Category: Counseling

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.”

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Journey to Well-being

By Laura E. Taylor, Sono Osato Scholarship Recipient

LauraETaylorHeadshot         I donned my first pair of ballet shoes at three, wrote a poem about becoming a ballerina at six, and danced my way through childhood. Dance became my means of communication. At sixteen, I attended Interlochen Arts Academy for premier pre-professional dance training. At eighteen, I began a BFA in Dance at Fordham University with Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. I danced six hours a day, six days a week and loved every minute of it.

Suddenly, everything changed. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I fell in class. I needed bilateral knee surgery to repair the damage. I was dedicated to recovery and back dancing in the BFA program the following summer. Unfortunately, I fell again a year later and “totaled” my left knee. Again, my prospects of returning to dance were slim. Thankfully, I found a tremendous doctor who tried a new approach. Rather than fixing the symptom (joint damage), he recommended a distal realignment to treat the underlying structural problem. I underwent two massive reconstructive surgeries, one on each knee, that were performed six months apart. I spent a full year in a wheelchair.

Laura E. Taylor performing in A Chorus Line at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL
Laura E. Taylor performing in A Chorus Line at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL

Without dance for the first time, I needed direction and a means of artistic communication. I dove into psychology courses at Fordham and a passion for psychological well-being was sparked. Simultaneously, I began to study voice more intensively and my vocal coach suggested that I combine my voice and dance skills to transition into musical theatre where I could dance in a way that was not as challenging for my knees. Healed, I auditioned for my first professional musical, booked it and went out on the road! Musical theatre has given me eleven years of incredible experiences on stage where I continue to dance and grow as an artist.

In the winter of 2012, I herniated two disks during A Chorus Line. Thirty-two years old, I sat on stage and sobbed through ‘What I Did For Love,’ determined to finish the show. I knew my body had limited ability to continue as a dancer and transition arrived sooner than I hoped.

I decided to return to school to gain additional knowledge and skills to use in arts education. I chose the unique Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) at the University of Pennsylvania and began in September, 2013. My focus was to examine the connections between positive psychology and the arts. I graduated in August, after one short year and three packed semesters! MAPP has been the gift of a lifetime – a unique cross-roads for my passions and an opportunity to give back.

Laura presenting her capstone Acting Strengths in a cave - Rio Secreto - in Mexico
Laura presenting her capstone Acting Strengths in a cave – Rio Secreto – in Mexico

My capstone focused on research that supports the development of resilience to increase well-being. Currently, I am designing a workshop that customizes positive psychology tools for performers. The workshop, Acting Strengths, bridges the gap between artistic preparation and the daunting realities of a difficult business. It enables performers to cultivate resilience though strengths identification and development. By equipping artists with resilience, it is my hope to help them persevere and flourish. Ultimately, Acting Strengths will be a series of workshops and a springboard for the development of a course in positive psychology for pre-professional artists.

My experience and education empower me to serve the artistic community that has so generously supported me. My deepest gratitude goes to Career Transition for Dancers, the Caroline H. Newhouse Scholarship, and the Sono Osato Scholarship as they were instrumental in making this new venture possible! I am dedicated to applying positive psychology to arts education and confident that my new degree will help me achieve this goal!

Permission to be Lost

Photo by Alethia Williams
Photo by Alethia Williams

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.

Photo by Lois Greenfield
Photo by Lois Greenfield

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.

www.julieblume.com

Cable Man

Nathan Vander Stoep, Caroline H. Newhouse Business Grant Recipient

Nathan_the1too

I first met CTFD in a centerfold of Dance Magazine while flipping to an article written about the principals in my company, Colorado Ballet. I was young and it didn’t feel relevant at the time, but the grant money caught my attention for the future. A few years later as I was becoming less enchanted with my career, and was beginning to think about moving on, I remembered the advertisement. I made my first call to the counselors in 2006, and as we began delving into options, it actually renewed my passion for dance while simultaneously highlighting the importance of thinking about life after dance. I ended up performing another three years while expanding my extracurricular activities.

ImageI had played trombone from an early age and started taking amateur gigs. As I improved, I began getting professional gigs. However, I needed to know the music perfectly without rehearsals, so a good stereo system became imperative. As I put together the system, I realized the incredible difference that the wiring could make in the clarity and detail of what I could hear in the recordings. I did some research online and started building my own cables based on some ideas I formed from the information I had found. The results were fascinating, which became a topic in my next conversation with CTFD. The counselor mentioned that it could become a business, which hadn’t entered my mind at all. It was at this point when my relationship with CTFD became much more serious and instrumental in my future.

In general, I had never thought much of counseling; even in preliminary conversations with CTFD, I felt like the conversation wandered around a bit. That all changed now that I was interested in a specific topic. As a dancer, I knew nothing about business and suddenly I had a lot to learn. CTFD recommended finding a mentor through various channels, and this is probably the single most valuable prodding that I received. My counselor sent me a few websites to view, four of which were for local businesses and I could visit in-person. I had developed networking skills in the ballet world, so it was easy for me to start making connections with other business owners. I landed a mentorship in the HiFi Stereo industry while building my own business of designing cable products for home stereos, and over three years I learned the essential business practices particular to the industry. This was an absolutely invaluable experience and would not have happened without the guidance of the CTFD counselors.

During the counseling sessions, a frequent topic of discussion was how best to use the grant money. Education seemed like an enticing idea, especially since electricity was not something that I had ever studied beyond the university of Google. As my counselor and I discussed options, I also discussed it with my mentor, who ultimately made a suggestion with a result that still ceases to amaze me.

When I designed my products, I had focused on the quality of the product sonically as well as for durability. The results were a product that changed the sound of any system dramatically, and never failed, but they did not possess the jewelry-like cosmetics of my competitors. The cost of designing and manufacturing the parts needed were expensive and I didn’t see the point in extraneous parts that didn’t contribute to the sound. It was then that both my mentor and counselor pointed out my flawed logic.

My speaker cable sales were virtually dead; I had only sold three pairs over the previous year. I decided to design aluminum sleeves to cover the transition area on the cables. I used CTFD’s grant money, which covered enough parts for 30 cables, to get the parts into production.

That seed money completely changed the landscape of my business. Speaker cable sales increased immediately. As soon as the first sample cable was shown in the Japanese market, I had orders for 5 speaker cables within a week. At the end of a year’s time, I had sold over $26K in speaker cables alone, which allowed cosmetic development of the whole cable line. The company now has a distinctive look, and is growing rapidly.

With both the counseling and grants offered, CTFD has helped shape my life and formed a business that supports me in a way that I never imagined, and I am very thankful!

Visit my website (www.nvssound.com)

Connecting Life Sequences

cold color julio e  rivera  photo by erik alberg

By Julio Enrique Rivera, Caroline H. Newhouse Recipient

Transitions are the soul of the dance, connecting sequences of movement that allow for flow of clear and compelling expression. Transitions must have clarity, focus, and confidence for the fluidity and effortless connections. For a dancer, it is a joyous experience that makes the dance greater than the steps alone. And so it is with any transition in life.

I learned about effortless transitions early in life. Excelling in school, I always sought enriching opportunities by way of clubs, programs, and sports. I learned that discipline is key in any commitment and that focus and perseverance lead to success. I brought these tools from academic demands to the arts of theater and dance.

My most demanding transition was leaving to the vastness of Princeton University. Attending an Ivy League institution presented the expanse of a liberal arts education with great academic focus. Advance placement allowed me access to upper level courses forging a great course to exploring new horizons. I initially diminished my participation in the arts. I discovered new sports such as squash and tennis. My body longed to move as my mind was racing. I was transitioning once again. Then the arts returned! Women were now part of the student body and modern dance classes were offered with Ze’eva Cohen. Princeton also instituted a certificate program in theater and dance, and I was one of the first to enroll.

The next year, I was enjoying graduate courses in psychology and “jete-in” about campus. My first thesis melded these two loves, and it’s success jettisoned me into expanding it for my senior thesis; the perception of expression in movement.  My field work was: more dance classes at Princeton, the Princeton Ballet Society, and a scholarship at the Ailey school. I graduated with honors in 1976, I decided to postpone my interest in the Harvard clinical program to follow the more immediate call…DANCE!!!! I returned to Ailey’s and continue to dance knowing that one day I return to my interest in helping individuals realize a better situation through some kind of support.

By 1986 I had danced with myriad companies and choreographers. Early on I decided  to focus on traveling as guest performer, master teacher and choreographer. With support from Alvin Ailey, I founded Contemporary Motions as a venue to showcase my solo, duets and trio works. Fellow choreographers donated solo works I had performed, and I created a  new repertoire of solos, duets, and trios that I would present nationally and internationally until 2006.

In 2004, cancer presented yet another opportunity for transition in life. I returned to finish my contracts, then decided to retire with an excellent record to that transition in 1976. Nine years in full remission, and full of zest, I seek to return to my love of psychology as a life coach. Lynn Goldberg, a life coach for dancers introduced me to Coaching for Wellness certification program. It was the transition I had been waiting for. I enrolled and graduated in the Associate Level certificate program. With the assistance of the CTFD Caroline H. Newhouse Scholarship, I will be able to continue my certification at the Professional level which allows me to participate with the highest credentials possible and work various niches as well as mentor and teach in life coaching programs.

somewhat hopng i was dreaming 6 2  rivera  photo alberg

The Breakfast of Champions

K  Bernard Oklahoma! at Jupiter 91 compressedHi.  My name is Kevin Bernard.  I came to Career Transition For Dancers because of an epiphany.  I woke one morning and, as usual, sprinkled Advil over my Wheaties and sat down to eat my bowl of cereal with my feet in a bucket of ice.  And I thought to myself, I’m not sure this is what they meant by Breakfast of Champions.

I started performing professionally when I was 11 years old in Peter and the Wolf and I have been on stage ever since.  I’ve worked with Susan Stroman, Rob Ashford, Peter Darling…those last two guys really upped the Advil sprinkles by the way.  It was great, exciting, and thrilling to be part of Broadway.  But I decided I had to stop the pain.

That’s when I called Career Transition For Dancers.  I knew people, personally, who had discovered new careers and started businesses.  Sounded great!  So, I had a few counseling sessions, took some tests, and discovered what I was supposed to be next:  an actor or a musician.  Or a physicist.  Oh!  I was in trouble.

But then Lauren Gordon, the counselor at CTFD, came to the rescue.   She helped me understand that I am made of possibilities.  Now, I don’t see a clear path to take, but I do see opportunities.

Lauren saw my destiny as a collage.  Some acting, some music, some teaching, some stage managing.  I now finally realize that I don’t need a new label.  I just need to take a deep breath and leap.

Effortlessly Experience 2013

Jim Arnoff, Career Coach & CTFD Consultant
Interviewed by Dana Lutt, CTFD Communications Coordinator

Q. Tell us about your entertainment background.
A. I graduated from the Institute for Professional Empowerment Coaching (iPEC) in August, 2005, and earned my degree as a Certified Life Coach in November, 2005.  I specialize in coaching the entertainment industry including producers, directors, writers and performers. I combine my coaching skills with my experience as a television packaging agent.

Jim Arnoff, Career Coach
Jim Arnoff, Career Coach

Within the industry, I have led career coaching workshops since 2004 for the Producers Guild of America the Writers Guild of America, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, New York Women in Film and Television, New York City Coalition of Professional Women in Arts & Media, Women in Children’s Media, New York Women in Communications and American Women in Radio and Television and now Career Transition For Dancers.

Q. How did you connect with Career Transition For Dancers?
A. I’ve known about the organization and Career Counselor Lauren Gordon for years. The word “transition” is a great fit for a life coach. I was looking to branch out into coaching within the performing arts; dance was a new field for me but still within the entertainment industry. In 2012 I moderated two, three-part small group sessions along with CTFD Career Counselor Lauren Gordon. They were a success and we plan to have more workshops in 2013.

Q. For people who would like to prepare in advance for the first session of “Rev Up your Career in 2013” – moderated by Jim Arnoff and Lauren Gordon, what do you recommend as far as materials, websites, books, etc.?
A. Have fun in your preparation and spend some time envisioning what you would like to experience in 2013. Create a look-book, write down inspirational quotes, save inspiring pictures – use whichever tools help you to capture what you would like to effortlessly experience in 2013.

Q. Once someone has participated in your three part workshop “Creating an Action plan”; what would be an ongoing benefit of attending the monthly alumni meeting?
A. Go to reflect on your own goals, be accountable, receive and give support, obtain feedback, and find collaborations.

Q. The New Year is a time for people to set goals. What advice can you give to people that wish to set attainable goals? What action steps should they take?
A. The best way to set goals is to first envision them. What do you love doing? What comes effortlessly to you? What is your ideal match of collaborators and projects? Then, during the workshop, we will cover the action steps to take to achieve them. Even if you have already envisioned your goals in the past, do the process again and think bigger. Stretch yourself.

Q. Jim, what are you reading these days?
A. The Success Principles by Jake Canfield, co-creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Q. What is one of your personal goals for 2013?
A. I’m accomplishing it now; to give away my coaching without expecting anything in return.