I found this story, Cat Dancers, because of my brother Adam who lives and works with exotic cats. Adam’s mentor is Ron Holiday, the survivor and main protagonist. Shortly after Ron lost his wife, Joy, their lover Chuck, and Jupiter, their white Bengal tiger – all within a span of five weeks – Ron moved north from his family’s Cat Dancers Ranch in southern Florida to an animal sanctuary also in Florida called Amazing Exotics. The owners of this sanctuary offered Ron a place to heal, house and feed his remaining six exotic cats in exchange for teaching. My brother was in school at Amazing Exotics and learned “animal husbandry” from Ron.
Shortly after my brother’s arrival at Amazing Exotics my mother called and said, “you should really talk to Adam’s new teacher, I think his story would make a great documentary.” I said, “Mom, I love you, but please don’t tell me what to do.” She was right it was a great story.
Cat Dancers, at its core, is a story about confronting and overcoming fear. That felt personal to me, and still does to this day. In addition, there was something innately compelling about people choosing to be around 600 lbs. wild, yet presumably domesticated, animals that intrigued and disturbed me. Who was I to judge? Who was I to question what my brother was doing with his life? The truth is that at any moment my brother, Ron or anyone could die because of the close proximity in which they live and work with exotic cats and other animals. Why do people choose to do this with their life? The more I thought about it, the more questions I had.
Cat Dancers tells the story of Ron Holiday and the tragic deaths of his wife Joy and their lover Chuck. The life of Ron Holiday and his family of Joy, Chuck, and their exotic cats, not only represents an alternative expression of such universal themes as that of sex and death, family and identity, and success and fame. It also confronts the pressing moral, ethical and highly politicized issue of whether people should indeed be allowed to live with and/or perform acts with exotic animals born into captivity. Furthermore, Cat Dancers is a love story that forces the audience to confront its own personal issues concerning judgment, difference and sexuality as well as its preconceived notions about animals born into captivity.
Finally, Cat Dancers asks the question, what does it mean to lose someone you love? I think about my own underlying fear now that my brother lives with and is raising two of his own exotic tigers. In Ron’s case, he lost his wife, and two “family members” (Chuck and Jupiter) – all within the span of five short weeks. Now Ron is left to pick up the pieces and learn how to be at peace as the survivor of these tragedies. We meet Ron shortly after the deaths of Chuck and Joy and we continue to follow him as he tries to turn his life around and ultimately embrace what it means to live a full and fearless life.