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An Improvised Life

After a long hiatus from performing, I returned to dance in 2016, at age 71, with Murmurs, generously created for me by Doug Varone, the brilliant, multiple award-winning choreographer/director/performer. The solo, derived from my poetry, was originally made for Things My Mother Would Have Told Me If…, a juried gallery installation with my daughter Leah Sobsey –image-maker and Associate Professor of Photography, UNC-Greensboro – for The Carrack Modern Art. In 2017, Li Chiao Ping Dance invited me to perform Murmurs, and to tour with the company in Landed. 

 

A luminous moment in my life was the process of working and performing with Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE when Ron received the 2018 Scripps/American Dance Festival award for lifetime achievement in dance. Ron creates, moves, speaks, and responds from a lived spiritual place that invites and cultivates a sense of belonging – for performers and for audiences.

 

Here in Durham, NC, I feel so fortunate to study with Gerri Houlihan, mentor and teacher to a Who's Who of choreographers and dancers. In 2018, I became a founding member of her Big Red Dance Project-Durham, a multi-generational company that grew out of the Community Dance class at American Dance Festival studios.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In September of that year, choreographer Anna Barker invited me to perform in the Planned Parenthood/Glamour national campaign My Body Is My Own. In September, 2019, composer/musician Jim Henderson and I collaborated to create Double-Crossed: How to Sit Like a Lady. 


 

 

In June, 2018, I had the cherished opportunity to study with award-winning poet Naomi Shihab Nye at The Writer's Hotel. Naomi is the artist who first sparked the possibility of poetry in me many years ago when a friend handed me Words Under The Words. To be included in the 2022 Dear Vaccine – an anthology that she edited – is one of my most gratifying accomplishments. In November of 2018, I had the privilege to attend SistaWRITE with Jaki Shelton Greenthe first African American and third woman to be appointed by the governor as the North Carolina Poet Laureate.

How did I get here?​

 

 

 

 

 

 

I always dreamed of a life in dance, but like so many women of my generation navigating circuitous paths toward self-discovery and independence, I took many roads to return to my childhood dreams. 

 

At age 10, I choreographed my first dance (still have the notes), and was lucky enough to work with the late, inspiring Mario Melodia. As Martha Myers famously said: Choose your first dance teacher wisely; they will live in your bones forever. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've made my living selling ladies gloves, Avon door-to-door, led community center programs, swept floors, worked as a secretary, as a dance and theater teacher at Carolina Friends School, twice served as director of the American Dance Festival's international Critics Conferences, was dance writer for the News & Observer for about 30 years, and held too many other life-altering jobs – for better or worse – to mention here.

 

Some highlights include founding host of The State of Things on North Carolina Public Radio that called on my interwoven life including a 1991 Fellow in the Institute of Political Leadership. Co-creator and host of the award-winning radio series Do No Harm, produced the Eiko & Koma documentary: Arts in the Hospital, and created Talk About Dance!, a series of public discussions with major choreographers and artists performing at ADF. 

I'm the founding director of the KIPP Leadership Coaching Program, and the architect of States of Being, a leadership coaching model. My work is grounded in the guiding principle that work should be a place where people come to become their highest selves through a sense of belonging. I learned this from the late Peg Rogers, one of my most influential mentors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                   

                                      

 

 

Along the way, I've picked up a few acknowledgements for things that I have loved doing including two Gracie Awards for women in media (2002 & 2007), a 2002 Silver Reel Award, and the 2006 Duke University’s Diversity Award. In 2017, I was awarded a glorious Bogliasco Fellowship, and have been named Distinguished Writer by ArtAscent Art International Arts Magazine in 2018/19,/20. The Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities graciously granted me a writer-in-residence opportunity in February, 2019, and later in August, I was awarded a residency at Wildacres

 

In 2014, at age 70, I received my doctorate in Educational Leadership from National Louis University.

 

My writing has appeared in numerous books, newspapers, and publications including the News & Observer, Things My Mother Would Have Told Me If…, a chapbook of poetry and prose, in Brighter Leaves: A History of the Arts in the Bull City, and many others. I also collaborated on Duke Divinity School’s Jewish Ritual, Reality and Response at the End of Life: A Guide to Caring for Jewish Patients and Their Families.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On May 14, 2020 - my 75th birthday - I published States of Being: Leadership Coaching for Equitable Schools. 

 

Most significant are my beloved children, writer and playwright Adam Sobsey. and Leah Sobsey - image-maker and Associate Professor of Photography, UNC-Greensboro. Together, we will premiere 

whose eyes i have  on February 14- March 4,  2023 at Greensboro Project Space. 

 

It took a long time to find the right ears, heart, and brilliant mind in a partner. Jim Lee and I have been listening to, sharing stories, and championing each other for the past 22 years or so, and reveling in our six grandchildren. Life is good and I am deeply grateful.

 

 

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Big Red Dance Project: Photo: Jonathan Markow
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Double-Crossed with Jim Henderson

Photo from video by Jan Tedder

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My Body Is My Own campaign
Planned Parenthood/Glamour Magazine
Bogliasco, Italy
photo: Regina DeLuise
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Jim Henderson.             Photo from video by Elisabeth Barbier

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Doug Varone

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Ronald K. Brown

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Naomi Shihab Nye
Photo: Linda Belans
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Leah Sobsey

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Adam Sobsey.

Photo: Heather Mallory

Adam  Sobsey
Photo: Heather Mallory
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Jim Lee
Photo: Linda Belans
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