Category: Career Transition

Recover and Continue

by Evelyn Rice Wells, CTFD dancer-client and Caroline H. Newhouse award recipient

Evelyn Rice WellsDuring the time when I was training in dance, shows such as So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew had not yet hit the screens. Dancers were not considered mainstream performing artists, unless they starred in a movie. The choreographers were just another name in the credits, and the fusion of Lyrical and Hip Hop was the anomaly. Throughout high school and in college, I danced because it was what I was good at and what I knew best. I choreographed because of how I felt naturally, when I heard the music. I wrote it all down because I wanted some day to share this knowledge in some form, through books, videos and pictures. All the while, I kept training, performing, choreographing, teaching, and documenting, but who knew it would be shaping me to be the woman I am today. I was building my portfolio, one project at a time, getting the exposure, experience, and knowledge I needed for my future endeavors. I was just a young lady who just liked moving to music. Now, I am a more mature woman who is finally learning the moves necessary to create a masterpiece.

I applied for and received the Caroline H. Newhouse Scholarship in order to move forward professionally by pursuing a Masters in Science degree for Entertainment Business. My overall career goal is to become a Creative/Artistic Director and Producer for a major production house. I strongly believe that this degree will further enhance my knowledge and experience in the industry of media and entertainment.

The field of entertainment is a competitive one, but I am up for the challenge. I know the work ethic it takes and the professionalism that is demanded, as I am living it every day. Having a Masters degree in Entertainment Business will put me in a better position to accredit the hard-working and duly trained dancers, which sometimes get overlooked because of the fame and trends of today’s mainstream television. I am in the process of finding my niche within the world of dance and film, and I am eager to be one of the many that can re-establish the proper standards for performing artists.

I’ve always loved dance in film, and I’ve always wanted to be part of the creation of classics, such as The Wiz, West Side Story, Singing in the Rain, and Mary Poppins, to name a few. The process has always fascinated me, and I especially enjoyed learning about the behind-the-scenes work. Earlier in my dance career, I started with the Chicago Honey Bears and the UIC Dancing Flames, and I would also teach at a local studio, YMCA, or school nearby. Along the way, I was fortunate to have met the right people, and I was a quick-learner, but more importantly I was focused. From there, I went on to venture both on-scene and behind-the-scenes of some of great performers, including Jennifer Holiday, Janet Jackson, and Oprah. I was getting opportunities that I could only dream about, performing at venues nationwide, getting invitations to private celebrity auditions, casting in a music video, featuring in magazines, and even going on tour.

On top of that, I never took for granted the responsibility we have as professionals in the field. Learning how to quickly adapt to different situations helped strengthen my skill set, which could only be taught through experience. Always smile. Presentation is everything. Make eye contact. Be ready and able to step up and fill-in. It was a fast- growing industry, even before social networking, and I had to be a performer, choreographer, instructor, and music editor for the total package. If only someone could have told me and showed me the right pathway when I was younger, then I could have arrived here sooner. Even so, I have no regrets. I’ve had many successes, and I’ve had many failures. The mistakes are what made me stronger. I’ve learned that it’s not about the failure, but it’s what you do after that ultimate moment. It’s about the recovery, and even when I educate at both pre-professional and professional levels, I am reminding them of this: It’s not about the mistake you make on that stage, but instead it is about what you commit to doing right after that moment. Recover and continue to tell your story.  With that, I strongly believe it is my duty to keep growing and learning in different platforms, and practicing what I preach, which is what Full Sail University is providing for me. One of my goals, alongside being a Creative Director/Producer is to have a well-established company that can educate and train artists, in etiquette and industry standards (both in front of the camera and behind the camera), and then have this company feed into the major production house projects.Evelyn Rice Wells

In 2002, I remember when I interned for WGN-TV, during the initial interview, Charlie Schumacher, news director, asked me what I could bring to the table that was different [while I attended UIC, I was developing my writing skills in media and entertainment, and seemingly I was also shaping my communication skills and business plans]. I looked at him, and at the same moment I was figuring out what script to use for my answer. I knew that one day somehow, dance, media, editing, and entertainment could be fused together and would create something amazing. 
He believed in my response, and wanted to see what I could do. Honestly, although I’ve accomplished quite a bit, I know that I still have so much more to attain, and I am determined to do so. I am looking forward to graduating with an MS degree at the end of the term next year.

I feel blessed to have had all my experiences that I have had to this day. I am appreciative and grateful for the many people I know and have worked with, as well as shared and learned from them. My goal is to share the knowledge and help both professionals and aspiring professionals learn and get hands-on experience, and opportunity to strengthen and use their crafts. From music-editing, working behind-the-scenes, choreographing, and entertaining on-stage, I consider myself a true performing artist. In this industry, people really have to wear several hats and be experienced in multimedia as well.

We are bombarded everyday with an overabundance of reality shows, contests and media frenzies, and many doors of opportunities are actually being opened for our performing artists. I want to smooth out the pathway and act as a vessel, showing the young aspiring artists how to go through these doors with the proper tools, professionally.


Alleviating Fear

By Rebecca V. Lockwood, CTFD Dancer-Client, Caroline H. Newhouse Grant Recipient

I donned my first pair of balletRebecca Lockwood ballet slippers at the age of four.  Ballet was the focus of my life until I suffered an ankle injury at 18. The dance world (at least as I knew it) was over, so I quit dancing completely and attended the University of Michigan.  Upon college graduation, however, I decided that I still wanted to perform.  While I could no longer do ballet, I finally realized that I could still perform other types of dance.  Remembering my recent trip to Las Vegas and how captivated I was by the beauty and glamour of the production shows, I decided to audition in Las Vegas.  I was lucky enough to get offered a job in the world-renown revue show, Jubilee!.

After seven years of performing in Jubilee!, I was ready to return to academia and start a family.  Due to my undergraduate background in biological sciences, I was hired as a part-time instructor for the School of Life Sciences to Rebecca Lockwood showgirlteach the Human Anatomy & Physiology laboratories.  Content with my job while raising two small boys, I actually never even entertained thoughts of returning to school to begin a new career.  And then my father lost his leg.

My father’s amputation began a long series of hospitalizations, and I consistently saw him afraid, especially during the more severe visits.  I became increasingly frustrated that there was nothing I could do to lessen his anxiety.  And then I made an interesting observation: both of my parents appeared more relaxed and less fearful after visits with one of the physician assistants, rather than with the cardiologist or internist himself.  On the occasions when I visited the hospital, I witnessed the special, personal bond my parents had developed with both the cardiologist’s and the internist’s physician assistants—a bond that did not develop with either of the physicians.  I saw how both PA’s were able to alleviate my parents’ fear, not only through their medical knowledge, but also with their relaxed and comforting bedside manner.

Rebecca Lockwood teaching

As the generation of baby boomers continues to age, the need for quality care in many areas of medicine will increase.  Older patients, frightened by unfamiliar surroundings (and often nervous or intimidated by doctors) deserve more than just medical expertise.  I am currently attending school to become a physician assistant so that I can provide exceptional care, comfort and knowledge to these patients.

I am grateful to have received the CTFD Newhouse grant, as it will help alleviate some of the monetary stress that accompanies attending school full time while raising a family.

Five-Letter Word

By Erica Minnich, CTFD Dancer-Client, Caroline H. Newhouse Scholarship Recipient

erica minnich

Dance.  A five-letter word that seems so small but means so much to the person whose life it consumes.  I cannot remember a day in my life that did not involve dance.  From the moment it decided to show that ordinary little girls can become princesses with ethereal movements accompanied by enchanting soundtracks to my present day life; it is all I have known, built my life around, focused my energy toward, and obsessed my thoughts on.  As I journeyed down the long road of a dancer’s career: the bumps, corners, and ever-changing paths, I realized I needed to find a peaceful outlet outside of that all-encompassing five-letter word.  About seven years ago, I found yoga.  It became my happy place.  With the help of the CTFD Newhouse grant, I am on my way to becoming a certified yoga instructor.  My end goal is to become a power yoga instructor, eventually owning my own yoga and dance studio.

erica minnich2I know as a dancer that our careers are limited by our age. The contract I currently hold is one playing a sixteen-year-old dancer.  As I turn thirty-one this April, I acknowledge that I need to find a more stable form of income as my husband and I try to start a family of our own, and I know that I cannot look young forever, no matter how hard we all try.  I have loved my dance career with all my heart, but the time has come for me to move forward.  My first thoughts of having to give up something that I was so passionate about were heart wrenching, despite the aches and pains of an aging dancer’s body.  As the past two years progressed, I began to practice yoga more intensely and I began teaching dance classes again at a local studio.  The passion I found upon the island of my pink yoga mat inspired me to not only become a more aware individual, but it also gave me the courage to begin to explore what else my life and future career choices had to offer.  By using the CTFD grant to get my yoga certification, I hope to give others through my teaching the peace, happiness, and inspiration I found on my yoga mat.  Even as I teach dance, I would like to incorporate the correct alignment that I will learn through the yoga certification as well as the meditation techniques to strengthen those young dancers.  This business is a tough business that takes resilience and stamina, physically and mentally.  I hope to use yoga to teach fellow dancers, as well as non-dancers, how to handle those demands with compassion, awareness, and the inner strength found by practicing regularly.  Like dance, it is a discipline.  It is what I fell in love with and it has helped not just to heal my body, but also my soul from this tough business.

erica minnich3Yoga helped me become alive again.. It helped me get over a severe case of plantar fasciitis; a case so bad I almost had to quit dancing.  It helped me stay positive through stressful situations of contract negotiations and auditions.  It helped me take a moment, stop, breath, and realize what is important despite not knowing if you were to have a job after being injured. I plan on furthering my education by adding on the power yoga certification as well as continuing my education toward the 500-hour yoga alliance course.  Knowing that my end goal is to own my own studio, I would like to get as much education as possible.  After getting my certification, I will be able to teach yoga and continue making my dream come true while helping provide an income.  And with that I can only end with two words.  Humble.  Grateful.

The Balancing Act

By Phillip Spaeth, CTFD dancer-client and Newhouse grant recipient

Ever since Phillip SpaethI was a little kid, I wanted to perform. At holiday functions, I would rally my cousins in the basement and throw together fully realized theatrical productions for the entire family. Each night, I’d stare up at the glow-in-the-dark stars stuck on my ceiling and dream of my future-life in Manhattan; as a Broadway star, the next Patrick Swayze, or Bob Fosse.

Straight from school, I ran to dance class or rehearsals at the local theater where I met other kids who accepted me and shared my passion. Performing was all I thought about and all I wanted to do. At fourteen, I landed my first big, professional opportunity to perform. I waved goodbye to my family and went on tour for a year. I did eight shows per week, bussed from city to city, and was tutored during the day. I got to follow my dreams, earn a living, and receive an education.

As I neared high school graduation, I was torn between pursuing my career or pursuing my education. I had always claimed to be the guy who didn’t believe in “back-up” plans; but since I was a good student, something told me to apply to college. Sure enough, I was accepted into an honors program at the first school to which I applied, and I started to get excited.

One week after high school graduation, I packed a bag and moved to Manhattan for the summer to hit some auditions. A month and a half later, I was cast in my first Broadway show, and I decided to put school on hold. The college allowed me to defer enrollment for a year and encouraged me to seize the opportunity. However, that year flew by, as I continued chasing my dreams and riding the wave. A decade later, I’m still riding the same wave and feel lucky to have been consistently working. However, I have to admit that each time I was sidelined by an injury, I would think back to that “back-up” plan I thought I’d never need.

So, last year I decided it was time to retrace my steps a bit and finally go to college. I’ve just completed my second semester at Hunter College, while continuing to perform on Broadway in Matilda; maintaining a schedule much like the one I had as a teenager.

I am now an adult, with a mortgage and a big life, and while I still love performing, I have new dreams and so many things I want to learn and explore. My plan is to pursue an education in mental health that will allow me to be of service to artists and creative people. I am very interested in the ways in which Buddhism and mindfulness can be integrated into contemporary perspectives of therapy.

This scholarship from Career Transition For Dancers is of great help to me as balancing life, a performing career, and school can be difficult. As tough as it sometimes is, I am determined to continue this one-man pas de trios— for as long as my body will allow. I am grateful that CTFD exists to support dancers who find themselves at this often-confusing fork in the road. As Alan Watts once said, “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

Skill, Passion, and Destiny

by Jason Herbert, CTFD dancer-client and Newhouse Grant Recipient

Jason Herbert

A decade ago, I embarked on a career in dance that I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.  Traveling the country and the world, I performed for thousands of people and worked with artists that inspired me.  It was during my time with The Philadelphia Dance Company aka Philadanco! that I was introduced to Career Transition For Dancers.  CTFD explained all of the possibilities for dancers transitioning into careers and how to utilize all of the skills that dancers possess.   Because they offer entrepreneurial and educational grants to artists who have worked in the field for a number of years, I recently applied for the Newhouse grant (and was awarded!) to jump start my career in video production.

I started a company with two friends that develops, produces, and manages artists in music, theater, and film.  I dove straight in as a Project Manager and an Artistic Consultant.  Some of my duties include recording, photo shoots, video shoots, social media, and video production.  In my travels as an artist, I noticed I had an eye for video editing upon returning from a tour of Europe.  My business partner encouraged me to pursue it on a higher level.  We both enrolled in an advanced course in digital editing at the New York Film Academy where I progressed quickly but didn’t have the equipment at home to practice or perfect my craft.  One thing I learned from dance is that your tools to success is just as important as your drive and determination.  A high-powered computer and up-to-date editing software is essential to starting a career in video production, two things I didn’t possess nor could afford.

From the stage to the screen, I will transfer all my knowledge and passion as a performer into my videos with skill and education behind me.  I am at a place to carve a new destiny with my experience in dance as my foundation.

On a Different Stage


by Sisha Stowell, Caroline H. Newhouse grant recipient

Dance has been a substantial part of my life for just about as far back as I can remember. I, like so many little girls, started dancing at a local studio at a very young age with my little knobby knees in pink tights and a frilly leotard, the frillier the better. Although I loved dance class from the very beginning, my reason for being there was not the same as all the other children. After a freak accident I suffered third degree burns over 75 percent of my body. It may seem hard to believe but luck was truly on my side as there was a state of the art burn institute in my city and I was a perfect candidate for a new medical treatment still in the trial stages. This treatment is now the standard by which burn victims are treated. My initial recovery went well but when it was time for physical therapy the doctors were leery of putting me in a traditional program. As I was so young my doctors thought I would have better results by taking dance and gymnastics classes. And so it all began.

Over the subsequent 28 years, dance heeled me physically, emotionally, even spiritually at times. Dance, which was originally prescribed as physical therapy alas, became the cause of additional physical therapy. When I was thirteen years old, I had my first serious dance injury. During a performance something went terribly wrong with my leg. I had no idea what happened but I knew I was in a lot of pain. Initially, the doctors said I had pulled my hamstring. I trusted their diagnoses and followed his suggested treatment; a week of rest and then back to regular activity. A few months later, I had yet to regain the flexibility that had come so naturally, I was still in pain and had lost all rotation in my hip socket. It was time to see a specialist. The doctor I was referred to happened to be the resident doctor for the Cincinnati Ballet; therefore, he was very familiar with a dancer’s body and the demands put upon it. After a few x-rays and a quick examination he told me I had in fact not simply pulled my hamstring but rather torn it, and in the process of doing so had pulled a piece of bone off of the femur and fractured my rotator cuff. Unfortunately, my body had already healed itself however not in the optimal fashion and it was now too late to do anything further. He believed this occurred because of a growth spurt; my bones had grown faster than my muscles could keep up, and warned that it would most likely happen to the other leg within the next year. He was right, I tore my left hamstring almost a year to the date later. If nothing else, at least this time I knew what happened and could take care of it with proper therapy, or so I thought.

There are many physical therapists who know how to work with athletes. There are also many physical therapists that are knowledgeable of the demands on a person of poor to average fitness. However, in my experience, there are few physical therapists who understand what is truly required of a dancer’s body. Unfortunately, I had a therapist who fell into the former, I repeatedly heard, “Don’t worry, that’s good enough,” or “You don’t need to be able to do that,” in regards to questions about flexibility and rotation. Needless to say that was less than ideal guidance in an already extremely scary situation.

Although that experience was incredibly frustrating and did not yield the results for which I was hoping, things would soon change. After an evaluation with a ballet company, I was referred to a woman who I believe saved my dance career. She was the first person to introduce me to Pilates as a form of physical therapy. After only a few sessions my strength, flexibility and rotation improved immensely. There have been other times I have used Pilates to save and extend the life of my career. In one particular case, it seemed surgery was imminent to repair a shoulder injury I incurred on stage. With the help of a renowned sports therapist and his incredibly knowledgeable Pilates therapists, I was not only able to fully recover without any invasive measures; through continued practice, I truly enjoyed a full body overhaul. Small issues that were beginning to affect not only my performance on stage but normal everyday activities simply went away. The practice of Pilates not only saved my career once again, but improved the overall health and dexterity of my entire body, not only improving me physically but also being mentally therapeutic.

With the help of the Caroline H. Newhouse Scholarship, I plan to receive certification in both Classical and Clinical Pilates in the hopes that one day I can help others as I have been helped. To not only fix the problem at hand, but improve the overall health and wellness of a person physically and potentially mentally as well. The love of dance that developed at a young age was not just for the pretty costumes and the person you could become while performing but also for the mechanics. The way in which the human body works, how each muscle works to create a beautiful movement or to simply hold a position. I look forward to delving even further into these intrigues and continuing to share my passion, it may be a different stage but will hopefully be just as rewarding.


The Business of Transition

By Elyssa Dole, Sono Osato Scholarship for Graduate Studies award recipient

Elyssa DoleI remember the feeling of taking class at age 13. Charging across the room, the piano music surging, I would lose myself in an imaginary world thick with texture, sounds and sensation that had no words. I enrolled at the San Francisco Ballet School where I began studying Vaganova technique. At age 16, I auditioned for the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia and was granted a rare opportunity to experience Russian culture through ballet during the Yeltsin era and during the infancy of the Internet age. Curious about how culture and tradition meets social change through art, I moved to New York where I continued studying modern and contemporary techniques, African and Indian dance, Flamenco and the martial art of Capoeira.

After graduating Barnard College, I searched to find my place in the dance world. During my 10 years as a professional dancer, two pieces stand out as particularly significant to me. The first one, titled 2 Kilos of Sea with Deganit Shemy and Company was performed at Baryshnikov Arts Center. The work was influenced by Ms. Shemy’s childhood growing up on an Israeli kibbutz. Rehearsals were deep yet playful investigative journeys with the excellent dancers in the cast—Rebecca Warner, Denisa Musilova and Savina Theodorou. I was constantly surprised and delighted by our strange and beautiful discoveries.

Another exciting project was a theatrical production of Pierrot Lunaire with Grammy-winning chamber music group eighth blackbird. I was the only dancer in this interdisciplinary work. This piece brought movement into the chamber music form, using dance, a set and staging to convey a story within Schoenberg’s 1913 creation. I also met my husband in this production!

As I became increasingly invested in the works I was a part of, I began taking on managerial roles within projects. I organized rehearsals, sought out new performing opportunities on behalf of the group, negotiated contracts, wrote grants and created marketing and fundraising strategies. I applied to business schools with a goal to better support creative pursuits and improve the business models for the causes I cared about.

I was accepted to NYU Stern School of Business, had a brief moment of celebration and then the hard work really began. InElyssa Dole my first year, I took statistics, accounting, microeconomics, and finance among other basic business courses. In my second year, I focused on innovation for social impact and I am an Innovation Fellow at Nike Foundation.

The MBA is making it possible to achieve my transition and I encourage other dancers to use graduate study as a way to discover, translate and develop their skills and talents. Already, in my fellowship with Nike Foundation, my degree is serving me as I am analyzing business models, imagining new ones, and making recommendations to my team based on principles I learned from my strategy courses. In the social impact space, I hope to be able to better measure and evaluate the outcomes of humanitarian and development efforts in order to help make the business case for investing in social causes.

I am not sure which has been more challenging, starting a dance career or transitioning out of it! I definitely learned so much from the arts and from other artists about the creative process, collaboration and discipline—this awareness has given me a unique way to contribute to business. I am more than happy to talk about the business degree and about NYU Stern to any prospective students. Please feel free to reach out!