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Karen Bushee

Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

How I Got This Body: Care to dance?

  • Article by: SHEILA MULROONEY ELDRED
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • March 27, 2012 - 8:32 AM

When advanced cancer was diagnosed in Karen Bushee's brother almost five years ago, he started living as never before -- remodeling his house, landscaping his yard, buying the Mustang convertible he'd always wanted. "He taught me how to live, because he lived until he died," Bushee said. When he died a year ago Sunday, Bushee decided to fulfill a dream of her own: to dance her way around the world.

LEARNING TO LIVE "A lot of us are kind of dying while we're living, so I decided I would pursue my dream and dance around the world."

DO THE HUSTLE "Remember 'Saturday Night Fever'? That's when I started dancing -- about 25 years ago. I competed in a hustle dance concert to the song 'Celebrate.' My girlfriend Kit and I went on a dance cruise in January. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven on that cruise. We left from Puerto Rico, about 200 of us on the Royal Caribbean. They put on five hours of workshops a day, and we danced at night. I did the hustle on the cruise, too, and I liked it better the second time."

DANCING USA "I decided to start with Latin dances, because I think salsa is my favorite. I'm going to stick to the U.S. for the rest of this year. My next trip is going to be to Washington, D.C., in June for a Salsa Congress and then on to New York, because that's where salsa originated. And break dancing originated in the Bronx. I can do chest pops with the best of them. Then maybe Atlanta and the Smoky Mountains for more salsa, then San Diego for the West Coast swing, and then one of my favorites: New Orleans for zydeco and cajun. And Chicago for stepping -- it's a very neat dance. Clogging in the Appalachians, maybe North Carolina. I discovered that 19 states have their state dance as square dancing. So I figured if there's a state I haven't been to, my default will be square dancing."

CARIBBEAN CRUISE "In 2013, my niece is getting married in Jamaica, so I'll do reggae then, and then I found a volunteer organization, Cross-cultural Solutions, so I'm going on from Jamaica to Costa Rica to work with orphanages and elderly people and AIDS victims. I'll be volunteering during the day and dancing salsa, cumbia, lambada, Costa Rican swing at night and on the weekends."

HAVING FUN "I don't even know I'm exercising when I'm dancing. I also do Zumba at the Y, and I work for a company that pays us to work out, and has health coaches working with us as personal trainers. So I have a lot of accountability and reinforcement for staying in shape."

WARMING UP "My plan is to take dance lessons before I go to the place. So I've been taking salsa lessons once a week, and twice I week I go out dancing. I dance around the house all the time. My cat loves to dance salsa. At work, I sit on the phone all the time. I've discovered you can do yoga on the phone. And sometimes I sit on those big exercise balls -- it's a great workout for your core and you can bounce in between calls. I also do aerobics about three times a week, and I have a personal trainer at the Y. As I get older, things just need more work."

BUCKET LIST "Three days before my brother died, we talked for three hours. I told him that I had a bucket list for the first time, and he said, 'Well, is it because of me?' And I said, 'Yeah, I'm so proud of you.' From my brother, I've learned that every day is a gift, and that if I don't do what I dream, or what I'm here to do, then I'm actually dying while I'm living. As I'm doing this more, I'm realizing things that held me back in the past -- 'I'm too old'; 'I don't have money' -- I find that I'm capable of a lot more than I thought I was. And that it isn't too late. I have a feeling that there are so many possibilities and I don't know what I'm capable of. I'm really surprising myself."

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