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Local dance competitor recalls her mother as she dances.

Judie Goodman dances for her mother.

The 64-year-old oncologist/hematologist takes to the dance floor with her husband, Kurt Vilders, and competes with dance instructor and Huntington Woods resident Art McDuffey as a way to relieve stress from her high-powered career as medical director of oncology services at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland in Pontiac.

She also dances to stay connected to the mother she lost at age 10: Ruthie Goodman, a pioneer in Detroit’s Jewish dance community and one of the first modern dancers locally, who succumbed to breast cancer at a young age.

Judie Goodman competing with her dance instructor Art McDuffy
Judie Goodman competing with her dance instructor Art McDuffy

“I danced for many years at the JCC on Curtis and Meyers with the Young Dancers Guild, under the direction of Harriet Berg,” says Goodman of West Bloomfield. “Of course, we did many Jewish dances, Israeli folk dancing in addition to modern dance.”

Now, the Temple Shir Shalom member focuses mostly on traditional ballroom dancing as a creative outlet as well as for exercise.

In fact, Goodman prepared for months to compete at the 18th Michigan Dance Challenge, which was held April 3 at The Henry Hotel in Dearborn. She was among 8,000 entries at one of the country’s largest contests and Michigan’s largest dance competition, started by entrepreneur Mark Brock as a way to bring together all the dance studios and dancers in Michigan in a good-natured, friendly competition.

She placed in every category she danced, although American Rhythm was her best. She placed first in Multi-Dances and first in Closed Bronze Scholarship. She also placed in American Smooth and International Standard. Also, Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Bloomfield Hills, owned by Evan and Lada Mountain, won top studio.

“It was a great competition,” she said. “Wonderful dancers, wonderful teachers, wonderful camaraderie. I have met many great friends through dance.”

Goodman says preparing for a dance competition is all about perfecting technique — and focusing on the basics.

“Really, you’re always competing against yourself,” says Goodman, who grew up dancing ballet, jazz, modern and African dances but abandoned it as she built a career and family. Later, she returned to dance via a fundraiser that introduced her to ballroom.

“If you love to dance and you can’t dance, you feel like something is missing,” says Goodman, who endured a knee injury that sidelined her for years.

“I dance because it keeps me connected to my mom,” says Goodman, who chose her career as well due to her mother’s battle with cancer. “Dancing is a wonderful way to relieve stress and go into a different place. And while I love competing, I also love dancing with my husband, who has taken lessons with me for years.”

Goodman is a member of Federation’s Maimonides group as well as a member of National Council of Jewish Women. She has two children, Elliot Vilders, 31, a Detroiter, and Lauren Vilders, 29, who lives in San Francisco and works in Facebook’s research division.

For more information, or to watch Goodman dance, visit michigandancechallenge.com.

Lynne Golodner is chief creative officer/owner at Your People LLC, a public relations and business messaging development firm.

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