UArts 140


Month: September 2016

The Love of the Arts – Continuing Education

Q: What did you  accomplish at UArts that you never thought possible?

Few people have the pluck or the pocketbooks of a Florence Foster Jenkins. We might have dreamed of commanding an audience at Carnegie Hall, or rocking the stage with Bruce. We might have eyed the long-limbed dancers under the arched windows of Terra Hall and yearned to be on toe to Tchaikovsky. We might have caught a modern art exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and wondered if we too, could have painted that. But for the most part, we remain the audience rather than the performer.

However, for those of us who dwell or work in Philadelphia with artistic goals languishing on the shelf, all is not lost.  For several years, I have slipped from my office to the rest room after work, shed the jacket and pumps, donned the Lycra, and become a student of the arts. First it was jazz dance. We limbered up channeling Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse, may she rest in peace, and then donned hats and canes, working on routines (involving chairs!). True, I was always a beat or two behind, but it was a blast.

A few years later, I put on my first set of tap shoes. Yeah.  The class fit into my schedule, and when your kids are out of the house and you’ve passed the mid-century mark, you crave something new.  Something you’ve never done.  And fortunately, you’re past worrying about whether you’re any good. So tap was perfect and Corrine Karon, bless her heart, has mastered the art of keeping a class flowing with dancers of all levels. I learned the difference between trenches and shim shams, and gained appreciation for the difference in styles between Fred Astaire, Savion Glover and Michelle Dorrance, to name a few.

So I’ve been able to indulge this imagination.  I flash my student card, glance at the latest posters, and feel like part of the crowd at the Wawa.  Thank you, UArts, for enabling an art lover to connect to her artistic impulse and the pulse of the city. It’s been great to meet and dance with people of all ages and backgrounds.  I’m doing it.  Here’s to 140 more years of continuing education.



Denise Portner is senior vice president at SteegeThomson Communications and a UArts Continuing Education student.


Improvising and Connecting

Q: What did you learn or develop at UArts that you have carried with you throughout your career?

As a Dance/movement therapist working primarily with older adults with dementia and other cognitive impairments, I often need to improvise and offer creative, in the moment solutions when interacting with this population. In my work and throughout my time spent at UArts, connection has played a central role; the overall quality and degree of connection to one another, to society, and to different parts of the self. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see and to connect with others through a different lens as a student, and to be able to channel my skills and empathy to help others to adapt and to achieve balance and mind-body wellness today.

Moving and improvising through the same physical space with my peers while maintaining my kinesphere and personal boundaries, adapting to changing tempos and rhythms, “feeling” the music and mind-body connection, and imparting this sense of discipline to others throughout my Dance Education studies at UArts helped to shape the professional dance/movement therapist I am today. Dance/movement therapy (DMT), a holistic modality based upon the principles that the mind and body are intrinsically connected and that movement reflects thoughts and feeling patterns, engages the psychological theory, movement assessment and execution, as well as empathic reflection that I practiced and fine-tuned while at UArts each and every day.

Movement is a universally understood mode of communication. I move and improvise with my clients during DMT sessions, helping them to adapt to emotional and physical losses, changes, and limitations. We create a safe and personal space for thoughts and feelings. DMT helps to connect individuals with one another and encourages self-expression in a structured and supportive setting.

While moving through life, we must improvise and adjust our approach, as we adapt to changing situations and make connections along the way.


Natasha Goldstein-Levitas BFA ’00 (Dance Education) is a Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist with 16 years of experience working with high functioning to severely cognitively and physically impaired adults and older adults. She incorporates her extensive knowledge of music and vocal artists of the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s into sessions, along with sensory stimulation techniques, props and reminiscence. She is a published author on the topic of dance/movement therapy with older adults. She is also a staff writer for the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) blog.

Natasha Goldstein-Levitas

The Citizen-Artist’s Time is Now

Q: What changes do you see in your industry that are leading to growing demand for a broad arts education? What are the signs that the citizen artist’s time is now?

As we exit the information age and enter the conceptual age, creativity is a key skill in a new economy. With information on almost any subject matter at most of our finger tips, it is not knowing the information that is most valuable, but what we do with that information that is key. The arts teach us to creatively problem solve, to collaborate, and to build something new out of that which already exists. These skills will be crucial in a conceptual age and arts education is in a perfect position to train tomorrow’s future leaders.

My training as an actor at UArts prepared me for my career as an arts administrator and as a civic leader in my community. Some of the fundamental skills of acting have been invaluable to my role as an arts leader. I learned to collaborate and learned that the most successful projects develop through the input of multiple individuals. I learned to be goal and objective focused. I learned to be comfortable in the public eye. Most importantly though, I learned empathy. I learned to see the world through other people’s eyes. This skill has allowed me to communicate and work with others at a high level. All of this came from my actor training and humanities focused education at UArts. I am not sure I would have gained all of this through another means of education.


Geoffrey Kershner

Geoffrey Kershner BFA ’00 (Acting) is the Executive Director of the Academy Center of the Arts in Lynchburg, Virginia. Previously, he was the Artistic Director of the Endstation Theatre Company. Geoffrey is a current member of the UArts Alumni Council.

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