Return to ballroom dancing gives woman courage to leave husband, reclaim passion

By M.J. Van Deventer Published: August 3, 2008
Can a gift of dance lessons change a life? It did for Janet Carlson, who tells her true story in "Quick, Before the Music Stops: How Ballroom Dancing Saved My Life” (Broadway Books, $19.95).

Carlson studied ballet, jazz and ballroom dancing while attending Yale University, and in her 20s, she was a successful competitive ballroom dancer for seven years. But she abandoned dancing for 20 years as she pursued her career as an editor for luxury magazines, raised two daughters and tried to salvage a rocky marriage.

At age 45, she writes, "To be precise, I was half dead.” Looking back on that day, when her mind drifted at a bar mitzvah, she writes, "I feel sorry for the person I was then ... and that she had gotten to half dead without even putting up a fight.” She was somehow withdrawn in the midst of her life and the lives of her children. Her marriage to a well-known photographer was out of synch.

A year after she realized her life was in chaos, her husband, whom she describes as "pathologically mellow,” gave her 20 dance lessons for Valentine's Day. "He took me to a ballroom dance studio and, in so doing, set me free,” Carlson writes. One spin around the floor, and she knew she had found her footing again.

As dance came back into her life, she gained the courage to end her marriage.

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