By Julie A. Blume, CTFD Dancer-Client and Caroline H. Newhouse Grant Recipient
I heard about Career Transitions for Dancers nine years ago while I was dancing with David Parsons and his lively troupe. I was immediately impressed by the concept of CTFD—a nonprofit dedicated solely to providing support and resources to dancers, a population who often feel a lack of those two fundamental needs. Though I had an idea about the richness of the services offered by CTFD, I only recently learned of their necessity. A few years ago, I began living the idea of career transitioning. I was working at the Metropolitan Opera and enjoying my daily dance classes and evening performances, but in every non-performance moment I was seeking: what’s next? Though I would not admit it at the time, I was thoroughly lost. I received immeasurable support from Lauren Gordon in CTFD’s New York office and explored options beyond (and way beyond) the scope of my dance training.
I left New York for Boston in 2012 aiming to work toward a graduate degree in Public Policy. I knew I wanted to make a difference, and policy seemed the correct route to do so on the grandest possible scale. But I soon discovered that lobbying was draining to me and did not make best use of my talents – this even when doing so in support of causes I care deeply about, like securing funding for the arts or finding healthcare for those in need. After one semester in the policy program, I decided to cut my losses and I returned to my dancing and seeking. I had always loved yoga and during this time the practice brought me much needed solace. I amped up my practice and eventually transitioned from yoga student to yoga teacher. I started as a substitute at various Boston studios and soon acquired my own classes and even private clients. Thanks to this work, I became fascinated with various energetic healing modalities and discovered that I long to heal people, not populations. Thus, my studies of yoga and my desire to help others in their process of healing and self-understanding shuttled me toward a career in acupuncture and herbal medicine.
Currently, I am one year into a four-year Masters degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. During my first year of classes, it became apparent just how much my dance training serves me in this discipline. I have a powerful memory, strong spatial awareness, and a heightened sense of my physical body. Furthermore, dance training has been teaching me how to cultivate Qi all of my life. I realize now that all those years I thought I was training specifically for a career as a performer, I was also priming myself to excel in a multitude of avenues.
My route from dance to acupuncture was circuitous and at times trying. For so long I had been able to describe myself in four concise words: “I am a dancer.” At this people would nod in seeming understanding and admiration, and I felt both settled and proud of my projection. We live in a culture that likes clear titles and articulated goals. Transitioning from “I am a dancer” to “I was a dancer and don’t yet know what I presently am” left me emotionally vulnerable and aimless for the first time in my life. It took some time before I found a sense of pride in declaring ‘I am’ again. By embracing yoga, I followed the path that brought me the most peace. Thankfully, this proved an effective route, leading me to acupuncture—a career that excites me, challenges me, and leaves me once again feeling strongly with purpose.
To transition on from a career as a dancer is – much like they say of aging – not for the fainthearted. For me, the most difficult thing was figuring out how to find comfort in the chaos. I struggled against the confusion I felt, and pushed myself toward Public Policy because, more than anything, I longed for a sense of direction. If I were to do it over again, I would grant myself permission to be lost. I would allow myself the space and time to simply float and to not care what others think of my indirection. If any of you reading this page feel confused about where to go or what to do next, my best advice is to take a moment to fully appreciate where you are and all you have achieved through the majesty of your career thus far. From there, follow your bliss: whatever feels right and authentic in the present moment. Whether you transition with big strides or small shuffles, honor your journey with unswerving patience. Grant yourself permission to dream (and dream big), and your path will undoubtedly appear.