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Digital Stories

‹‹ Back to Voices | Digital-stories

How Dancing with Dance Exchange Changed My Life

Edited and Produced by Alexis Iammarino and Dorothy Williams, Spring 2011.
Elliot Rosen, Interviewee
Dorothy Williams, Interviewer
Alexis Iammarino, Audio Production

ELLIOT: My Name is Elliot Rosen and I am 55.

I have been a board member for 11 years. I was chairman of the board for four years. I started, however, as a dad of one of the children of what was then called The Youth Exchange. And ended up dancing with the company because of my daughter.

I have no dance background before coming to the Dance Exchange.

When Liz was formulating her ideas about the Hallelujah Project, she decided she wanted to do a dance that included the kids and the dads. And Lily came home and reported that Liz had asked all the kids ‘go ask your dads’, ‘you know we like them to participate.’ I said ‘that’s very nice, that you would like me to participate that way, but this will be your opportunity to be on stage, I’ve already been on stage. So I think that maybe I shouldn’t do that.’ And she came back a week later and said ‘ I told Liz you said yes.’

And so I danced with the company, participating in the Dance Exchange style of developing choreography. I danced at Lisner Auditorium and the next summer I danced with the company at Jacob’s Pillow in Western Massachusetts.

I don't really consider myself a dancer. I am an actor. But I had not ever danced, so I had significant comfort about dancing and I sort of didn't know how that would be and how would I look and would I feel silly, and in particular, since my first dance experience was going to be at Lisner Auditorium which I think seats 2,200 people and it was full. What was that going to be like? I certainly didn't have many expectations. I thought it would be fun, to do this with my daughter and other than that, I didn't give it a whole lot of thought,, in terms of it being a life-changing experience. I certainly didn't think of it being anything other than nice.

The experience at Jacob's Pillow in particular really was quite…well, it was life-changing for me. At Jacob's Pillow, I had a lanyard on that identified me as a dancer which meant that I could go into the dancers-only cafeteria. It may have been dancers and technical staff, but it was not available to the public, it wasn’t available to my family, it was only available to dancers. And as far as anyone there was concerned, I was a dancer. And that was kind of a startling experience for me, in part because it was so different than the rest of my life. But dancing with the company and particularly dancing with older dancers, in particular, dancing in the company with Thomas, who had had a whole career in the government, doing something with the state department. But he had a whole career and here he was in his middle 60s. He had become, from being a radio operator overseas, he had become a professional dancer. And it made me stop and think that my life did not have to be on the path that I was on, that there were alternate paths that I might go on at some point. I was not unhappy with where I was. I was a partner with a prestigious consulting company and I was having the time of my life in my career, but it opened the possibility that it didn't have to be this way, that I could go do something else completely different with my life. And I think in large measure, that experience opened the door to me to go do other things. I went and with my business partner, I opened a tiny little company - there were just two of us. And I began to take cello lessons …there were a lot of things in my life that began to move in directions that were different than the rails I was on. And I really point directly at the Dance Exchange experience for bringing that about for me.