Dancing Into Death

None of us knows when our heart will beat its last beat. For Rodolfo Akel that last beat came on the dance floor. Friends in the Cajun and Zydeco dance community in New England suspect the music of the Louisiana bayou eased his passing.

An engineer who organized Cajun and Zydeco dances in Connecticut was known for his generous spirit in teaching new – and often nervous – dancers.

Rodolfo Akel came to the United States from Ecuador when he was 17 to study engineering at Cornell University. A mechanical engineer, he settled in the Hartford, Connecticut suburb of Suffield and worked his entire career at one firm designing power plants. Fifteen years ago, he began dancing, struggling at first to feel the beat. But he was persistent and became known as an exuberant  dancer, teacher and organizer of Cajun and Zydeco dances for Hartford Community Dance.

Roldolfo Akel died suddenly on the dance floor at a music festival in southeastern Connecticut in June 2010. A few weeks later, on a day much like the one when Rodolfo passed away, at a dance in Rhode Island much like the one where he collapsed, many in the dance community consider the bittersweet passing of their 65-year-old friend.

Rhonda Miller, Providence, Rhode Island.

Broadcast history: A version of this piece, “A Dancer Remembered,”  aired on WSHU, Aug, 19, 2010.

Posted on Public Radio Exchange Aug. 21, 2010

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