Ted Hershey, dancer and choreographer, sits in a rocking chair in his loft and pats his stomach. "I have a Buddha-Belly now. It's really called the 'belly of healing.' I don't have the strength to dance these days, but I choreograph contemporary dances for modern dancers. I was trained in ballet, was principal dancer for the Hartford Ballet for 13 years, and discovered modern dance about midway through that time. Dancers use their whole being. Dance speaks without words. You need to look. Each moment is unique, and if you don't look the moment is gone forever."
Ted was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1988, and in 1990 he was diagnosed with Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP). His PCP diagnosis came three days after his long-term partner Rob Kowalski died. "I'm a survivor, but not long ago I was near death. I have no memory of almost 6 months of my life, a blessing really. In November 1995, I weighed 103 pounds and my doctor advised my wife to call friends to say I probably wouldn't last another 48 hours. But somehow I pulled through, and by Christmas I was home again."
Ted's wife is Laura Glenn, and she's Artistic Director of "Works/Laura Glenn Dance" in Hartford, Connecticut, a company he originally founded with Rob Kowalski. As Laura explains: "Ted's mother died in 1994, and things began to unhinge neurologically for him. Ted had a series of little seizures, then a major seizure, all leading to his going to the hospital and being in intensive care."
Laura is the keystone of Ted's life. "After Rob died, I fell in love again, this time with Laura. We started out as friends, then became lovers in 1992, domestic partners in 1993 and in 1995 we married. I love her more and more each day. She's amazingly committed to my health, and she's always here for me."
At present, Ted is relatively healthy. "I'm OK now, but when my health took a dive, it forced me to examine priorities, to look inside myself. HIV has been the "wake up call," the "hello" of my life. Everyone has psychological and emotional issues, but something like AIDS brings it all up into one's face. I want my life to be gentle and at the same time productive, but change inside must be made. People speak of AIDS as a gift, and it is. First it made me angry, but AIDS has been my most thorough and firm teacher. I've grown, and had to grow by necessity."
Ted grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, and started to study dance seriously in High School. "I studied secretly. Growing up in a small town, ballet had to be a secret thing ... or I thought it had to be a secret. I commuted two hours each day to the Pennsylvania Ballet School, and eventually attended college in Pittsburgh where I continued my training." Ted then heard of a dance company called the Princeton Ballet that was going professional. "I auditioned and got the job. I was with the Princeton Ballet for nine months, and then auditioned for Michael Uthoff for the Hartford Ballet. I danced for the Hartford Ballet for the next 13 years."
"My first major role was in the new production of 'Romeo and Juliet' as Romeo. I was terrified, but everyone was amazed at how well I did. I also worked with Pilobolus (a dance company) on a piece called "Land's Edge," which reveals a rich tapestry of life. It expresses everything about the human condition and I portrayed the town simpleton who was able to love purely. That work changed me. We toured in China, and the Chinese loved it. They talked all through the show, which was pretty unexpected and unnerving. Then we toured South America where the work was also very well received. Doing this piece taught me so much about the human condition. It helped me cope with HIV."
"We have all the emotions that are part of the human experience -- anger, sadness, grief, unhappiness, conflict, and frustration. AIDS makes it all more intense, but we also have love, joy, and our human spirit, and that can heal anything. One of the biggest things I've learned from the virus is to be patient. I've learned that I really need to honor myself and be gentle with myself. I've learned to accept what is. One can fight like hell against a situation or be open and accepting. Healing happens when you're open to it."
This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.