A Journey to Paradise

Sandy Reiberg essay imageBy Sandy Reiberg

When my new husband and I boarded a plane bound for the U.S. Virgin Islands forty-four years ago, we thought our journey was to an interesting place for a year or so. Instead, we stayed for six years and planted seeds that would grow into our life’s work. One week earlier we had learned that we’d been hired as teachers in St. Thomas, so we packed our bags, got married, and headed for paradise.

One evening about two years later, as we were walking down a narrow street in town, I heard music from an upstairs window that stirred childhood memories and called to me irresistibly.  I climbed the stairs and found myself in the outer office of a ballet studio.  I had studied ballet from the age of six to sixteen, but hadn’t taken a dance class in six years.  After a few classes, I was asked if I would like to audition for the Ballet Theater of the Virgin Islands.  “I’d be honored” was my immediate response. Thus began four years of daily classes, performing throughout the Caribbean, and presenting concerts yearly on St. Thomas. My husband Bob took ballet classes with me and became the official photographer for the company. Through these experiences, our stay in paradise was enriched beyond beautiful flowers and sunny beaches.

“Through these experiences, our stay in paradise was enriched beyond beautiful flowers and sunny beaches.”

When we returned to Indiana, the arts continued to be woven into our lives. I continued to teach and take dance classes, Bob continued his photography, and we had two children and bought a home. I was hired to teach ballet in the Dance Magnet program at Shortridge Junior High, a job I could only have dreamed of in my years as a student at Shortridge High School. My next opportunity was establishing the I.P.S. elementary Arts Magnet program at School 70, followed by directing the Arts and Humanities Magnet program at Broad Ripple High School.  Meanwhile, Bob taught science in I.P.S. for nine years, and one day took a ceramics class at the Indianapolis Art Center which lead to his next career as a professional potter.

“I hope to dance as much as I can along the way, wherever the journey leads.”

Right after retiring from I.P.S. in 2009, I nearly died from an allergic reaction to a medication.  A year later, David Hochoy gave me the opportunity to dance a small role in a Dance Kaleidoscope production.  Again, I found myself dancing after a long absence from classes. At the end of the first rehearsal, I felt that I was truly alive again. I don’t know how much longer the journey that began with hearing familiar music on a tropical island may be, but I hope to dance as much as I can along the way, wherever the journey leads.


Sandy Reiberg is an award-winning arts educator, dancer, and civic volunteer.



4 thoughts on “A Journey to Paradise

  1. Although I’ve known you since our student days together at Shortridge High School, I never knew that Bob and you spent the first six years of your marriage teaching in St. Thomas, nor that your love of dance was reawakened in that place. You give me hope that my childhood love of making art can still be rekindled before I leave this earth. Thank you for the inspiring account of your journey.

  2. Sandy, what a delightful recounting of your early journey through the Virgin Islands and the reawakening of your love of dance. I am more familiar with your rise through IPS as the arts magnet director because of my daughter benefiting from your teaching and caring. Your impact on students is life long. From being the Shortridge Junior Vaudeville Chairman to being a guest dancer in Dance Kaleidoscope, you’e come a long way, Baby. And, all a long that way you’ve been someone to admire, aspire to, and, if in ballet, perspire with.

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