Public dancing with Sarah Rose (right) and friendsPhoto by Bob Keefer

Dancing Away the Donald

Better mental health can just mean shaking things up

In these troubled times, one way to take care of your mental health is to get out and dance.

That’s what a 34-year-old Cottage Grove massage therapist has been doing for the past year and a half, ever since she realized that current events were sucking her and the rest of the country into a morass of despair.

Sarah Rose dances solo once or twice a week in a pullout on Highway 99 just south of Goshen, next to her little white Kia, which sports a big green and white sign on top that reads “Optimism.” (“Rose” is a name she uses for her dance performances to deter, as she says, creeps.) She picked the spot because it’s clearly visible to motorists driving past on adjacent Interstate 5.

“The political-environmental climate was getting dark and cloudy,” she says. “And I followed right along in the primaries when everyone started getting worked up.”

She began dancing next to the freeway, often during rush hour, in April 2016. Her sign in those days said, “Elect Dance 2016.”

At first she was ignored. Then people began honking horns from the freeway and waving. Then a few folks began stopping to ask what she was up to. “Is this a real political party?” they would ask. “Yeah,” she would say. “It’s a dance party.”

After the surprise election of Donald Trump at the end of 2016, she came out to dance once again, wondering what her sign should read now. The word “optimism” popped into her brain. She drove right to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Cottage Grove and ordered a vanity plate that reads “OPTMST.” Then she had the “Optimism” sign made, and she’s still using it.

Rose has been visited by curious cops — one, a woman, stopped to dance with her — and has even taken her show on the road. Coming back from a trip to Texas she drove old Highway 66 and stopped to dance along the way.

She’s still dancing once or twice a week, sometimes joined by friends, at her spot next to I-5 whenever the spirit, or news of the world, moves her.

“I do it to tip the scales,” she says. “There is so much negativity in the world!”

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