Professional Dancer to Dance Teacher

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In the dance world, many professional dancers become dance teachers. While it may seem natural to transition from dancing to teaching, there are always things to consider when making a career change. Karyn Connell, a former professional ballet dancer, now Lecturer in Ballet and Pilates at Santa Clara University, shares with us how she decided to become a dance teacher and what she loves most about it. 

Do you mind briefly telling us about your dance background?

I trained in Chicago and New York. I danced as a soloist with Dallas Ballet and as a principal with Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Diablo Ballet companies. I toured the United States with Los Angeles Ballet.

When you were preparing to leave your dancing career, did you know immediately that you wanted to teach or was it something over time you decided?

Towards the end of my career I became certified in Pilates. I felt that this was going to be my next career path. The position at Santa Clara University came up and they needed both a ballet instructor as well as a certified Pilates teacher. I was lucky to be offered the job as I possessed both skills. During my career I taught ballet at the schools of the companies I was with for extra income.

What would you say is the biggest difference between your dancing career and your teaching career?

I miss the performing aspect of my career. In dancing I was focusing on myself and in teaching I focus on giving everything I have to my students.

What do you love most about teaching?

I love watching minds and bodies achieve flexibility and strength. It is incredible to see change and improvement in the classroom. I love the relationships I have with my students in the classroom and after they graduate. I strive to make a positive difference in their lives.


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