UI alumnus Searle doubles as a doctor and a dancer


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Art Searle spends his days and nights helping people with their steps. From dawn till dusk, he is a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor in Davenport.

“I see people with physical disabilities,” he said. “I see people in the hospital with serious disabilities like a stroke or a head injury and if they get intensive therapy, maybe they can go home instead of going to a nursing home.”

But when the sun falls, Searle focuses on a different type of movement:  dance.

Searle spends his evenings on the dance floor aiding new dancers. He often travels to both Iowa City and the Quad Cities to dance.

“I like to dance with lots of different kinds of people,” Searle said. “When I go to dances where I’m a more experienced dancer, I try to see who is new and try to help out new people. I really enjoy that.”

At 64, Searle has been dancing longer than he has been practicing medicine. He began dancing during his undergraduate years at Grinnell College, and continued dancing through medical school at the University of Iowa.

“It was really the most fun thing I learned in college and the most useful thing really, because I’ve been able to continue it,” he said.

He broke onto the dance floor through his friends, who took a class in college. Every week, they would learn a dance from a different country, and Searle wanted in.

“I could see they were having a lot of fun, and so I decided I wanted to get into that activity,” he said. “It was just fun to meet once a week and learn dances.”

Today, Searle dances in many different venues. His favorite dances are barn dances, which include the traditional square dance. He also does salsa and is the oldest member of the UI Swing Dance Club.

“It’s nice to get the diversity of ages,” said UI Swing Dance Club President Cara Held.

Dancing is very important to Searle, not only because of his age but also because of his personality.
“It’s a great way to stay healthy, mentally active, and have some socializing,” he said. “My personality is that I’m an introvert. A lot of people in dancing are introverts. They enjoy being with people, but it’s nice to have some structure about what to do when you’re with people instead of having to figure out pickup lines and small talk.”

He said he has met many people through dancing, and he is very thankful he learned to dance back in college.

“I’m really glad I got started dancing when I was young,” he said. “But I think people are even better off if they start dancing in kindergarten — early in life.”

Lorelei Falsetti, 52, a friend and fellow dancer of Searle’s, agreed. She has been dancing for 10 years, although she wished she started sooner.

“You look at some of these experienced dancers, and they look like they’re having so much fun,” she said.

Falsetti said it’s not just Searle’s experience of dancing for more than 40 years that makes him an enjoyable dance partner.

“He’s fun— he knows the steps and knows what he’s doing,” she said. “And on top of that he has a happy attitude.”

From patients to partners, Searle has dedicated his life to helping people—always with a smile on his face.

“When your partner has a smile on her face, it makes you feel good,” Searle said. “I’ve told partners that about the only mistake you can make is to stop smiling or if you grimace or frown.”

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