SynergyDance, and ‘effortless effort’

A letter from . . .

This is the first in what we hope to be a continuing occasional series of personal letters from readers. This first one is from the editor, but someone had to go first. If you’d like to write for this feature, email your letter (or your questions) to

For a new feature of this newspaper I’ve been hoping to get started, it seemed best to just go ahead and get it started myself. For the moment, kindly ignore the limb I’m creeping out onto and let me explain.

As you can see it’s called “A letter from . . .”

As editor of this community’s newspaper, I am hoping these short (300- to 600-word) features would be letters from you, our readers, as opposed to letters to – be it that editor, or those opponents, or whomever. What I hoped would distinguish them from the more formal Editorial page letter format, and our standard news and feature stories, is that they would be personal, detailed accounts of the important places, moments or people in our lives. They would be letters as letters used to be, before Facebook tricked us into thinking we could keep love alive by clicking on a button called Like.

Some things, or those that matter, take actual effort. That’s why I wanted to tell you about Charmaine.

Charmaine Lee is a lifelong dancer, teacher and energy-work therapist who taught some popular belly dance classes in Rappahannock a few years back, but who soon (at 10 a.m. this Friday, Oct. 12, at Mountainside Dance Center, to be precise) will start up her longtime specialty, which she decided back in the late 1980s to call SynergyDance.

Charmaine is my wife, which is a bit of early-1990s luck on my part. But none of my good fortune would have come about if, when I first phoned her Synergy Dance & Healing Arts Center in Washington, D.C. 20-something years ago as a newspaper reporter wanting to come observe one of her classes, she hadn’t said: “No.”

Actually she said, “No. You have to take the class.”

It has just occurred to me that Charmaine’s classes are her own effort to bring some effortlessness into her life. A classically trained ballet soloist in her native South Africa, she coped with the sort of political and personal tragedies common to that part of the world in the ’70s and ’80s – including, in her case, the kidnapping and return of her then 5-year-old son – by delving into yoga studies, ethnic dance, the anthropology of dance and more. Along the way she found a type of energy medicine called polarity therapy, created by an American naturopathic physician and chiropractor named Randolph Stone back in the 1950s.

In polarity therapy, which Stone practiced primarily as a hands-on therapy, Charmaine discovered a framework of universal energies, based primarily on Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, that could be translated into movements that, when made, allowed dancers a shot at being their own healers.

I took the class, and its three distinct parts – what Charmaine calls “inner exploration” (quiet movements and self-applied contacts on the floor) followed by (my favorite) expressive dance – an en-masse, ethnic-dance improv based on the “elements” of polarity: earth, water, air and ether – and then stillness, or meditation.

I wrote about it for the Washington Post’s Weekend section, and then, two years later, Charmaine and I got married. Since then, I have not written for a newspaper about the classes – or the woman – who changed my life. Until today.

As I wrote back in 1989: “It’s not necessary to know anything about choreography . . . to feel afterward much as you did as a child after a morning of sprinting, crashing and wallowing in the sand at the ocean’s edge. Which is how I felt – kind of vibrant and calm at the same time – after having been one of four men in a recent Synergy class of 25 (most of them women ranging in age from their twenties to fifties). And that’s because Synergy . . . isn’t so much about dancing as feeling.”

What Charmaine and her SynergyDance classes (and I’ll see you there Friday at 10) have shown me is that, much as you can’t spell emotion without “motion,” dancing and feeling are pretty much one and the same thing.

And neither is currently available on Facebook.

Roger Piantadosi

Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 545 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.