What if your work demanded your entire sense of being, and then, suddenly, it all came undone — threatening to unravel your identity at the core? From early childhood, Susan Chase had engaged in ballet lessons and excelled in the arts, becoming a dancer with the Boston Ballet Company at just thirteen years of age. She invested her heart and soul, and body, into productions year after year. She went on to share her expertise with children and adults as a teacher and personal trainer, expressive therapist, then playwright of more than twenty theater productions. When breast cancer stepped into her life, it all came to a screeching halt.
Susan began questioning her identity and purpose. Would her body ever respond the way it did before cancer? If she couldn’t dance, then what? Cancer hampered her mobility. Cancer changed the way she viewed her “body” of life’s work.
Through an e-chat, I was introduced to “Susan’s Undoing” and the poignant transformation it represents. Susan Chase has a unique coping style — born out of a life and death struggle, that she says forced her to examine her life, and “seek authenticity and meaning.” In response, she created a solo play about her cancer journey, entitled Susan’s Undoing in 2008.
It continues to receive national recognition as a solo play that moves and inspires cancer patients and the medical professionals who serve them. A healing journey depicted on stage, it’s been hailed as powerful, hopeful, and inspirational medicine for the mind and body that goes beyond the scope of cancer.
Susan readily confessed that shedding the hospital gown after nearly two years and putting back on the leotard was both terrifying and intimidating. Cancer had “blind-sided” her, rendering her “fragile cancer patient” instead of “dancer” and “teacher.” Then, in one brave move, she began undoing cancer’s wrath. It took months, but slowly “my flexibility returned, and with it, my confidence,” Susan said. She regained her sense of identity, seeing herself as a legitimate “dancer.”
Susan is determined to help others in recovery from injury and illness. “In fact, your body wants to recover, wants to move, wants to be active. It was really created to do so. The instant you begin using your body, it begins gaining strength – it becomes your collaborator in the recovery process,” she explained. Susan’s Undoing has become more than a solo play confronting cancer. The healing insights she reveals are being embraced in workshops, gallery exhibitions, and multi-disciplinary celebrations. Susan has transformed lessons learned in ballet into an artful springboard of thought and inquiry. She’s leading the way to help others regain hope, control, and connection when life’s struggles threaten to unravel them at the core.
On a more whimsical note, Susan Chase let us know her identity isn’t completely tied up in being a dancer. She also identifies with Boston Red Sox fans. “I’m exceptionally proud of them for being World Series Champions this year,” she noted with e-motion. 😉
Her next one-act performance of Susan’s Undoing is scheduled on Saturday, November 12th at 7:00 PM at the Bucks County Community College in Newtown, PA. Click HERE to contact Susan Chase, view the schedule for Susan’s Undoing, and read excerpts of her book: Saving Grace: How Ballet Saved My Life and Can Save Yours.