“The daytime is always a juggle between helping them out, making lunch, and keeping them motivated,” Stasko told HuffPost Canada.
So when her children’s screens are put away, Stasko has turned to a daily routine that has turned her into a TikTok star: Dancing on a frozen lake, in the middle of Canadian winter.
The 43-year-old workshop facilitator, freelancer, and self-titled “Imagitator” shakes out her frustrations on Lake Nipissing, a daily routine she’s had since her family moved four hours north of their Toronto home last summer.
“I started dancing because it’s so beautiful outside and there’s nobody around,” she said.
Most afternoons, Stasko is alone while grooving to her favourite songs; an act that gave her strength, as she managed a cancer diagnosis in her twenties before she had kids and the isolation she felt then. She also draws upon the “open floor” flow she learned from a body-positive dance instructor in Toronto.
But last week, a local ice fisherman caught sight of Stasko from afar and decided to film her jam session on his phone.
“Anyone lose a drunk wife?” he joked in a caption, alongside the video of her dance, along with some dubious commentary about COVID-19 vaccine side-effects, in a private Facebook group for ice fishers.
Eventually, word got back to Stasko that she was “famous” among local fishers, which she took in stride. She called the comments about her “hilarious and a bit embarrassing” in a Facebook post, and went on to make a TikTok, reflecting on the situation.
“Even though some people think I look crazy, it’s actually helping me to feel sane,” she said in the video, which has over 85,000 views.
Stasko also empathized with the joke-makers: “But everyone needs a laugh these days, so I don’t mind!”
Stasko said some fishers gave her the thumbs-up and wrote “dance like no one’s watching!” on the original post.
The Ontario mom reached out to the group late last week to let them know who she was.
“I said something like, ’It’s not the vaccine ― which I’d love to get as soon as I can ― you can blame pandemic stress and virtual schooling,’” she explained to them. “That’s one of the only things that seems to help me, I get out and I dance outside.
I decided a little while back to just not to give a hoot about what people say. And I might look kooky, but I’m happy. I wish you guys happiness, too. And I hope you have good luck with your catches.’”
“I decided a little while back to just not to give a hoot about what people say. And I might look kooky, but I’m happy.”
Since then, the local fishers have been supportive of Stasko. “The guy who originally posted it got back in touch with me and said, “You know, you actually made my day when I saw that,” she noted. And one fisher offered her family free ice fishing rods to try out. “They’ve invited me in a bit and I appreciate it,” said Stasko.
Stasko, whose activism has been covered by writer Naomi Klein, feels that as an immunocompromised person with a strict social bubble right now, sharing her dances can be a form of both personal and collective healing.
“At a time when everyone’s mental health is under strain, taking care of ourselves and each other in healing ways might be my most impactful kind of activism I have access to right now — especially in the middle of everything else like virtual school and making life work in a pandemic.”
How TikTok is her family’s ‘sketchbook’
Stasko and her family use the social media platform TikTok like their “sketchbook,” where they can share their everyday creativity.
“Oh, let’s look at all the mushrooms growing in the woods. And another one, it’ll be, ’Let’s film making a Black Lives Matter poster,” she said.
Her kids, Forest Hart, 10, and River Sage, six, also love to break down outside.
They try to start their mornings together, slowly waking up in front of the fireplace.
“It’s very different than how our life used to be,” Stasko said. “We used to have to eat, get dressed, pack lunches, then leave to go to school.”
While schedules are still busy ― “I have a million alarms, to try to keep everything going smoothly, it’s a lot!” ― Stasko finds her solo dances to be essential to her parenting-stress-relief tool kit, when she needs a little break from the kids.
“I go out, come back in a better mood, then take them outside for a while,” she said. They round off their days with watching family-friendly TikToks that Stasko curates.
“TikTok amazes me, it connected me to all these people who are on the same page about dancing without shame,” she said, laughing. “My favourite comments are from people saying, ‘I’m going to do that, too.’”
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