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.


Risk Recap – Touchy Subjects: Art, Sex, and Humor

118c159f-88f9-4475-8d1e-c3ce6219daf2Event name: Touchy Subjects: Art, Sex, and Humor

In one sentence, describe the event: A look at the risk artists take in creating edgy work.

How would you describe your risk-taking personality or lack thereof?: I don’t actually take a lot of risks. The biggest risks I take on a daily basis probably include the various media pitching strategies I use for my job. Sometimes my correspondence to get others to respond could be considered a bit risky.

What was the most memorable and/or meaningful aspect of the event?: I loved the discussion with the artists. It was vital in understanding the event itself and the risk the artists took in creating the work. Understanding the art from that level brings a greater appreciation for the work in an entirely new way.

What’s one thing you learned about risk that surprised you?: Risk comes in all forms! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect!

Each year’s Spirit & Place Festival’s theme influences the next year’s theme. Through the lens of this year’s theme of “Risk,” what types of events do you anticipate for next year’s theme of “Journey”?: I could expect an art installation there, as well. The part I enjoyed the most was hearing the artists talk about their personal journeys to the installations they presented.