Who says lawyers can’t get down? At the start of the fall semester a group of law faculty, staff, and students grooved to the sounds of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Shining Star” in support of Cancer Dancer, an ovarian cancer awareness organization founded by alumna Esther Windmueller, L’92.

“Who would have thought when you were in law school that 20 years later you would be boogying to Earth, Wind and Fire with the dean?” Windmueller asked as she dabbed sweat from her brow after dancing. “To see the deans and the professors and the staff out there for me… was just remarkable.”

Windmueller started Cancer Dancer at the beginning of 2011 after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October 2009. As she went through surgery and six months of chemotherapy she found that many people did not know anything about ovarian cancer. “Ask a group of people if they know the symptoms of ovarian cancer and you will get a lot of blank looks,” she said. “That it just unacceptable. People get squeamish when you talk about delicate lady parts, but we have to have this conversation. If we get the word out, we can bring the numbers down.”

Cancer Dancer’s mission is to celebrate the lives of those affected by ovarian cancer in an effort to educate, empower and stimulate research leading to a cure. The organization encourages people to submit videos of themselves dancing to its website.

The idea was born on the beach on New Year’s Eve, says Windmueller, who has no dance experience. She and her boyfriend, Kyle Nicholas, whose mother died from ovarian cancer two weeks before Windmueller was diagnosed with the same disease, wanted to spread the word about the symptoms and risks of the disease. “We thought dancing would be a life-affirming way to do that,” she said. “It is something fun, that anyone can do and something that can create a memory. It is not just about dancing—it is about increasing awareness.”

Professor Ann Hodges organized the law school dance for Cancer Dancer. Hodges, who is a cancer survivor herself, co-founded the Legal Information Network for Cancer in 1996. LINC’s mission is “to eases the burden of cancer for patients and their families by providing assistance and referral to legal, financial and community resources.”

Hodges, who has known Windmueller since she was a law student, said, “I know how important organizations like Cancer Dancer are and how challenging it is to start such an organization. I have really been inspired by what’s he has done in response to her own cancer. I love the notion of dancing when you have cancer—that you can find joy even in what can be your darkest moment.”

Windmueller’s connections to the School of Law go beyond her days as a student—she taught lawyering skills and advanced trial practice for 11 years. After graduating, she worked as Richmond public defender for almost five years before starting her own criminal defense practice in 1997. She has also worked as a substitute judge in the City of Richmond. In January, Windmueller stopped working to concentrate on her treatment and recovery.

“I was overwhelmed that the law school put this together without really telling me,” she said as former professors and colleagues greeted her after the dance. “I was so touched that my family at the law school would step up to the plate and do that for me. It was a wonderful surprise.”