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My mother studied dance with the famous Isadora Duncan. I loved the formality of classical ballet so I started taking classes at a young age.

I learned about musicality, discipline and cooperation, and also the darker sides of gossip, competition and obsession. In my late teens, I showed “great promise,” and was being trained for ballet stardom by a renowned teacher and former star of the Ballets Russes. 

I was fully prepared to stay on this path. Before my retirement from the dance world at age 19 (I broke my knee on stage at the City Center Theater before the end of the first act ... my last act), I had legally changed by name to Hank Palmer. Don’t ask. My dance partner and I introduced the Twist to 1,000 dance teachers in 1960 at Roseland Ballroom in New York, perhaps the low point of my career. 

So it went from the spotlight on me to the spotlight on the model in front of me in the art department at the City College of New York. It was the 1960s. The City College cost me the price of textbooks as an undergraduate and paid me to continue on as a graduate student. I was about to strike out on a path that would remove me from everyone and everything I had known.