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Former 全oul Train' dancer reflects on time with Cornelius

Friday - 2/24/2012, 6:00am  ET

Sheila Zeigler-Arnold (Frederick News Post)
Sheila Zeigler-Arnold of Frederick was a dancer on "Soul Train" from about 1976 to 1978. (Frederick News-Post/Sam Yu_

Sheila Zeigler-Arnold first saw "Soul Train" when she was in seventh grade, and she immediately knew that was her calling.

After she graduated from Damascus High School a few years later, she drove to California and realized her dream. Zeigler-Arnold was a dancer on the TV series from about 1976 to 1978 and met all kinds of singing legends.

So when legendary "Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius committed suicide earlier this month, Zeigler-Arnold said it brought back memories of her days on the show.

"It really devastated me," Zeigler-Arnold said from her Frederick home this week. "Don Cornelius was my foundation for everything I did in the arts."

Dancing on "Soul Train" was tough, but well worth it, Zeigler-Arnold said.

"You didn't get paid to go on there," Zeigler-Arnold said. "The beauty of it is you were able to get a lot of connections. You would go to events."

The show taped four episodes at a time to air weekly over the course of the month.

"We'd be in there early in the mornings and sometimes not get out until midnight," she said.

Zeigler-Arnold said she met Cornelius when he was in Washington. He told Zeigler-Arnold she would get a chance to dance if she ever made it to Hollywood, Zeigler-Arnold said. A year later, she was there and he kept his word.

"It was an open door for me," she said. "I was excited and also scared at the same time."

Known then by her nickname "Shelika," Zeigler-Arnold said she was always shy.

Her love of dancing, however, was enough to make her shine.

"Dancing allows me to express myself," she said. "It's me. I am music. It's in my heart, and my spirit, and my soul."

Getting on the show was all in honor of her mother, who died when Zeigler-Arnold was young.

"I wanted to make sure what she instilled in me came true," Zeigler-Arnold said. "That was my destiny."

After her stint on "Soul Train," Zeigler-Arnold said she stayed in California until recently. She did vocal sessions with music artists and modeled.

Back home in Frederick County since 2008, Zeigler-Arnold and her husband, Wayne, are now gospel artists. They do a lot of church work.

Arnold said she hopes to reconnect with some of the others who appeared on the show soon and possibly hold a charity benefit in honor of Cornelius.

As she recalled her experiences this week, Zeigler-Arnold had a sudden urge to show off some of her dancing skills.

Dancing to Gladys Knight and the Pips, Zeigler-Arnold showed that she's still got it.

"I might be 54, but I'm still hip," she said with a smile. "I still got some moves."