You know those times when you expect to have an certain impact on someones life and end up humbled to be a part of something so much bigger? Meeting Ralph Shaffer was like that for me. Ralph was introduced to be by his wife Dawn whom I had met 3 months earlier.
Dawn travelled to Guatemala last year for the 2018 Ecstatic Dance International Leadership training. While Dawn is more spry than your average retiree she still had a hard time navigating the epic ascent to The Eagles Nest Retreat Centre which over looks the gorgeous parasite infested Lake Atitlan. Nestled way up in the mountain overlooking San Marcos, the retreat centre was more “rustic” than Dawn had bargained for. Still she didn’t complain. She took it all in stride training alongside a cohort half her age. You see the trek to our training was an homage for her, outside her comfort zone yes, but still nothing was going to stop her. She was on a mission from God!
I got to know Dawn quite well over the 7 day training. Together we cried many tears, belly laughed till it hurt and celebrated the truth that dance changes lives. She was fiercely dedicated to starting an Ecstatic Dance in Las Vegas, Nevada. She wanted to follow a Dance Church model for her Sunday event and planned to do so with her husband Ralf at her side. During our small group sessions she spoke with a deep and grounded love of her husband Ralph.
Ralph has Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease. Movement is normally controlled by dopamine, a chemical that carries signals between the nerves in the brain. When cells that normally produce dopamine die, the symptoms of Parkinson’s appear. Ralph has had Parkinson’s for 23 years, but Ralph is so much more than Parkinson’s disease. He is known to Dawn by a few different names in fact, DJ “OG” RALPHIE D is my favourite.
I met Ralph at the Ecstatic DJ training this past May in Portugal. The day I met him he wasn’t speaking much. I noticed a tremors in his hands, soft slow speech, a slightly stooped posture. He moved slow and stiffly on the dance floor and had that characteristic thousand mile stare which can effect Parkinson’s suffers. To be honest I really did’t know if he was going to be able to fully participate in the training. Well, the answer was HELL YES he was able!
Not only did Ralph participate fully each day, I often had to kick he and Dawn out of the practice room at midnight to get some sleep! As the week progressed Ralph’s movements became more and more dextrous. His dance got bigger and more nimble and on the second last full day he played us a 30 minute long set at our Thursday pool party to celebrate the birthday of a number of students that week. On the day Ralph played he turned 69 and officially became a DJ. I was witness to a transformation unlike any I have ever seen in such a short time.
Since returning home Dawn and Ralf have launched a you tube channel dedicated to chronicling Ralph’s journey with Parkinson’s. It speaks of many things including the law of attraction and how magnetizing Ecstatic Dance and DJing into their lives has massively reduced Ralph symptoms bringing them both great joy.
“On this channel, rendezvous with Dawn, a Law of Attraction DJ and her husband, Ralph. We are a couple of senagers starting our next chapter as Ecstatic Dance Leaders and Ecstatic Dance DJ’s in Las Vegas. Ralph has had Parkinson’s Disease for 23 years and has a lot to share. He wants to inspire others”
When I grow up I want to be like DJ “OG” RALPHIE D & DJ NUBIAN LIGHTS! I am honoured to witness these two in their deep love for each other and their shared dedication to the dance. Starting a career later in life as a DJ and Dance facilitator is one of the most kick ass things I have ever witnessed. I am honoured to have played a roll.