The Schapera Show
Listen to the Interview Here: Manifesting My Dream – Victoria Hyatt
Vivien: Hello and welcome to the Schapera Show, where Viv and Neil explore this big adventure called Life. Our guest today is another colleague and friend of mine, Victoria Hyatt, who has conquered her fears to manifest her dream career. Victoria is a dancer, a Physical Therapist and an Alexander Teacher and she has put them all together in a unique way. Hello Victoria, thank you for coming on the show.
Victoria: Thank you for having me!
Vivien: Victoria, I think we should begin with some background info. What’s your backstory?
Victoria: I grew up in the Washington DC area, studying dance quite seriously. Initially I studied Ballet with the Washington Ballet and later my focus shifted toward Modern Dance. I earned my BFA in Dance from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. After completing college, I moved to New York to continue to study and pursue a dance career. In NY, I primarily studied with the Erick Hawkins Dance company and also performed with several independent choreographers. While studying at Hawkins I met Cynthia Reynolds, who was a member of the company and a teacher in the school. She was also an Alexander Teacher and she encouraged me to try lessons in the Technique. I was so impressed by the work that I knew immediately that I had to train to become a Teacher. I completed my training at the American Center for the Alexander Technique in New York in 1992. I earned my Doctorate in Physical Therapy at Duke University in 2001 and now practice both as a PT and as an Alexander Teacher. My specialty area of practice in Physical Therapy is working with dancers, both to prevent and to treat injuries. Working with dancers is a full circle experience for me, as I am able to put my passions for dance, movement study/analysis, and healing together. To further my ability to work with dancers, I am currently in training with Body Arts and Sciences International to become a Pilates Instructor.
Vivien: Were you born to do this? Were you attracted to dance from an early age?
Victoria: Yes! Exactly that. My interest in dance came in early childhood. My mother took me to see a performance of Coppelia at the Kennedy Center. I was enchanted, and hooked! I began classes immediately and was a serious student throughout my childhood. In my senior year of the dance program at UMass, I took a Kinesiology course and I just loved it! I remember feeling that it was the first time in my life that I had felt so engaged by an academic topic. I wanted to find a way to use this information professionally and at that point became interested in PT. However, the requirements to enter PT school required nearly all of the coursework to go Pre-Med and I had done very little of it during college. I felt intimidated, especially by the requirements to study Chemistry and Physics, so I put it on the back burner. I continued to study and pursue dance.
Vivien: Then, what was it about the Alexander Technique that caught your attention?
Victoria: My first experience with the Alexander Technique was life changing. After spending my entire life studying movement and trying so hard to do everything right, I had developed a good bit of tension in my body. The first time I had a hands-on experience with the AT, I was utterly blown away that such a light touch could induce such profound change in me, and that I could experience myself so differently. As I said, I knew immediately that I needed to train. I also was seeking a way out of the starving artist lifestyle of waiting tables and doing temp work to get by in New York.
Vivien: But there’s always more, right?
Victoria: Yes, I developed a good Alexander practice in NY, but still had a yearning for more knowledge and understanding of the body. I reached a crossroad in my life that caused me to do a lot of rethinking. My truth was that I was still really interested in PT and that I was still really intimidated by the pre-requisite coursework. However, being a little bit older and hopefully wiser, I dared myself to go for it. I learned a lot about myself and what I am a capable of doing when I really want something. Not only did I do well, but to my surprise, I really enjoyed the coursework that had nearly stopped me from going forward!
Vivien: And even with all of these accomplishments, you hadn’t reached your dream yet?
Victoria: Exactly! I practiced as a PT for about 17-18 years, always with an interest in working with dancers, but repeatedly came up against my stubborn fears that stopped me in my tracks: I can’t do, I won’t be good enough, etc. Eventually I received a brochure in the mail for a PT continuing education course about working with dancers. I went to the course and sat there the entire time, knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that I was in my element and that this was the work that I was supposed to be doing.
Vivien: A brochure in the mail … that sounds like a sign to me!!! What did you do next?
Victoria: Indeed, when I got back from the course, I took myself and all my fears and had a conversation with the managers at Indiana University Health, where I have worked as a PT since 2006. I told them what I wanted to do and asked for their support. It was really scary, but it was good timing as the department was restructuring and they were open to the change that I sought. They asked me to present them with a plan of how we would develop the program, who we would serve, how we would find referrals, etc.
The Performing Arts Medicine Program at IU Health has been open for about a year and is a work in progress, but I am happy to share some of our accomplishments thus far: we have assembled a team of referring physicians to be part of the program, we have opened an office that has proper dance studio space for rehab (sprung floor with Marley surface, mirrors, barres), we have obtained Pilates equipment (Reformer/Cadillac hybrid tower), and we have hired another highly qualified PT who specialized in working with dancers. In her prior position, she had been working directly with the students in the Dance Department at Butler University. She was able to help IU Health to obtain this contract so that our program is now the providers of direct care to the students in their training room during the school week and we provide care and coverage at all of their performances. The number of dancers she and I treat during each week is growing! We are continuing to grow and develop the program.
Vivien: This sounds really, really busy. So then, have you dropped the Alexander Technique part?
Victoria: For a while. Because of the multi-year commitment that I undertook to go to PT school, and then because I worked full-time as a PT for the first few years after graduation, I wasn’t practicing as an Alexander Technique Teacher for several years. Additionally, my husband and I had twins in 2008 and while the children were very young, I didn’t develop my own practice. I have worked part-time at my PT job ever since the kids were born, and yet I hadn’t been ready to build a private AT practice. Finally, in the Fall of 2019, I had been preparing to restart my private practice. But the onset of the pandemic delayed me from going forward as planned. As the pandemic has eased, I have been able to see AT students a couple of days each week.
My great desire is to always be doing my “right work” whenever I am working. I feel so blessed that there are many times now in my work that I marvel that I am getting paid to do what I am doing because of the deep satisfaction and fulfillment I feel when I connect with someone and share what I have learned and see it make a difference in their life. It is a privilege to walk along side someone on their path and help to facilitate the change that they desire to improve the quality of their life.
Vivien: You must have some interesting and uplifting stories to tell. Can you share an example of how you have helped turn someone’s life around?
I worked with an elite pre-professional ballet dancer from February through May of 2022. She is 16 and had bilateral hip labral tears, one side chronic and one side acute. At the beginning of our work together she was on crutches because the pain with walking was so severe on the acute side. She had several performances that were coming up in the spring and was concerned about her ability to participate. Additionally, just before she came to see me, she had pushed through pain to audition for a summer intensive with the Joffrey Ballet and had been accepted. Together with her parents and her dance faculty, a decision was made that while it would be disappointing for her to miss the shows in the spring, it was most important that she be healthy in order to attend the Joffrey intensive as this could have implications for her career. We worked together on correcting the mechanics in her hip joint and to build strength to take stress off the front of the hip joints where she was in pain. She began to get better and gradually and was able to stop using the crutches. In time, she began to take lower-level dance classes with restrictions to avoid certain aggravating motions. She was doing well but then began to have painful snapping in the more chronic hip. We worked through it and reached a point where she became pain-free and able to move w/o hip pain on either side. It was quite a journey with her as she wanted to avoid surgery and wanted to be ready for the summer. She was also challenging b/c even though she is a high-level dancer who focuses on her body constantly, she didn’t have the best neuromuscular awareness. I am happy to say that she was able to participate in the spring production of the pre-professional company, although in a modified role, and she is looking good for full clearance for the Joffrey program this summer.
Vivien: I’m listening to you carefully, and what strikes me in the sweet spot is how you have risen to challenges and overcome your fears. I guess these are essential components to manifesting your dream?
Victoria: I have to agree. I think it is so important to listen to the deep guiding voices that we each have inside of ourselves, the ones that don’t go away even when fear might try to mute them or stop us from taking an action. If there is something that you really want to do, something that is a full expression of yourself, it is likely that this is your “right work.” I could be fine continuing to do generalized PT, which I really love, but I think that I would be missing something and that I wouldn’t get to enjoy the deeper satisfaction of fulling realizing. my “right work.”
Vivien: My “right work” – those are very, very powerful words. Do you have more wisdom to add to this?
Victoria: Yes, we must remember that “Time is precious” and each person’s unique combination of experiences, gifts, talents, and passions is also precious. I think that we are here to use and share what we have been given to make a difference. For me my fear nearly stopped me from going toward a fuller realization of my purpose. I walked with only one foot in my path for a long time, but now I have both feet in. It is scary, and still full of self-doubt, but the moments of reward that I have each time I connect with someone from my most authentic self are beyond words. I feel a joy and deep satisfaction that energizes my whole self. I think that is infectious and not to be ignored. I am grateful not to be so safe because it stretches me.
Vivien: Victoria, how can people get hold of you if they want to find out more?
Hyatt Alexander Technique: alexanderlessons.net
Vivien: Thank you Victoria Hyatt multi-talented and multi-profession guest here on the Schapera Show, speaking to us about how you manifested your dream career. We’re going to take a break now, and when we come back, Victoria is going to give us some tips and insights that we can apply in our own lives.
Vivien: Hello and welcome back to the Schapera Show. We are talking to Victoria Hyatt, dancer, PT and AT teacher who has combined all three to manifest her dream career. Victoria, this is a special opportunity to get some knowledgeable tips, because you have such amazing expertise in topics that each and every one of us needs.
Here’s my first question: These regimens that athletes and dancers go through are so demanding on our physical bodies. Is there a way to be an athlete, or ballet dancer, and not regret that later in life or should we accept that we will feel the consequences when we’re older?
Victoria: Very interesting question. It depends. The demands that are being made are constant in this day of IG and social media, they have access to people doing crazy things in crazy ways. Not good decision-making leads to injuries and also creates an environment where injuries go untended, and the injury persists for longer.
The more someone knows about their structure and function, and when to get help, the better the outcome will be.
The culture needs to continue to grow to support that – a constant challenge. There is an element of what the individual does and there is the element of the structure that they’re trying to fit into and both have to change.
We are also up against expectations issues.
Vivien: Thanks, that’s helpful! Can you give us an insight into the difference between AT and PT? As in “why do you want to be qualified in both?”
Victoria: Different models. A big difference is the focus on goals vs process, even though these dynamics are inherent in both, the sequence and proportion are different.
PT: Formal process, take a subjective history, what you think is going on and why – physical exam, and plan of care, physical goals that are measurable and timely. Check in to see how the patient is progressing toward the goal. Insurance-driven, must justify continuing on.
AT: Speak to student to learn about history and activities and what they want to do better, not dissimilar. Goal-driven but not definitively so. Take the AT and make it relevant to this individual in front of me. PT is referral-based. AT people are self-motivated, it’s interesting, want to see what it’s about. contrast – patient vs student. Different mind-set. Still PT is at its best when there is education and the person becomes autonomous, learning self-care. But AT people are already orienting toward that. Invites a different personality.
Vivien: And what’s the difference between AT and Pilates? Also, as in “why would one want both?”
Victoria: Strength is really important. The Pilates is a masterful system for building strength with good use and good alignment, and the strength supports all life functions – necessary. The AT doesn’t specifically go after strength-training. Common ground is in the education of the individual to use their structure in the best way possible. AT is indirect, both incredibly valuable.
Viv: Yes, I loved doing both. Because AT is a detailed disengagement of unwanted and Pilates is a detailed understanding of how to engage muscles correctly. Let’s move on. From your PT perspective, what tip would you like to give people?
If you have something to take care of, take care of it asap. Most people who come to me are in pain. If pain is controlling you it is possible to learn things that put yourself in control of the pain. We can improve things even if we can’t take all the pain away. Pain has an emotional component, overall health can begin to fail. Critical that people recognize that there is a path. The brain takes the path of least resistance.
Vivien: As an AT what tip would you like to give people?
Victoria: We have more potential than we’re using. There’s always more. There’s still something to learn. Have a different experience, foundation for lasting change.
Vivient: As a Pilates Instructor what tip would you like to give people?
Victoria: It feels so good to be strong! There are so many ideas about how to make your core strong and many are flawed. In Pilates equipment is so fun and interesting, esthetically pleasing and feels so good.
Vivien: Victoria, from your experience is there anything else that you want to add?
Victoria: Yes, whatever you have, it is not the end. Still alive, with life to live. There’s always more. I had a friend with ALS “ALS Saved My Life Before It Didn’t” Jenni Berebitsky. Her legacy is here.
Vivien: Oh Victoria, that’s just beautiful. I’m so glad your friend could join in from the other side, through you, and I want to thank you very much for coming on the show and sharing the kind of attitude that leads to manifesting your dream, as well as insightful tips about how to manage our bodies too. Can you tell us one more time, how our listeners can get hold of you?
Hyatt Alexander Technique: alexanderlessons.net
Vivien: You have been listening to the Schapera Show where Vivien and Neil explore this big adventure called life. We’re going to go on break now, and when we come back, Neil will be reporting back from the spirit realm.