In a moment of pure spontaneity La Detra White, right, breaks into dance outside a restaurant. Contributed
Photo: Contributed/Contributed
Photo: Contributed/Contributed

This Life: Why Decatur mom decided to bust some moves in public

It being the holiday season when a lot of darkness can creep into our lives or the lives of those we know, La Detra White was in search of a light moment last week, something that might remind her and others that bad moments have a way of turning around for good.

She logged onto her computer and began searching through her blog, LiveYourAwesomeLife.Com, the place where she often offers up words of inspiration, and there it was: photos of her busting a move just outside a Starbucks restaurant with, well, a complete stranger.

White, a 53-year-old government marketing consultant from Decatur, posted the shots on LinkedIn: “I danced just because.”

I saw it but so did a lot of other people, many of whom left comments.

“That’s awesome,” one man wrote.

“One of the best shares,” offered another. “Special and real. If only we all could ‘just let go’ because. I remain in training.”

I was curious what could’ve ignited such a glorious moment and so, early this week, I met White less than a block away from the place where it happened nearly four years ago.

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While their daughters went to see a movie that night, she and a friend enjoyed dinner at a nearby Seasons 52 and talked.

Actually, her friend did the talking. White listened, happy she hadn’t cancel even though it was a bad time.

“Something in my spirit said be present,” she remembered.

And so that’s what she tried to do. Be present as her friend launched deep into a monologue about her marriage. Let’s just say things were bad.

As her friend shared her truth, the stuff White had been stuffing down started to bubble up, but it didn’t seem like the time to turn the table.

It was particularly hard, though, not to remember the death of her mother. After all, it was Feb. 7, the day she would’ve turned 69. She had been gone 15 years, but White still missed her terribly.

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“Listening to her pain reminded me of the pain I’d pushed away,” she said. “I tried to stay present.”

But it was still hard to forget that just hours earlier, the largest contract she’d ever held had been canceled. As a small-business owner, that was beyond scary because there wasn’t a lot of work in her pipeline.

Still she resisted the temptation to suggest what her friend should do and not do.

She had been present. She had listened. She felt good about that.

“I told her everything would be OK,” she remembered, “that I was here for her.”

After nearly two hours, they rose from the dinner table, hugged and walked out into the dark night.

They’d made it to a nearby Starbucks when their daughters approached with “Just Fine,” a Mary J. Blige hit, blaring from one of their cellphones, and that’s when it happened.

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White got that look on her face and BAM! She cut loose.

No time for moping around, are you kidding

And no time for negative vibes, cause I’m winning

It’s been a long week, I put in my hardest

Gonna live my life, feels so good to get it right

When a young man approached and joined her, her friend pulled out her phone and started snapping.

Click. Click. Click. Thirty seconds, 60 tops and it was all over.

Everything by then, though, was just fine. Her friend was cracking up. Her daughter Hannah, then 14, was pretty embarrassed, but White had managed to reset her emotions and leave her friend with a smile in her heart.

“I hadn’t even had any liquid encouragement,” she said, remembering the moment. “It was just me needing to free myself for a few moments.”

Blige provided the soundtrack.

La Detra White (right) takes a break from the troubles of the world and dances. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It made sense. That song was one of White’s favorites. It’s about being positive, about being your true self, about living your life to its fullest, sentiments the mother of two has long embodied.

What about her dancing companion? She said he hesitated for a moment, but then a friend told him to bust a move and so he did.

“He probably thought this old lady really needs this or she’s just crazy or both,” she said.

As she finished her tale, tears bubbled up in her eyes.

White was remembering a telephone call she’d had the day before from a woman who needed her help.

White listened. When she hung up the phone, she began efforts to help her find a place to stay and buy Christmas toys for her kids.

“It’s not even my pain but the pain that is projected onto me,” she said, explaining the tears.

And the thing that makes her dance?

“Forgetting all else and doing what is needed of me in the moment,” she said.

What a wonderful world this would be if all our spirits could dance like that.

Find Gracie on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at

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