How the Simple Act of Taking a Dance Class Changed My Life

By Allie Chee.

An excerpt from Allie’s book: Saved by Salsa.

Life pulls the rug out from under us in different ways.

It can happen as a fatal heart attack, stroke, an accidental overdose, or a final decision to commit suicide.

For the lucky ones who receive a second chance, it can happen as news of cancer growing, as migraines, digestive dysfunction, depression, anxiety, or as an intervention for alcohol or drug abuse.

No matter the label put on the problem or imbalance, it’s all the body/mind saying that it has done its best alone — despite our consistent efforts to sabotage it — and it finally needs our participation in its care. It’s begging for a return to balance, and generously giving us the “or else” warning.

Salvation
As we all do, I entered life with challenges to be experienced. The list of abuses and trials I endured are common, I survived, and I put them behind me.

One of the things I learned from the experiences was to push on, move forward — when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Get going I did. Work and travel were my loves. Not just work, but high-risk, high-stress activities for 12, 15, 17 hours a day — money never sleeps! Not just travel, but dangerous travel to several countries every year — war-torn and disaster areas topped the list. Places full of creatures (from human to microscopic) that delighted in plaguing you with dreadful discomforts were a close second.

One day, when it would have appeared to my friends that I was really “living large,” life began tugging on the rug.

I’d discovered a few months prior that while my new business was finally providing an admirable return, my business partner had been behaving — how shall we say? — short of ethical, and my hopes of retiring young with millions from the sale of my company faded. My boyfriend — the kindest man I’ve ever known — was by my side. However, I felt that despite seven years of the best relationship of my life, it wasn’t the relationship for a lifetime. I’d just decided to return to Los Angeles after living overseas for several years, but that meant I didn’t have a circle of close friends or family around me. Having always been on the move and never really having had that, it didn’t feel unusual.

A major career shift without a plan. An imminent break-up. No family. No close friends nearby. Unless a heart is shutting down, that would feel unusual.

What I did recognize as unusual was that while I’d always crashed the second my head hit the pillow and awoke refreshed eight hours later, I now couldn’t sleep at night. I started to feel forlorn and anxious in ways I never had. Alone was a familiar feeling, but scared was new, and for the first time in my adult life, I had no idea what to do.

It wasn’t unusual at the time for me to have a social beer or glass of wine over dinner or at the end of the day. However, now I had a new reason, and it was to be able to fall asleep. That only required one or maybe two drinks, which most folks wouldn’t consider excessive or problematic, but I wanted them and worse, thought I needed them. That is indeed a problem.

Then life gave the big rip.

My boyfriend — or actually now “just friend” — and I had just had met for breakfast in a great new restaurant. We went to our old favourite bookstore. I felt fine. Then, on the way to the car, I grabbed his arm and said, “Something’s not right.” He asked what was wrong and I didn’t know. “I might throw up; I’m dizzy; I’m scared. Get me home.”

I didn’t know at that moment, but it was a panic attack. Prior to that day, I’d never had so much as a single day in bed experiencing what people told me they called “depression.” I didn’t understand such things. I didn’t understand “feeling down,” having ulcers, or any of the other physical and mental manifestations of stress. I only knew: when feeling blue, maybe have a good cry, and then pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get a move on!

Whoa! I’d had no idea how fortunate I’d been for 36 years.

Over the course of the next several weeks, between the bizarre waves of fear and dread I felt by day, the horrifying nightmares at night, and wondering if the former, stable rock that I had always thought I’d been was now losing her mind, I decided that I wouldn’t continue to live if that was the way it would be. I couldn’t have.

Pulling on the prior experience with overcoming challenges, I determined that again, the going was tough — tougher than I’d imagined it could be — and I had to get going…but obviously in a new way if I wanted a different result.

I approached the problem from all angles, with every method I could discover, with all the intensity of a person fighting for their life, because I felt I was. I’d spent my childhood and adult life observing people managing depression and anxiety in the usual ways: self medication or pharmaceuticals. From what I’d observed, that didn’t create the result I wanted. I wanted my life back — healthy, happy, and strong — without side effects or addictions, if at all possible.

If I hadn’t been frozen in fear, it wouldn’t have gone on so long or been as bad as it was. Being broadsided by the panic attacks and being the type to try to figure it out on my own, I wasted a lot of time. I didn’t know how or where to ask for help.

I finally found a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor, and commenced with an acupuncture and Chinese herb program. That had the effect of pulling the emergency stop cord on my freight train bound for hell. I started sleeping again, free of nightmares. I felt a returning balance and relative calm; but I was far from healed.

It was unfortunate that it took so long to find help and that I prolonged the situation with fear and pride — but on the other hand — maybe a quick fix would have short-circuited my opportunity for learning. I used that time to reflect on what I’d been doing and how I wound up in that place.

I decided that nothing I had, had been doing, or had wanted was worth compromising my health. The result: I sold my share of the business immediately at a steep discount to my partner, without a plan for what to do next. I said a final good-bye to the wonderful boyfriend-now-only-friend — the love of my life — who wasn’t for me (my over-the-top drive and activities likely contributed to that determination). I stopped traveling (unthinkable only a few months prior), and then…on to the body.

I knew a strong, balanced body supports a strong balanced mind and was ready to do more than just believe it. I was ready to be it. I dove into a study of what could help bring about complete healing. The result was a radical change in lifestyle and diet. I undertook parasite and candida cleanses that involved 40 days of diet restricted to a few protein sources and steamed greens. I eliminated all caffeine, alcohol, chemical additives, fast foods, and fried foods. I returned to yoga class, to meditation, to martial arts, and to prayer. I discovered dozens of new ways to care for my body/mind, most of them from the schools of TCM and Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine).

And then I discovered the final step to complete the healing…salsa.

Not the hot sauce!

The hot dance. I was saved by salsa!

Salvation — for me — meant not only a restoration of health, but creating a higher state of health and peace than I’d ever known. It meant finding passion and thrill in life that was constructive and healthy.

No matter how we define salvation, and no matter what it is we want to be saved from, no one can save us but ourselves. No matter what the external circumstances, what we are saving our self from is, in fact, our self. Situations, relationships, and states of mind/body, that through our conscious and unconscious choices we have accepted and created.

Salvation may come through a connection to something else, but we have to at least show up to make the connection. I raced with all the speed and will of a person fighting for her life to meet my salvation; and the meeting place, after a lot of other preparation, was on the dance floor.

I didn’t know at that time I first signed up for dance class how it was going to change my life in profound ways. I learned gradually through my own experience dancing, and in discovering the stories of many friends who were saving their lives with salsa — and that’s what I will share in the following pages.

If you’ve spent your life dancing, you have surely found your own sense of salvation in doing so and will feel a kinship with the people in my stories. If you’ve never danced, never wanted to, and think you never will, but you’re interested in a journey that could change every aspect of your life — physique, relationships, sex, health, joy, peace, sense of purpose, connection with self, fellow creatures and Creator, then I wrote this for and dedicate it to you. Take my hand and allow me to lead you to the floor…


Allie Chee spent the first half of her life getting out of dodge. A latch-key kid who started work at 13 to help her single mom, she co-raised her little sister. At 23, turning down a lucrative position at a major financial institution in NY, she lived abroad and traveled in 50 countries, worked as serial entrepreneur, sold her futures brokerage firm in Chicago, sold a publishing business she co-founded in Europe, studied Traditional Chinese Medicine, and earned 2nd degree blackbelt. She then hit a life-changing moment, sold everything, stopped everything, and began to dance. After two years of day and night training, she joined a salsa performance team in LA. Becoming a home-birth mom at 42, her mission now is homeschooling her daughter and helping people give themselves permission to take their health and family as seriously as their start-up or career. She is the author of New Mother, Go, Jane!, and Free Love: Everyday Ideas for Joyful Living. www.alliechee.com