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The Good Stuff by Shelley Bennett

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by Shelley Bennett

As I waited in the wings at Dancing for a Brand New Me on Saturday night, it hit me that I really didn’t have a story to write. At least not my usual rundown of the show with descriptions of what I saw and opinions on my favorites.

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before then. Was it lack of sleep? Too many dance steps, cues, and choreography in my head? My bum hip?

Probably all of the above.

All I have to offer are my thoughts and reflection on this incredible collaboration. First of all, it was an honor to be invited and welcomed back to perform in the 10th anniversary show. I remember Seanne bringing it up during our 2019 show and I was immediately in. Even if I hadn’t been invited, I would have probably shown up.

We started learning new choreography in July and it was tough. Sunday afternoons in the middle of summer are hard to give up. We started with a group of 30 or more which dwindled down to the 21 who took the stage last weekend.

I missed several weekends and struggled to get caught up. My brain needs so many more repetitions of counts and combos than it used to. But the people involved kept me coming back.

The creativity and choreography genius of Seanne McElrath, Nicomi Reed, and Celeste Wiser. The laughter and smart comments of Stacy Bauer and Dean Growden. The kindness of Ellie Brown, Prairie Burt, and Elizabeth Darley. The encouragement of Nicole McCoy and Tara Bias. The professionalism of Jillaine Singleton. The never-ending patience of my partner Alex McElrath.

The determination of Ruth McElrath. The fresh perspective of new choreographer Morgan Whitlow. The critical eye of Shannon Cook. The enthusiasm and constant of Jessica Wade. The sense of family brought by Aimee and Gary McCoy.

The “big”ness of Luke Petersen. (big personality, big voice, big heart, big love, you know…he’s just BIG!)

Every one of these people made a positive difference in my life. Thank you.

Alex and I were asked to bring “Rhythm Nation” back for 2023. It had been my dream to perform this with the Drill Team. It didn’t work back in 2019, but with Alex and Seanne’s encouragement, we tried again.

It was the perfect way to end the show for me. Onstage with my dancers, my daughter, I couldn’t have been prouder. I actually nailed all the moves too, something that had eluded me in every practice. I was supposed to have a “serious” face in the beginning, but I couldn’t help but beam with satisfaction.

Every dance was unique and told a story. From the spicy Latin number with Alex and Ellie to an emotional-fraught piece with Adam Runyan and Jillaine. And every dancer involved had a story as well. From lunch breaks and evenings dedicated to rehearsals, last minute choreography to learn, overcoming fears, and sacrificing time for our community.

The one dance I want to single out was the Impact Dance. Inspired by the choreography of Kyle Hanagami’s “Love in the Dark”, the Impact Dance was an emotionally filled performance showcasing Lassen County’s finest dancers and choreographers.

The movement of lights accentuated the dancers; as a group, in couples, and as individuals. It was a constant moving from one story to another, while local statistics from Lassen Family Services were read over the top, like a spoken word poem.

I watched this dance four times and every time I saw something different. The way the lighting and shadows played on someone’s face. The intricacy of movements and how they flowed from one dancer to the next, carrying your focus from each corner of the stage. The ebb and flow of love.

The first time I saw it, I cried. I was transfixed, with no words to describe how this beautiful piece of art had made me feel. Each night, I continued to be mesmerized by this dance. The dancers never made eye contact with the audience, yet they drew us all in.

On Saturday, I watched Sofia. Her serene expression and graceful movement, a strength coming from within. As I searched for a way to describe it, I was reminded of a line from the poem “Barter” by Sara Teasdale, “children’s faces looking up/holding wonder like a cup.”

I was wrecked, but also renewed in a sense. This dance gave us hope that the message of domestic violence will be heard, that the victims will have the strength to seek help and accept support, and that we, as a community, can abolish it.


Remember when news was ‘newsy’? When you read about weddings, family events and engagement announcements in the newspaper? If you have something that might be newsworthy, please submit it to shelleybennett24@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to include it here in “The Good Stuff.”

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