thoughts as I read it Karen and when I came to your comment I thought yes, this is what I believe. This is so great for discussion though and really useful for thinking our work through.

  313. Michael

    Hi Shawn,

    I saw your article on Clyde Fitch Report looking for Conservative Artist. Well…here I am. I’m just starting out but my website is I am in the process of completing a project, “All for the Wall” and “Great Wall of Patriotic Immigrants” including a Peace Treaty for 9/11 Terror Attacks

  314. Maxine

    Can someone please just issue a darn apology to Prince George before this escalates into protecting the forests and solving world hunger?

    Yes it’s a moment to be seized but can we not skip over the basics please. It’s just basic manners to say “I’m sorry I didn’t mean it that way” and that goes for everyone that was part of that piece .. her co-host and the company

  315. Craig Petrou

    Lara Spencer Is ‘Horrified’ After Mocking Prince George’s Ballet Class, Says Dancer Travis Wall. Members of the dance and ballet community will appear on the ABC morning show on Monday, according to Travis Wall…

    We teach more than dance at the Tap ‘n Arts Dance Studio of Harrisburg, PA…

    We provide dance and acting training to students of all ages, levels and abilities. We strive to help students learn proper techniques, gain confidence and lasting friendships in a nurturing, noncompetitive environment. We give students the opportunity to be creative, original and express themselves through the performing arts.

    @tapnarts #tapnarts #boysdancetoo #danceisforeveryone #stopbullying

  316. Latika

    This is really fascinating–thanks for sharing!

  317. Raelene

    Shawn that is so beautiful, you made me cry. Your mom was a beautiful, loving and caring person her whole life. Family was always very important to her. She loved you and your dad so much, one very strong woman she was. All your memories of her will always be with you. You will shed lots of tears and there will be times she’ll have you laughing of a memory. Treasure each and everyone. God bless you and your dad

  318. Rebecca

    Amazing article, thank you so much. I am looking forward to hearing other dancers’ comments on this movie…we have a unique perspective. You have an unusually unique one! I have taught many African students dance over the years, however in pretty traditional settings…twerking is part of their authentic culture and history. It is a shame the director did not include some of that background in the film…possibly it would have made a difference in terms of how it is perceived. But as I read wikipedia on the definition of “twerking” it does not even mention a bit about that history, sad to say. What is that about? That said, I have not seen the movie yet (!)- however had lots of discussions about it – so I should not comment much but wanted at least to say your article was powerful. poignant and well-written. I most likely will write again once I see the movie.

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