I was a professional dancer, dance professor and choreographer for over twenty-seven years before I started the Rolfing training. I finished Unit III at the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration® (RISI) about a year ago, in October 2007. There are challenges to starting a new career and practice at fifty. Quadruple that when you factor in staying in the Boulder area to do so, because of the number of practitioners of various healing modalities. After trying to start this without an additional side job, and failing, I took a part-time position at Vitamin Cottage. I worked there for about nine months. Seeing around six to seven clients a week, combined with working thirty-two hours at the store, was hard work! I did get good at moving objects quickly and easily on the job, and this became a valuable skill to teach to clients, as well. Nevertheless, moving fifty- to sixty-pound boxes and stocking groceries also had some deleterious effects on my hands, wrists, and shoulders, which made me want to get out of there should the opportunity arise.
One day I got a call from Dan Gentry, a Certified Rolfer in Oklahoma City (OKC), asking if I might like to come out and be his associate. This would mean giving him 50% of my fee in return for his funneling clients to me, and I would see upwards of twenty to twenty-five clients a week. Though this sounded really cool, I didn’t want to leave my girlfriend and Boulder community for a purely work-dominated life in OKC. We came up with the idea of a half-time practice in OKC, and half time in Boulder, flying to OKC every other Sunday and returning to Boulder the following Friday night. No problem for an old touring professional dancer to travel to work, I thought.
After five sojourns in OKC, I’m seeing the pros and cons of being a traveling Rolfing practitioner. Working there has given me the opportunity to expand out of the cultural confines of Boulder and see the benefits of Rolfing for much different, more conservative clients who are typically only seeking solutions to chronic pain. I didn’t think of “fix-it”-oriented Rolfing as my strong suit, but this practice is making me better at it. I haven’t really had the expected volume of clients, but it is building. A typical week in OKC seems to be around eighteen sessions, after cancellations and last-minute bookings. This is compared to Boulder, where eight to nine sessions still equal a pretty good week for me. I try to market myself by sending flyers to area Pilates, yoga and dance schools, and have gotten some referrals from clients in both cities of late.
In OKC I’m alone a lot, which can be hard, and sometimes, with cancellations, I spend a fair amount of time just “hanging out.” I try to make this time productive somehow by working on marketing, studying texts, videos and session notes, or working on developing release movement (for my own body and applications on the table) through various modalities. I do really enjoy my OKC friends, Dan and his lovely wife Teresa, and my roommate, Kevin, a sweet guy and a real character who I had the great good fortune to find on Craig’s List.
Though the travel, lodging and food expenses add up, the hands-on experience and learning through mentoring from Dan Gentry more than justify the costs. Dan is the stepson of the renowned healer and friend to Ida Rolf, Byron Gentry. Drawing on the lessons learned from Byron since childhood, Dan is now an extremely successful and accomplished Rolfing practitioner. He has already positively influenced my “best practices” as a Rolfer, ranging from reminder calls and detailed session notes to helpful assessment tools and treatment techniques, especially regarding releasing restrictions in the upper spine, ribs and around the scapula. I have been inspired by his teachings regarding the spiraling mechanisms in and around the pelvis and have become more confident in using these to help clients.
This has also positively affected my Boulder practice, which has been picking up, albeit slowly. I love Boulder and feel very “at home” there, part of a wonderful community of healers and seekers, which makes me feel free to incorporate some of the more “woo woo” aspects into my work, such as Source Point Therapy (a cool Boulder workshop experience) or imagery and movement cues from Continuum. Boulderites are just a bit more available for that sort of exploration, perhaps. Being in Boulder has facilitated learning new ideas, ranging from being able to just drop in for Serge Gracovetsky’s Spinal Engine lecture at the RISI annual meeting to in-depth study of Continuum with the ever-revelatory Gael Ohlgren. (Her preamble to a recent class was one of the pithiest and most inspiring explanations of that work I have ever heard or imagined, and hopefully somebody wrote it down.) The list of geniuses involved with RISI is staggering, and I have the great good fortune to learn from some of them.
I have arranged, for trade, to use a Boulder dance studio on a regular basis for my own movement exploration, and enjoy using this as a resource for my work as a Rolfing practitioner. I look forward to finding more ways to integrate dance – as a personal practice, as well as choreography and teaching – back into my life. Working as a Rolfer has reinforced my curiosity about a way of dancing that is both highly trained and non-objectified. My favorites, like Fred Astaire, don’t look over-trained, even though the level of detailed attention they bring is astounding.
It has recently dawned on me, at just over a year out of RISI, that my many years in dance weren’t wasted. I am already actively and successfully integrating the knowledge gained as a dancer into hands-on Rolfing and movement coaching with clients in both Boulder and OKC. Rolfing has become, like dance was and continues to be, a spiritual practice for me. Though I have perhaps more of a sense of developing my own distinct path in Rolfing in Boulder, I believe that I will ultimately bring that sensibility to my work everywhere.