Susan Barnes is a go-getter. From the moment she peaked through the window of a dance studio at the age of 7, Susan knew she was going to be a dancer.
Now known as one of the Cayman Island’s lead dancers and instructors, Susan is a founding member of the Cayman Islands National Dance Company – Dance Unlimited and trained with Lorna Reid of Dance Unlimited, Jamaica School of Dance, Alvin Ailey American Dance Centre, Susan Taylor at the University of Tampa and holds a Masters Degree in Dance Education from New York University.
The proud mother of one, Susan launched Barnes Dance Academy Ltd. in 2002. It didn’t matter that Hurricane Ivan came along in 2004 and attempted to wrestle this lifelong dream of teaching dance from her grasp. As long as the students were willing, Susan and her instructors taught dance on front porches, in back yards, on sports fields and in community centres.
Susan’s wide national and international performance experience as well teaching creative movements for children and dance for the special child, is now available to students year round in the new facility for Barnes Dance Academy. She continued to be blessed with a most generous offer from her parents and siblings to renovate the home that she grew up in as a permanent home for her Academy.
The challenges to get there have been numerous but a passion for her craft and a rediscovered faith in God, took Susan and her family through the discovery of a cancerous lump in 2007. This momentarily reorganized her priorities but Susan never once gave up. “I knew I had to be around to raise my daughter Kali. She was my incentive and ongoing source of inspiration. She held my hand and kept me going.”
In the midst of her brave fight to battle cancer, which included moving to Miami to undergo surgery and radiation, Susan lost another dear friend to the disease. “He was there to support me through my first surgery and then discovered that he had and aggressive form of lung. He left this world only 10 months later.”
This loss brought Susan to her knees and she cried out to God for more answers and direction. What she received was more courage to keep fighting. She ran after each chemotherapy treatment and expanded her workout regimen to keep her heart healthy as she feared the chemotherapy cocktails she was being given could cause irreparable damage.
“Some people would call it luck but I call it being truly blessed. I got the best medical team and a strong support system who all worked very hard to regain my health. Everything just fell into place and was done without delay.”
Susan came through each of her surgeries and the long road on chemotherapy and radiation treatment with flying colours, returning home to the Cayman Islands with more dreams and new ideas. She wanted to change the approach of her dance school to provide a more holistic and useful style of programming to her young students and her growing adult classes.
“I didn’t want them to see dance as recreation or just to perform for others. I wanted my students to see themselves as whole beings and with that the focus must be on the integration of mind, body and spirit. It became important for me to teach them that they must honour their trinity in all they do – in how they think and respond to life.”
Susan used this renewed focus as an opportunity to make changes in her personal life. She also became certified as a holistic life coach.
Life isn’t slowing down and neither is this dancer. This past summer, she developed Cayman’s Got Dance to discover the islands hidden dance talent. “The judges and I were blown away by what we saw. It’s made me even more excited to teach dance and open the doors for others to share their gift with the world.”