Susan Stone, also known as the “Dance of Life Dancer,” demonstrates one of her signature dance moves outside of her trailer in Lenzburg, Ill. Stone has been dancing in local parks, concerts and festivals for 21 years and credits her “Dance of Life” passion for giving her hope, “It refreshes me with energy, refreshes me with life and hope!” Stone said. (Angel Chevrestt // @SoBroFoto)
Susan Stone, also known as the “Dance of Life Dancer,” demonstrates one of her signature dance moves outside of her trailer in Lenzburg, Ill. Stone has been dancing in local parks, concerts and festivals for 21 years and credits her “Dance of Life” passion for giving her hope, “It refreshes me with energy, refreshes me with life and hope!” Stone said.

Angel Chevrestt // @SoBroFoto

Susan Stone and the Dance of Life

“I want to change the world,” Stone said. “I want to make it a better place, you know.”

May 7, 2021

Editor’s note: This story mentions self harm.

Susan Stone, also known as the Dance of Life Dancer, lives in a white trailer with light pink trimmings to the side of the highway on the edge of Lenzburg Illinois, a rural town with a population of 600. She drives a bright pink car with lime green wheels and wears carefully crafted costumes and tutus to dance at the local park, her goal is to spread hope and positivity to the world and her community. 

Stone has been a lover of dance her entire life, but the idea of becoming “the Dance of Life Dancer” was born nearly twenty years ago after a near death experience she had when she attempted suicide and after witnessing the slow death of her mother in a nursing home

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After her mom died and she attempted suicide, Stone said she was sent to an indescribable place and was technically dead, until her mom sent her back.

“I see people there that were dead like my mom, who actually was the one that sent me back, you know what I mean. Sent me back; go back and share the message with the world, the message ‘the breath of life is a gift’ that’s the last words my mom said,” Stone said. “The last words my mom said was actually ‘the breath of life is a gift, I don’t want to lose it,’ but I changed it to the breath of life is a gift, each moment is yet another opportunity […] The breath of life is a gift, each moment is yet another opportunity to share the beauty of life with others, and with this breath I find peace.”

Stone said this has become the motto for her dance of life and she hopes to use it to inspire others to be themselves. Stone’s “dance of life” is a way of thinking but also her own style of interpretive dance she does to any and all kinds of music. She twirls and sways to her own rhythm and signals to her audience and the skies with her arms. She said her favorite music to dance to is rock and disco, especially artists like Bon Jovi and KISS.

“I want to change the world,” Stone said. “I want to make it a better place, you know.”

In order to further the mission of her dance of life, Susan began writing poetry, performing comedy,     dancing at local parks, concerts and festivals and she started a YouTube channel.

Despite wanting to spread a positive message, some see Stone as a negative influence and want to run her out of Lenzburg because she is transgender. She now has a dash camera on her car and five security cameras lining her trailer because of the harassment she faces from the town and surrounding areas.

 “Living in Lenzburg is like living in Hell.  I mean, they don’t, they let you know, you know what i mean, if they don’t want you here,” Stone said. “New Athens, Freeburg, I call that the highway of nightmares, right out here.  Because I get chased up and down all the time.  I used to air that stuff but I don’t air it no more. You know why?  People look at that, you know what i mean, and they say, ‘oh, i want in on that, you know what i mean. So they chase me then. So I don’t do that no more.”

Stone said the police have been called out to her home around 200 times but they don’t do much to help her. 

  At one point, someone threw a molotov cocktail at Stone’s trailer, setting the back of it on fire and costing her around $1,000 in repairs that she did herself. She said the police never caught who did it. 

“This is an everyday thing, I mean. Before you leave here you’ll hear people scream at me they want me dead and all that stuff, down this road,” Stone said.

Stone said she tries to avoid some of the negativity by going out and doing stuff, rather than staying at home all day. She does this by visiting her friends, going to Belleville and dancing. She can’t afford to move away and doesn’t work because she is on disability.

 “I don’t have any money to move anywhere else. Besides, they would follow me,” Stone said. “I mean, it’s not like you can hide a pink car.”

Instead of hiding and giving up, Stone chooses to stand out in Lenzburg and to live her life as a self-described “non-conformist.” She lives in her white and pink trailer and painted her car bright pink with lime green wheels, one of her side mirrors is deep purple, the other mustard yellow.

“I painted my trailer like that, three and four years ago, against everybody’s advice. ‘Oh you shouldn’t paint it that way it stands out too much,’ I said, ‘that’s what I want. I don’t listen to people, that’s my first rule, don’t listen to them,” Stone said.

Stone wasn’t always bold and willing to follow her own rules. In school she was shy, in the closet and bullied by kids at school. She dropped out freshman year of high school and never went back.

Her life outside of school also wasn’t very welcoming of her identity. Susan’s mother was a Sunday school teacher and her father was an affiliate preacher but she never found acceptance in the church. She said she heard throughout the years from churches that supposedly had the motto “we accept everyone” that she is an “abomination” and “god doesn’t accept gay people.”

“They always tell me, ‘God doesn’t want you.  God doesn’t accept you, you gotta change, you gotta do this, you gotta do that.  You can’t accept me for who I am, you know what I mean?  That’s too bad, you know.  ‘Cause this is who I am,” Stone said. “This is me.  And I don’t want to be a part of something or someone that doesn’t want me because of who I am.  Regardless who it is.  Whether it’s the Pope, God, the guy down the street, whoever it is, you know what i mean.  ‘Cause this is me, if they don’t accept me […] This is the way I was made,”

In one video that Stone posted to YouTube, a pastor approaches her and begins to harass her. 

“Sir,” The man says to her. “I’d like you to sit back here.” He points to the back of the church which is mostly empty at this point.

“Excuse me? What did you say? I am not a sir I am a ma’am,” Stone replies.

“Are you sure? Cause I’ll have the sheriff check and see if you are or not,” the man said.

The altercation continues and Stone shows the man her ID. He goes on to tell her that she makes others uncomfortable when she uses the women’s restroom and says he will have the sheriff come and “talk” to her. 

“I don’t believe in Jesus Christ anymore,” Stone said in an interview with the Daily Egyptian. “Because here’s the thing about it you know, I love people for who they are, you know what I mean, and the only thing I’ve ever heard in my life is Jesus just doesn’t want you because of who you are. Like on my videos I said I’m tired of hearing that, you know what I mean. I’m tired of people telling me ‘oh God doesn’t want you because of who you are’ and then stand up there and tell me ‘oh Jesus loves everybody’ Really?”

Stone also tried to keep her identity hidden from her parents, but now that both of them have died, she says it is one thing she regrets and she wishes she would have told them. 

“I hid everything,” Stone said. “Made sure nobody knew who I was, you know.  I think that was a big mistake now!  ‘Cause I wish they would’ve known.  You know what I mean?  Wish we could’ve talked about it. That’s the reason I say, you know, what I say, ‘never miss today because it’s too important.”

Now, Stone encourages everyone to be true to themselves and to never miss a moment or opportunity. Because as she puts it, the breath of life is a gift. 

Stone said the dance of life, is what keeps her so hopeful despite all the negativity she faces. 

“Reaching somebody you know, helping somebody to realize, you know what I mean, to realize they can be who they want to be, they’re accepted, they’re loved,” Stone said. “There doesn’t need to be all this hate in the world. I don’t like that you know. Everybody hates everybody and uses every excuse in the world to do it. I would like to see the world united in one, you know what I mean.” 

Stone said if there was one thing she could tell people in her community who hate her, it would be to have a conversation with her. 

“I would tell them to have a sit down talk with me and hear the story of my life before you judge me because I’m not going to tell you something that isn’t real,” Stone said. “Before you judge me or anybody get to sit down with them. Don’t listen to what they say out there. Sit down with me first.”

Editor-in-Chief Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieECox.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Susan Stone and the Dance of Life”

  1. Rosanne M Wheatley on May 8th, 2021 7:53 pm

    If readers would talk to Susan or watch her YouTube videos, they would see her past and her dancing in plays is gorgeous. She works hard at who she wants to be.

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