At the Heart of Healing and DanceSport:

Sarah La Saulle Ph.D.


Sarah La Saulle, Ph.D., celebrated Healing a Broken Heart coauthor; popular Esalen professor (Psych 101 textbook luminaries like Fritz Perls and Abram Maslow are her predecessors) is far from a cerebral female Dr. Freud. This psychotherapist is an avid, advanced dancer who is a live wire on the dance floor. (At the Emerald Ball 2002, she took First Place in the Silver American Smooth Student/Student Division.)

Although La Saulle is a dedicated DanceSport participant, she does not take her participation too seriously. "We're part of this goofy bunch at our age!" She guffaws. "At dance parties, I imagine I've got this goofy smile on my face the whole time because I can't believe how fun it is that I'm doing this!"

She sips her Chardonnay and chuckles. "I've never been athletic. I was really good at weird sports like archery. But I was always fascinated by dance." Setting her goblet on the swirled marble table outside her kitchen (which is replete with storybook castle draperies), she confesses, "I watched the Astaire-Rogers movies a billion times!"

Three years ago, in her mid-forties, La Saulle dared to do DanceSport. "I knew I needed exercise and something that would hold my interest," she explains. More than a mere workout, the doctor stumbled into "a spiritual experience."

With the air of one accustomed to analyzing significant moments, she says, "My personal understanding of what's been happening is that I've been transforming myself as a human being. And my capacity to learn something new and transform something that I thought was in a fixed state – which was my body. I thought I was too old to be able to incorporate this much change."

She enthusiastically declares, "The whole process of learning something new informs my work as a therapist. Now, when I'm working with people who are taking risks or trying to change a pattern, I have an inside relationship with what it means to actually work through an old pattern and recreate oneself because of having studied dance technically."

"Technically?" I ask.

La Saulle clarifies her statement. "I'm mostly attracted to the technical side of learning these skills and breaking things down."

"For example?"

"How long it takes to master something and living on that plateau where it doesn't seem like you're getting it for long periods of time!" She laughs. "And eventually breaking through! And discovering that something went into the body when you weren't even noticing. The whole process is expansive, transforming and wonderful!"

I am armed with the knowledge that La Saulle's Healing a Broken Heart "process book" blossomed from her experiences of nearly two decades ago. (In addition to courses she taught at Esalen.) Nevertheless, I inquire (albeit dubiously),  "Did dance play a role in your healing?"

"Yes! Absolutely!" She grins. "I was doing really well, but I changed completely! Dance catapulted me into play, passion and a place of focus. Plus, new friends!" The doctor giggles, "I've tried to make everyone in my life start dancing."

Does she recommend DanceSport to her clients?

"For people who want to play more or need to experience what it feels like to be in the body," she replies.

"How about for dancing exes out of the system?"

La Saulle looks stumped for a second.

 "Give voice to your anger…Sometimes it helps to dance wildly or beat on your chest," I read from Healing a Broken Heart. "Is this a regular breakup ritual for you?"

"Sharon (Kagan – her co-writer) wrote that!" she exclaims. "It's about getting the energy up and out.  Sharon does that. It's kind of a Gabrielle Roth, ecstatic dance."

Speaking of subduing war cries, I ask for her professional point of view on the USABDA (United States Amateur Ballroom Dance Association) versus the NDCA (National Dance Council of America) battle.  (The hullabaloo revolves around the definitions, differences, rights and restrictions of an amateur and professional dancer.)

She sighs. "Personal agendas are so limited in their scope that usually when somebody has their own personal agenda going on, they're not thinking about the greater context of things. Or the greater picture or future ramifications and possibilities." La Saulle smiles sadly.  "It's so limited in its scope. And if people are fighting over that level of functioning, they can never bring into their lives results that they never could imagine. So they get these tiny, little results that they're capable of thinking about. But, they never get the results that are the unimaginable and amazing ones."

The dancer/doctor picks up her blonde Yorkshire terrier, Darcie, for a cuddle and continues, "They're cutting their own throats by not working it out. If it's personal agendas and it's monetarily motivated, in the end, they're going to lose more money than they would have gained if they became part of the whole Olympic landscape."

"Was the Emerald Ball an unimaginable event for you?"

La Saulle chuckles. "The worst part was figuring out what I was going to wear! Other dancers like Jackie Kuka were so generous. But Jackie is the size of a pin! So I bought a floaty kind of red dress with black netting."

"So the competition was a success?" I ask.

"A smashing success!" She adds, "Especially in terms of enjoying it and not being in my head."

Her dance partner, Michael Caan, asserts that throughout, "the turbo charged experience, Sarah was committed and great!"

"The perfect partner," along with other accolades tumbles forth from fellow author, Kagan. She credits La Saulle for "never losing sight of the importance of the work (Healing a Broken Heart) and yet didn't take the little things too seriously."

Perceiving only a praising public, I wonder if there is an inner critic.

"You know I just did that workshop at Esalen, right?"

I nod yes. (La Saulle and her dance coach, Michael Kuka conducted a class entitled, Salsa and the Inner Critic during the first weekend of March.)

"Everybody has an inner critic. It's commenting all the time. But Michael (Kuka) does not want to hear it – the crap going on in my mind. He thinks it's a waste of time. And I've got more of a sense of humor about it now," affirms La Saulle.

She asserts, "People can develop a relationship with their inner critic so that it becomes quieter, not so serious, and not such a big deal. You find that when you're in a learning process, you learn things in small increments.  So, why get upset when you can't learn something whole hog?"

La Saulle muses that, "When you're a child, it's not a problem being a beginner. There's something about learning how to dance. It's really beneficial for people to get used to that whole process."

The dancing doctor chortles, "And of course, there is the physical benefit of ballroom dancing.  The endorphins!  I'm in seventh heaven when I'm dancing!"

"I do not know what the spirit of a philosopher could more wish to be than a good dancer," wrote Friedrich Nietzsche. "For the dance is his ideal, also his fine art, finally also the only kind of piety he knows, his "divine service.'"

Looks like Dr. La Saulle has answered the call of healing at the heart of DanceSport.

For further information about Sarah La Saulle, Ph.D., and Healing a Broken Heart, visit