Category: Identity and Emotional Advice

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!


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.