Month: August 2013

Furthering My Education

David Strobbe, Sono Osato Scholarship Program for Graduate Studies Recipient

Tom Hiddleston once said that “Artists instinctively want to reflect humanity, their own and each other’s, in all its intermittent virtue and vitality, frailty and fallibility.”  This instinct to express ideas through dance with integrity has been a part of my journey as a dancer and now as an administrator.  My goal is to become a leader of an arts organization, encouraging artists to express their ideas, educate the public, and breakdown cultural barriers.

Michael Smuin's Fly Me To The Moon with music by Frank SinatraMy journey as a dancer started simply enough, dancing around the living room to music – the instinct to move that dancers have.  After four years of training, family pressure forced me to quit dancing to pursue undergraduate studies.  The desire to dance, however, was so intense that I returned to dance class after one year of college and became a professional dancer with the Hong Kong Ballet Company the following year.  In addition, I danced with Cleveland Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, and Smuin Ballet performing leading roles all over the world.

After 16 years of dancing professionally, I transitioned into the artistic administration of Smuin Ballet as Ballet Master.  When I met with Founder and Director Michael Smuin to discuss my retirement, he said, “No, you are more than just a dancer here.”  He got up form his chair, hugged me, and let me walk out of the room still a part of his family – Smuin Ballet.

That was the last time I saw him.  He died in the studio two weeks later.  Becoming the Ballet Master was the hardest event in my career, but I knew that Michael was behind me all the way.  Supporting my fellow company members while still maintaining Michael’s vision was tough, but using my natural leadership skills, we were able to succeed with extraordinary reviews in New York only four months later.  It was at this point that I knew I had found my calling; to lead artists in a way that will bring out their very best and nurture them to grow as artists.

I currently work in the Rehearsal Department at the Metropolitan Opera.  Branching out into different forms of performance art has enabled me to expand my horizons while at the same time still helping to support artists to be the best they can be on of the world’s biggest stages.

At this point in my career, my desire is to further my education and obtain a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from Baruch College.  This will provide me the additional skills needed to reach my ultimate goal:  leading an international arts organization.  I wish to help build an organization with outreach that will go beyond the border of our country; preserving the integrity of the organization’s mission while not compromising the artistic ideas and forms of expression.

My journey from dancer to administrator to leader is one of excitement, hope, instinct, and determination.  I am looking forward to the next step in my career, which will be aided by the skills that I hope to learn in Baruch’s Graduate Program with the support from the Sono Osato Scholarship Program for Graduate Studies.

A CTFD Experience and Giving Back

Mikala Freitas, Caroline H. Newhouse Grant Recipient

Mikala Freitas

Without the support from  Career Transition For Dancers, I would have never found the balance between work and dance. The grant I received from CTFD allowed me to complete my Pilates certification while I was performing without any additional financial stress.

My dance career has literally taken me all over the world, performing on 6 of the 7 continents (when Antarctica needs dancers, I’m ready to go.)  Beginning in the early 1980’s, I performed on cruise ships, appeared in films, television, pre-Broadway workshops, industrials, benefits, opera, and musical theater, plus choreographing productions of Oklahoma, Hello Dolly! and Footloose.

The most important thing I learned from CTFD was that I did not have to give up dancing all at once to start a new career.  The grant I received assisted me to continue dancing while supplementing my income with a career in Wellness i.e. Pilates, Yoga, Massage and Biofeedback. Today, my supplemental income is my full-time career even though I still continue to dance and choreograph on occasion.  It also has allowed me to support other dancers by giving annual scholarships back to CTFD.

I strongly encourage other grant recipients to give back to CTFD to foster the growth and support of future dancers in transition.  It is never easy to imagine a life after dance and I would argue that CTFD showed me that I never really have to put dance behind me, by continuing to give scholarships, and watching others transition, I am still an integral part of the dance community.

Dance, Neuroscience, and Healing

Zina Mercil, Sono Osato Scholarship Program for Graduate Studies Recipient

My mom likes to tell the story of Zina Mercilhow I wanted to dance before I could even walk, hoisting myself up on the bars of my crib to sway to the music.  I took my first ballet class when I was 5 and from then on worked diligently to master the technique. Ultimately, when I graduated with my BA with Distinction in Neuroscience cum laude from Colorado College in 2003, I felt like I had two distinctly different paths; I chose dance.

I went on to dance professionally, doing several regional theater contracts like Cabaret, Chicago, CATS, and The Producers.  I also spent two years as assistant line captain and principle understudy in Don Arden’s Jubilee!  I felt so blessed to be dancing and making a living!

Four years ago, I moved back to Colorado because I felt a significant shift had begun.  I was not ready to let go of dancing, nor did I know what I wanted to step into.  This is when I first visited Naropa University.

In January of 2011 I began feeling ill.  After months of extensive labs, testing, and surgery, I was diagnosed with a very rare and chronic liver disease called Autoimmune Hepatitis and Cirrhosis.  I spent much of that year in bed, too exhausted to walk.

After having had no physical activity for so long, I started taking a yoga class for cancer survivors. I live in gratitude to dancing and this illness for being my greatest teachers. I want to share this knowledge of being present with our bodies, and the innate wisdom and intelligence that lie within when we listen.

All the experiences in my life are being integrated at Naropa University, where I am exploring the interface of dance and holistic healing.  I am finishing my first year of a  three-year MA program in Somatic Counseling Psychology with a dual emphasis in Dance and Movement Therapy, and Body Psychotherapy.  My plan is to complete my MA and continue onto PhD work in Clinical Health Psychology.

I feel blessed to be at Naropa, training to be a therapist, and combining my love of dance, neuroscience, and healing.  I am honored to receive the Sono Osato Scholarship so that I can continue to take my passion and training in dance and transition into a new career to serve others.