Saturday, May 21, 2011

Brigader Sarah Shade to Present Workshop at RWA

Today I’m interviewing Sarah Shade, who will present a workshop at the upcoming RWA Nationals in New York City. Some of you may remember Sarah as the winner of the Steampunk Costume contest at The Gathering FF&P Chapter event last year in Orlando. Sarah, why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself and your background.

I am Sarah Waff, w/a Sarah Shade (in all genres – I hope). I took the name Shade from my great, great grandmother, Piccolo Minnie (also the name of my dance company), who played the world’s smallest baby in the circus (even though she was a regular-sized person). Her circus father was Frank Shade.

Upon taking ownership of my dance studio in 2008, I wrote a re-imagined version of “Saint George and the Dragon” for a holiday performance. Then and there, I fell madly in love with writing but was too busy to pursue it. After the passing of another year and another holiday script, this time a unique fairytale, I knew I had to write. I began my first ever novel - a futuristic romance. I haven’t stop writing since. Currently unpublished, I write and illustrate children’s book fairytales and write young adult fantasy and science fiction romance. I am a member of RWA, FF&P (RWA Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter), YARWA (Young Adult Chapter of RWA), SFR Brigade, LERA, and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).

Q: Please tell us the title and time slot of your workshop and a little about the content?

My workshop is called “Experiencing Dance Across Time.” It will be held Thursday, June 30 from 8:30-9:30am. I will begin my workshop with a brief discussion on the evolution of social dance, highlighting the three specific eras and dance styles to be performed in the class. For the majority of the workshop, I will lead the participants through a re-creation of each dance. We will finish with a discussion of how to use the workshop experience as a catalyst for writing accurate and detailed dance scenes. Participants will learn the pavane (1500s), a cotillion (late 1700s) and the lindy hop (1920s). Come to dance but, more importantly, to have fun and make friends.

Q: I think I’ve seen them perform the Lindy Hop on Dancing With the Stars, but that’s about my limit of dance knowledge. What sort of background do you have in dance?

I started dancing at the age of eight (that is late for a dancer). My two sisters and I attended classes at a fantastic ballet studio in Ellicott City, MD. The owner/instructor felt strongly that students of dance had to learn more than technique. She taught us manners, the French language, dance history and historical dance. Thanks to her, we were invited to perform several period peasant and nobility dances at the MD Renaissance Festival. In my teenage years, my dance training suffered due to a newfound love of theatre. However, I continued to dance as a member of my high school dance team and in my drama department’s musical theatre performances. Following a short stint working as an actress in LA, I decided to return to school. I had no idea it would be over a decade before I left. Although I moved several times, attending multiple colleges, by the time I was done, I held three degrees from the University of New Mexico: a MFA in Choreography, a MA in Dance History and a BS in Exercise Science. Since then, I have worked as a dance professor at the University of New Mexico, Santa Fe Community College and Middle Georgia College. Currently, I am the owner and artistic director of a successful dance studio in Edgewood, NM. I have been teaching dance and fitness for over eighteen years.

Q: How did you get the idea to put this workshop together?

Thanks to my dance background, I have been lucky enough to present at some of the best dance and fitness conferences in the nation. And loved it! The minute I joined RWA, I knew I would submit a conference workshop proposal. When the 2011 call for proposals went out, I spent several days putting together a workshop on symbolism. (Both my thesis and dissertation explored universal symbolism as a connection between contemporary dance and the hero of ritual and mythology – Joseph Campbell’s hero.) About half an hour from the proposal deadline, I made a last minute decision to also submit a hands-on workshop on dance. I thought it would be nice to offset all the sitting around attendees do at the conference by offering them the chance to get up and move! Plus, there is nothing more fun and satisfying than dancing together. It’s a great way to make friends! I chose three social dances from three different time periods, each about two hundred years apart. Following RWA’s theme of romance, I included only easy-to-learn dances that focus on flirtation. My symbolism proposal took three days to put together yet I had no more than fifteen minutes to create the dance one. Guess which one RWA picked?

Q: Is it a difficult process to have a workshop accepted by RWA?

I would imagine that is a better question for the proposal committee. My answer is yes and no considering I was both accepted and rejected the first time I submitted a proposal. But the fact that they accepted my dance workshop and not my symbolism one tells me that expertise is incredibly important. I have a great dance resume but, being an unpublished writer, my writing resume kind of sucks.

Q: What are some of the unique elements of your workshop? (Is it interactive or hands-on or will attendees watch live or video demonstrations?)

We are going to dance! Amidst days of sitting and listening and thinking, we will move, let go and have fun!

Q: In what ways do you think the workshop will help writers improve their craft?

Dance has been an integral part of socialization and flirtation in every age of man from the beginning of time. Even if a writer is not interested in the specific dances or historical periods being addressed in this workshop, certain elements of dance are universal and can be applied to any setting. Workshop participants will get to personally experience how dance can bring two people together.

Q: What can attendees expect to learn?

How dance can affect and is affected by social etiquette.

Q: Do you have a web site or blog about your workshop or dance in general?

The website for my dance studio, the East Mountain Dance Conservatory, can be found at It contains a ton of information about the classes we offer as well as photos and blurbs from our performances.

Hmm. Blogging about my workshop is a good idea. I may do that. Right now, however, the best place for information on my workshop is by asking me at or from the handout. It can be accessed from the conference workshop page on the RWA website or directly at

Thank you, Sarah. The dance workshop sounds like a great hands-on experience as well as a heck of a lot of fun. I really appreciate you taking time out to tell us about your upcoming RWA workshop.

If you have any questions for Sarah, you can leave a comment below or contact her at her email address above.


  1. That sounds amazing, Sarah. Of course, I have two left feet but you won't be able to sort me out because I live in England. Hope the workshop goes well!!!

  2. Wow. I'm so impressed, and jealous, of co-ordinated people. It's going to be so much fun for you, and best wishes for your workshop. Please update us on how it goes!

  3. I'll be there, but I'm probably going to be Sarah's Bad Example. I have two left feet and can't remember sequences. She's got her work cut out for her. :]

  4. Wow, Sarah, your workshop sounds fantastic! I really hope I can attend. I am completely intrigued with your grandmother's life as well. She played the world's smallest baby in the circus? Can you explain further?

    This was a great interview, Sarah and Laurie. Thanks for the peek into your world!

  5. This sounds fantastic Sarah! Sadly I'm not going to RWA this year. Maybe we could talk you into doing it here for LERA? ;0)

  6. Thank you all for such sweet comments! I swear to you the dances we will be doing in the workshop are non-discriminatory. It does not matter how many or what kind of feet you have, all are welcome.
    @Darynda - Piccolo Minnie was an incredibly small baby who was actually the adopted daughter of the "Fat Lady," Olive Gilbert. For their circus sideshow, they pretended Minnie was the daughter of their "Smallest Couple," Frank Shade and Dollie Gilbert. My aunt has a lovely series of photos of Minnie outgrowing Frank and Dollie with time. (She also has a gorgeous ambrotype of Olive and a monkey.)
    @Tammy - Of course! I am willing to share, anytime! Plus, I have a meticulously-prepared yet unused lecture on symbolism. ;-D

  7. Sounds like a lot of fun! Wish I was going to be there!


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