Woman Who Inspires: Oppression Meets Triumph

By Chad Ruiz

Set Apart Dance Company founder Sandie Livaudais, motivated by longtime abuse, serves, inspires and empowers others.

Some describe it as drowning.  Others say it’s a crushing sensation.  Sandie Livaudais describes it as feeling lost.  For years, the longtime dance instructor suffered physical, verbal and emotional abuse.

Fifteen years of mistreatment culminated with the day Livaudais fought back.

“One day, I decided enough was enough so I hit back.  He kicked all of us out that day, including our three kids so I stayed with my parents and took out a restraining order against him,” she said. “Hopeless, failure, not good enough,” are just some of the words Livaudais used to describe how she felt following the incident.

Soon after, Livaudais discovered the extent of her abuse. She sought medical treatment and required months of physical therapy for neck and back injuries.  “I retreated into a shell and got professional help.”

Reflecting back, she says dancing was her safety net.  “It was the only thing I was allowed to do. That, and church.”  She dumped her emotions into her work—worry, disdain, anger and sorrow.  “I grew up in church and in my relationship with God, I had a vision for dance and always desired to be set apart.”  She crafted her dances with the cords of her contempt and slowly grew her Set Apart Dance Company (SADC).

Then, Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home and studio on the South Shore.  “I remember leaving with only three sets of clothes.  No more home, no more community and now no studio,” Livaudais said.  “In my heart, I was reminded I had to deliver a message to people through dance.  The passion never left my heart.”

Today, free from her oppressor, Livaudais runs her studio in Mandeville and now empowers her young dancers with strength and individuality.  “We teach dancers the technique and choreography with the vision to prepare them for any future endeavors.”  She also inspires them to serve the community through her charitable donations. 

“I have a heart for the orphans, hungry families, wounded soldiers, against human trafficking, single parents, the homeless, domestic abuse and many other nonprofit organizations and families.  At every production, SADC presents a story to an audience and will in return give back any funds that were made as profit to different nonprofits,” Livaudais said.  Proceeds from her September 15 show at the Greater Covington Center will benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Livaudais continues her recovery by staying busy and helping others. In addition to teaching dance, she’s a fitness trainer, model and insurance analyst. To learn more about SADC and their upcoming functions, visit www.setapartdance.com or find them on Facebook.

“I have a desire to reach people of all ages to bring them joy, peace and hope into their families,” Livaudais said.

If you or someone you know suffers from abuse of any kind, contact the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence at 888-411-1333.

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