My Soda with Susan

by jvaragona

Last night I met with a woman at McDonald’s. I bought her a large Diet Dr. Pepper. I had a large Diet Coke. We talked about her troubled childhood and how many years later it led straight to her performing dance routines at live music events around the area. We talked about her being a misunderstood loner that has had many urban legends created surrounding her, some based loosely in fact, that are used in attempts to drive her from a community that she has lived in since birth. This woman is Susan Stone, known as the Dance of Life dancer.


Susan has most recently been in the spotlight for being kicked out of the African Arts Festival at Forest Park in St. Louis, MO. On local CBS affiliate, KMOV, she claimed that she was kicked out because she was white.  While the details of that incident are complicated, it certainly made people across the world aware of this unique individual in my area.

Shortly before the African Arts Festival, I had exchanged messages with Susan, saying I was interested in shooting a documentary about her, having her address the stories around her as well as talking to those that are critical of her. Since 2009, she has uploaded over 2000 videos to YouTube of her dancing at various events and giving small glimpses into who she is and the message she wants to share. It seems unusual, but innocent enough. Of course people stare when she performs in public because of how she looks and the dance she does. And internet commenters have a field day with her, exchanging stories that they have heard and speculating about her age, her sex, who she is having sexual relations with, and what crimes she has committed recently. Her rap sheet is long, including traffic offenses, theft, and what many know her for — slashing tires.

I first came across Susan at the Whitaker Music Festival at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. She caught my eye, dancing off to the side of the stage where the band was performing. She gyrates to the music in a pink tutu, waving various props such as fans and ribbons. As I posted some photos to Twitter and Instagram, I began getting comments identifying her as a local celebrity of sorts that I hadn’t heard of before. When I went home, I did some internet research, coming across a plethora of material. This is too fascinating to not put together into one piece.

Some may say Susan will participate for the attention. Obviously she enjoys that a bit, otherwise she wouldn’t have the 2000+ YouTube videos. I think she does want to address controversies surrounding her, though. I have explained that I will be getting other sides to stories and other perspectives on her, and she has agreed to participate. Documenting such a story and her dancing will require shooting over the next year which I think will be quite the ride. I will launch an Indie-Go-Go campaign in the coming weeks to try to secure some funding for some higher quality equipment to work with and plan on continual updates on the progress of this project through a Twitter feed and Facebook page.

I welcome feedback of all kinds. Maybe you can give me leads on Susan’s past. Maybe you have reasonable questions you’d like asked. Feel free to participate. I only ask that dialogue be civil. Below I have included some of Susan’s videos. Enjoy. And thanks.