Lee Otterholt’s Acceptance Speech for the National Dance Award by SAFDF

Lee Otterholt

Lee Otterholt

March 14, 2015

I have to tell you an embarrassing story about this National Dance Award:   The first time I came here to teach at the San Antonio Festival in 2004 I heard about this award and thought to myself “I wonder if they invited me to teach because they want to give me this award.   Well, needless to say, I did not get the award then. It went instead to someone named … Mihai David?   Anybody remember him? No? … Just kidding, of course! Mihai! (Mihai was in the hall and was one of the teachers at the 2015 festival as well.)

Funny, in 2004 I thought I might win this award and now I don’t know if I deserve it, because …

I have a theory:

My theory is that everyone in the world is the best there is at something. EVERYONE is a world champion in at least one thing … but some of us never get to know what that one thing is. I mean, maybe someone in this room tonight is the best – I don’t know – the best Tibetan bell ringer in the world! But since we’re not in Tibet and don’t know anything about Tibetan bell ringing that person doesn’t even know he or she is, or could be, the greatest Tibetan bell ringer in the world! But that spark is still in there, and if you look closely, you can see that spark in everyone. Every person you meet deserves respect and honor because that spark is there.

Or sometimes a person might find that they are very talented in something, but circumstances don’t allow them to practice and use that talent.   But that person still deserves honor and respect, regardless of what we see on the outside, because that spark is still there, inside.

I think of that when I see children, because when you look at a child you are looking at the future. Now that I am getting older I seem to be seeing more in 4D: present, past and future all at the same time. When I meet someone my age, I can see the beautiful young woman or the mischievous young boy they were … and that they still are, inside. And when I look at a child I can see him or her, all at the same time, as a teen, a young adult, a mother or father. And I see, potentially, a future world champion. But if circumstances prevent that child from developing his or her talent, we all lose … and our children lose … and the world of our children is poorer because we are denying ourselves and our children of the benefit of their talent.

I was just lucky: I had a mystical experience when I was 23 years old. Something happened to me and a voice inside my head – one that I had never heard before and one I have not heard since – said just one word: “Dance.”   To this day I do not know if that word was meant as a noun or a verb, a command, a prediction or simply a description of an inevitable reality. All I know is that from that time on the world seemed to twist and shape itself into forms that permitted me to flow through it by dancing. I don’t feel it was my doing so much as it was the universe around me doing the shaping. So I don’t feel I did a lot to deserve this award and can’t really take a lot of credit for it. I was just lucky to discover early on the direction my life was meant to take and that the world allowed me to move in that direction.

In my case, dance has paid the bills, but that is not what is important. Money does not give life meaning. As far as I can see, we were put on Earth to help each other. That is what gives life meaning. Some of us can help others by becoming world class heart surgeons, the best in the world at fixing hearts. Some of us are just the best in the world at making those around us happier, not at fixing hearts but at making them a little bit lighter.

What ever YOUR talent is I hope you 1) discover what it is, 2) are able to practice and develop it fully, and 3) can use it to help others.

Thank you.