What will you DO with a major in Dance?

Heather Southwick '90

Photo courtesy of Heather Southwick

Heather Southwick '90, Director of Physical Therapy

Major:  Dance and Psychology

Concentration: Dance Science, Somatics, and Art Therapies

Internship: Boston Ballet

Study Abroad: Laban Center for Movement and Dance, London

Advanced Degrees: MS in Physical Therapy, Simmons College

Employer: Boston Ballet

I entered Mount Holyoke College planning to major in dance.  The opportunities and strength of the Dance Department and all it had to offer were major factors in my decision to attend MHC.  My mother, Class of ’66, inquired, somewhat skeptically, “What will you DO with a dance major?” 

It’s hard to think of anything I might have done beyond what I did during my years at MHC as a dance major.  I performed in countless Five College concerts, MFA thesis concerts, and faculty shows. 

I was exposed to and educated in an enormous array of current dance for the time at UMass, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Mark Morris, Paul Taylor, David Parsons, Twyla Tharp, Winnipeg Royal Ballet… all at student ticket prices.  In watching these performances, I was asked to critique and analyze what I was seeing and how it made me feel, taking on the role of a dance critic for class credit.  

I learned incredible dance history that continues to serve me well in my current career.  I completely relearned my ballet technique with a lot of assistance from Hannah Wiley and Terese Freedman, who helped me understand how to dance safely and without so much pain.  I learned to hear music in a different way and to appreciate live music and accompaniment for dancing more than I thought possible.  Supported by my dance advisor, Jim Coleman, and the rest of the faculty, I spent my junior year studying dance at the Laban Center for Movement and Dance in London. 

In addition to Laban studies, movement analysis, choreography, production, I studied anatomy.  Coming back to MHC after a year of such artistic growth, I realized that anatomy was a new passion, and I could not get enough knowledge.  Partly because of my love of anatomy, I pursued a graduate degree in Physical Therapy.

While in graduate school, I began to combine my love of dance and medicine through an internship with Boston Ballet.  That led to a long-term career opportunity. I am now the Director of Physical Therapy at the Boston Ballet where my primary responsibility is to manage the health and wellness program for the company dancers.  

My first year at Boston Ballet, my mother ended up backstage, watching the ballet from the wings while I dealt with an emergency.  When I met up with her, she was clearly thrilled with the experience of seeing the ballet from such a unique perspective.  That gave me the opportunity to remind her, “THIS is what I did with a dance major!”