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Let's Dance

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Click here for Ina’s profile.

Ina Vandebroek was our last interview at the end of a long day in the studio (we usually do three fairly intensive two-hour interviews per shooting day). Even though we were pretty tired, we knew Ina would do fine. We were confident she’d tell us the stories she’d already told us when we spoke on the phone during pre-interviews—she’d tell the stories well and she’d be an excellent addition to our series.

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What we didn’t know was whether or not she’d salsa dance.

When we first asked Ina about sharing her “secret” by dancing on camera, it seemed to make her a little uncomfortable. She said something like “let’s see how the interview goes….” It didn’t sound particularly promising. Even though we really wanted that footage of Ina dancing, it felt like it wasn’t likely to happen.

Let's Dance-ina_and_eddie_for_web.jpg
Ina Vandebroek with her salsa teacher Eddie.

Then at the end of our long day, at the end of our long interview with Ina, after she’d told us about her adventures in Bolivia, Belgium, and the Bronx, Ina decided to show us some of her dance moves. And it seemed like a gift. It had nothing to do with whether Ina was a good or bad salsa dancer (although for the record, she was good—you can watch the videos and see for yourself). And in the moment, it didn’t even matter that we were finally getting the footage we wanted so much. What was exciting about it was that Ina was sharing something that she hadn’t initially wanted to share with us. She was letting us in to see more of her true self (the kind of thing Rich Robinson talks about capturing with his photography). That was the cool part—and it’s one of the best parts of the work we do—sometimes our subjects become themselves—fully—right before our eyes. And even though we work in a field that’s all about preparation and planning (that’s why we do multiple phone pre-interviews with all of our subjects), someone like Ina can totally surprise us… even at the end of a long day.

So enjoy Ina’s videos, follow her links, and then feel free to ask her a question or two—about ethnobotany or salsa dancing—in the post below this one.

Original funding for "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers" was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.