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Flight: The Dance of Freedom

Paperback – September 15, 2019

Susan Slotnick Book Cover
Susan Slotnick Book Back

Susan was born to a mother cold and pretentious, and a father distant and, as she recalls, "most likely borderline autistic." Not the best nurturing environment for a gifted child, so she rebelled: flunking out of school; befriending those her mother would have considered "undesirables;" basically, living a life completely at odds to the one that would have ordinarily been "expected."But it was those early experiences that showed Susan how difficult life was for so many; it instilled in her a passionate zeal to help "the marginalized, the forgotten and the disenfranchised." And this interest in social justice has been "present" throughout her entire adult life.It is no wonder Susan as the choreographer, the painter, the writer, the dancer, has consistently used all her art forms as instruments to promote human rights and the concept of equality.Nowhere has that combination of creativity and activism been more compelling, and more successful, than with her teaching modern dance for the past 20 years to men imprisoned within the NYS correctional system. Her dance company, named "Figures In Flight," has garnered much critical and professional acclaim. A documentary about her work, entitled "The Game Changer," won Best Documentary Short at both the Harlem and Cannes film festivals. But the ultimate award for Susan's lifetime work must be how those men felt, aloft and moving, dancing to Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." We can only "Imagine." But Susan knows.

Reading this memoir is like sitting down to a family dinner and listening to your favorite family member, who you never see enough, tell you about their life, in a way you never knew them. The voice of the narrator is so familiar, but it tells a story so unfamiliar. The uncompromisingly honest and thoughtful Susan Slotnick takes us into a world that few of us ever even think of, let alone inhabit. Her work is brave and important for our society, true, but so is her story and vision of creating something beautiful in a place that needs all the beauty it can get. Her story does all of this while challenging our own views of beauty and creation. What a read.

This beautiful book moved me on several levels. First, it’s just such a damn well written story. It’s funny, in a darkly Jewish way. It’s courageous and cathartic. It made me angry and sad to experience vicariously the dysfunction and abuse, while I reveled in the joy of her flight to freedom. It’s easy to appreciate the parallels to “Ship of Fools:” comedy and tragedy, love and death, adventure, pain and pleasure. This book has it all. Buy it. Now.

What a Joy and an Inspiration!

Susan Slotnick has lived a life full of it's fair share of ups and downs. This book is a story of the power of a woman's perseverance and creativity. From an early age, Susan navigated some of the worst types of experiences to land in a place where she was able to bring great value to some of our community's most forgotten. Her work inside of the prison is eye opening and a great reminder to give people a second chance if they want one. Her writing is full of inspiring words and quote-worthy phrases that I will carry with me all my life.



Susan Dancing

Teaching the Power of Dance Behind Bars

This post is part of our month-long series featuring Greatest Women of the Day, in recognition of Women’s History Month.

From prison to the dance floor: Program bridges cultural divides

Choreographer Susan Slotnick has been working with marginalized populations for over 20 years. In that time, she’s run across her fair share of skeptics.

Susan and Prison Dancers

Final Flight

Susan Slotnick has spent six hours behind bars every week for the last 15 years. "Other people are out playing golf—women my age—or getting brunch," the 69-year-old choreographer says, laughing. Then, softly, "I love it there."

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