Report on Friend and Dancer
Jamie Miller - Sabah
by Glenn Schneider, Lynette
Jamie was diagnosed about five weeks ago (on March 11) with a "Grade 4
Astrocytoma". This form of tumor is difficult to remove surgically because
it has tendrils that reach out from the center like an octopus, as contrasted
to a tumor which is a centralized, contained mass. The tumor affects the portion
of the front left lobe of the brain that is "expressive". This means
she has difficulty communicating outwards, e.g., talking. The receptive part
of the brain, responsible for listening, feeling, etc., has not been affected.
It is good to report that she is still enjoying dancing and is in very good
Jamie has health insurance with Kaiser-Permanente and has also been seen by
a neurosurgeon at UCSF Hospital. She has decided to decline surgery because
there is only a fifty percent chance of survival and the prediction is it would
only give her twelve additional months to live, during which period she would
not be feeling well during the struggle to recover from the surgery. The prospects
with chemotherapy and radiation are apparently the same.
She will be performing this weekend, perhaps for the last time, as part of
the Sabah Ensemble. The dates are Saturday, April 24th, 1:00 - 2:00 p.m., at
Berkeley Moving Arts and 8th Street Studios (Western Sky Studio) as part of
National Dance Week (many dance studios are having "open studios" that
week) and Sunday, April 25th, at Martin Luther King
Park, 3:00 p.m. This is part of an all-day performance.
Having declined surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, Jamie has turned to Eastern
medicine, i.e., acupuncture, Tibetan herbs and psychic healing. Her surgeon
gives her three to five months. She is emotionally prepared.
posing with Bert Balladine in late March '99. (Jamie is taking
large doses of steriods, thus the "moon-face")
Dancer and Extraordinary Friend
On Saturday, August 14, 1999 at 3 A.M. Jamie Miller, known to the dance community
as Sabah, died in her sleep in a skilled nursing facility in Oakland,
I considered Jamie a spiritual mentor and one of my best friends since we met
in the early 1970's. She was, in fact, my first teacher of Belly Dance. During
the time I studied with her, and subsequently became a member of her first
dance troupe, I found a circle of open,
enthusiastic, brilliant, and compassionate friends that remain in my life to
this day. Jamie definitely
attracted to herself the same quality of positive energy that she extended
Of all the people I have ever known, Sabah had the most profound effect on
my life. Among the gifts that Jamie gave me, and to others fortunate enough
to study with her, was encouragement and a sense of empowerment.
Since I came from a background that didn't feed or encourage artistic pursuits,
it's fair to say that my association with Jamie was my artistic awakening.
I also learned from Jamie how to live with a sense of vulnerability.
She was completely present and totally open with what she was feeling as she
interacted with life in the moment. I believe this quality made her a great
performer and a teacher capable of making us, her students, feel safe and valued
for our unique qualities. Truly, Jamie could see and appreciate others. Her
criticisms were clear, direct, and without self-consciousness.
the last few months of her life, I found that I had difficulty going to visit
her. Her physical body had deteriorated to a great extent and had become
such a burden to her that I felt she was trapped inside of it. It made me
both angry and sad to see such a beautiful spirit forced to exist in this
manner. Inwardly I struggled to stay in communication with my friend on a
spirit level. The last time I visited Sabah, she was moving into another
coma, so the spirit level was all that was possible.
I will miss our talks, trips to restaurants, laugh fests, walks in the woods
and on the beach in the rain, as well as dancing and enjoying music together.
One of the most revealing statements about Sabah was made by her sister,
Consie, as she began to need to limit the number of people who could visit
her last days. Consie complained "It's so difficult because everyone believes
that he or she is Jamie's best friend! Jamie was a true life-long friend to
many and to me. Like the all the others who loved and will miss her, I know
we were "best friends".
Que te vayas bien.