I always wanted to be a writer, a famous writer of course, but just couldn't sit still. After playing baseball for twelve years, I needed something and I was finding out something. I needed something to keep me moving and found out I had no qualms about dancing.
It's one of those things when you ask, "Why this thing?" and then you look back and realize you were doing “this thing” your whole life. And so with me. In high school, I would get on the dance floor in redneck Oklahoma City bars and dance solo improvisations while my buddies watched from bar stools, and unknown to me, were probably protecting my ass from the rednecks.
I was swirling the drain in San Francisco in 1976 when I met my first wife, a ballet dancer taking classes at San Francisco Ballet. It was on Van Ness at that time. I fell in love with her and ballet. We moved to Santa Barbara that year, and I still see that line of Eucalyptus as you enter Santa Barbara as the gateway to my life, to awakening from the slumber of a non-artistic life.
Dance saved my life, and in that sense, art was the opening to an authentic life. I was 19 then, I am 66 now, still dancing, still performing. I never gave up on dance because dance never gave up on me. Do things happen for a reason? Bet on it! I raised a family, worked full time, and danced. That's the way I had to do it. I wasn't paid much for teaching, dancing, and choreography, but I did it anyway, because it wasn't about money, ever. Dance saved my life because through this medium I was able to live a life without regret, never having to say, “I wish I had done.”
And to the naysayers and the naysayer in you, I say don't say nay, say yes–to yourself, to life, to the joy that comes from doing what you love no matter what. It is all you have that is real, everything else is pretend.
Russell Dawson began dancing ballet and modern at 19. Now 66, he has managed to dance and perform his whole life, even today, after raising a family and working full time.