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Former RWB dancer CindyMarie Small is studying in the Master of Occupational Therapy program in the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

Tiny Dancer: Former RWB member spins in new direction

September 19, 2016 — 

As a dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, CindyMarie Small dedicated 100 per cent of her energy, talent and focus to her performances.

After retiring in 2007 after 16 years with the RWB, Small found herself in the unique position of seeking out a new career path.

“It was a big transition and very difficult,” Small admits. “It’s like a pro athlete. You retire young after you’ve dedicated your whole life to this one pursuit that defines who you are.”

After working for a period teaching dance at the RWB, Small enrolled at the University of Winnipeg where she became something of an academic superstar, earning the Gold Medal for Achievement in Psychology and the Lieutenant-Governor’s Gold Medal for the Highest Standing in the Faculty of Arts in a 3-year program.

Initially having an interest in sports psychology, she spoke to a career counsellor about pursuing physiotherapy.

“I felt that it was a world I knew something about, having been in the physio department at the ballet a lot throughout my career,” she says. “But my career counsellor suggested that occupational therapy might be a nice fit for me because it has the physical but also the psychological element. It sounded like a really good fit.”

Another aspect of occupational therapy that drew Small was the possibility of affecting positive change in others.

“I like to see transformation,” she says. “When you’re working with a dancer and teaching them something you get the chance to see how far they’ve come. I think OT attracts people who are drawn to transformation and I want to help others transform themselves. That appeals to me very much.”

Although she admits to initially having some trepidation about returning to school as a mature student, she finds herself fitting in well with her classmates and professors in her first year of the Master of Occupational Therapy program in the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

“The people are lovely,” Small says. “We’re always sending each other contact lists and reminders. It’s a beautiful atmosphere and the profs all want us to succeed. They’re doing everything to empower us to do that and are great role models.”

Small considers herself fortunate that she’s able to pursue a second career path.

“Not everybody has the opportunity to do something different with their lives,” she says. “I was so fortunate to have my first career in something that I absolutely loved. With OT I think it will be very much about helping people transform and creating the life they want to have.”

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