The gift of living—and making a living through—my passion

Aaron Orlowski, Sono Osato Scholarship Program for Graduate Studies Recipient

Aaron in the Nutcracker, Photo by Greg Hughes
Aaron in the Nutcracker, Photo by Greg Hughes

Inspiration to dance struck me when I was young. At the age of five, my parents took my brothers and I to the movie White Nights. I was awe-inspired, enthralled with what Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines were doing on that bigger-than-life screen.  After the movie I told my Mom, “I want to do that. I want to dance”.  She enrolled me in ballet classes the next week.  That moment represented a spark in my life that ignited a desire, a catalyst for who I would become and who I am today. I will always be a dancer.  Ballet opened—and continues to open—numerous enriching relationships and experiences which enhance my life and skills in all areas.  From my very first class and throughout my training, my passion for dance and performing grew, nurtured and guided by great teachers.  This passion and discipline was especially instilled in me by my mentor Randy Wray.  He opened the door to the possibility that with hard work, passion and dedication led me to become a professional dancer and to the gift of living—and making a living through—my passion.

I started my career by dancing with Ballet Internationale for two years before accepting a Soloist position with Nevada Ballet Theatre.  NBT offered wonderful opportunities to progress and grow as an artist, but making ends meet often presented a challenge.  My wife and I undertook the difficult task of finding a company where we would not only both be hired but our artistic goals and needs could be met. We were fortunate to find that at Ballet West, and I danced there for seven years.  There are many skills and experiences from my career as a dancer that continue to serve me off-stage: teamwork, discipline, dedication, and attention to detail to name just a few.

Aaron Orlowski graduating from University of Utah
Aaron graduating from the University of Utah with a Bachelor’s of Social Work degree

Because the career of a dancer is all too brief, I realized early the importance of planning ahead.  I began my transition journey a few years before retiring from Ballet West in 2010.  During that time, I was honored to receive the Caroline H. Newhouse Scholarship from CTFD, which allowed me to take classes at Salt Lake Community College and complete prerequisites for the University of Utah’s Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Program. While a full-time BSW student, I have taught ballet courses as an adjunct instructor at SLCC, worked at Starbucks, volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and interned with the International Rescue Committee. I am currently interning with Health and Human Services and still occasionally guest perform.  My transition journey has been challenging, rewarding, and worthwhile.

I graduated with my BSW in May, started on my MSW one week after graduating, and am currently in the midst of my graduate studies.  I’m in an advanced standing program with an anticipated graduation of next May!  Also, I am still teaching ballet and really value and enjoy teaching and maintaining my connection to the arts!  I am honored and grateful that CTFD continues to value my goals and greatly appreciate the support I have received in this next stage of my transitional journey.


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