Nicole Inglis: Picking one another up |

Nicole Inglis: Picking one another up

Steamboat Dance Theatre leaves lasting effect on dancers, community

Nicole Inglis

— On Tuesday, one woman's story reminded me that performance art holds a power that transcends the performance itself.

It reminded me why I, and about 150 other Yampa Valley residents, have offered hours each week to rehearsals for Steamboat Dance Theatre's annual concert, an effort that comes to a head this weekend at the final performances.

Some of the performers dance professionally, and others relish in the opportunity to recall a childhood love of dance.

We dance for the physical exertion, the rush of being on stage and the deliberation with which we don our costumes, wigs and makeup.

And on Tuesday, one of the show's producers and choreographers, Janet Peasley, told me her story about how dancing helped her heal from an immeasurable loss.

In January, with two months left until the performance, Peasley found herself on an airplane, flying home to be with her family after the sudden passing of her mother.

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She was in the middle of choreographing a hip-hop dance for the show, as well as serving on the nonprofit's board of directors and as one of three producers for the show.

When she returned, she had many more rough edges to smooth out than the ones in her dance piece.

"Dancing brought me back to life," Peasley told me Tuesday.

She said all of the stress about pulling the dance together melted away when she returned to rehearsal.

"My dancers gave me the hugest hug," she said. "After that, I don't know if it was my heart or their hearts, but something clicked. They worked so hard. They all gave me so much love and so much encouragement. Seeing them and their transformation was a huge part of my healing process."

Dance is many artistic mediums in one, as I was reminded while watching the show in its entirety for the first time at Monday's dress rehearsal.

Monday's small audience — mostly comprising performers — was led through various historical decades, emotional states, memories and stories we'd never heard before.

And many of the performers, like myself, wouldn't have the opportunity to be part of that without the 40-year-old nonprofit community dance production.

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of growing up to be a ballerina. I had fantasies of tutus, pointe shoes and "Swan Lake." But without the lithe legs, rubbery hamstrings and single-minded focus, that dream slipped away with my girlhood. By the time I got to college, I accepted that I probably was never going to dance again outside my living room.

Steamboat Dance Theatre changed all that, and it changed that for hundreds of others, as well.

The local nonprofit organization not only gave me an opportunity to get back on stage and perform, it also gave me a good reason to.

The nonprofit uses its annual concert to raise funds to offer scholarships for children and adults who can't afford dance lessons.

I think back to my first dance memory — an elaborate jazz piece to "Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" that included, of course, a bedazzled yellow polka-dot costume — and I feel proud that I'm part of something that offers others a taste of that delicious combination of nerves and confidence I felt as a girl.

Janet Peasley summed it up better than I could have:

"The butterflies, the fright before you go onstage and the house is full, you can see the audience's energy, you can feel it when you're up there," she said. "And here you are, raising money for kids in this community who have nothing, so that they can get that feeling."

And the camaraderie that develops throughout the course of the winter isn't lost after the final curtain closes.

Several of Peasley's fellow dancers pitched in to give her a tree to be planted in Steamboat in honor of her mother.

"We pick each other up," she said.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email

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