Kathy Diehl

Kathy Diehl

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The Dancer

Currently completing a Master of Fine Arts in Dance

“When I went back to school, I'll never forget that first day. It was a snowy winter morning, and I came to class early. As I walked around the studio, I felt a tremendous sense of clarity. I knew that then that I was meant to teach in a college setting. It was quite a feeling, given that I had just resigned from a career that I had been unhappy in for many years.”

It is fitting that Kathy Diehl's favorite movie is “The Turning Point.” After a successful career in social work and psychology--she faced her own personal turning point. She had to choose whether to stay in a profession that she was no longer passionate about, or take a risk and pursue a career that would make her truly happy. With the help of SUNY Brockport, she found her answer.

Ever since she was three years old, Kathy has been like the ballerina in the Red Shoes—she has danced and danced and never stopped dancing, even when she was working full-time in a completely unrelated profession. She received her classical training under the late Tim Draper, one of the most world's most renowned and respected ballet masters, and remembers her first introduction to SUNY Brockport. “When I was still in high school, Mr. Draper used to bring me out to the College to help him with demonstrations in his ballet classes,” she says. Over the years, she also attended Dance Awareness Days at the College. “I have always been aware that the College has a very highly regarded dance program,” she says.

Rather than pursue a degree in dance, Kathy decided to take a different path. She chose to pursue undergraduate studies in psychology at SUNY Plattsburgh and a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work from Case Western Reserve University. For about ten years, she worked full-time as a social worker at Strong Memorial Hospital, and also had a private therapy practice.

During that time, she still taught dance, and performed as a principal soloist in several productions of The Nutcracker as well as in numerous original and contemporary works. Kathy says, “All my energy, all my joy, went into dance. It was becoming obvious that I couldn't do that and social work, and I didn't want to.” So in 2005, she decided to take a leap (or perhaps, a grande jete), and resigned from her position at Strong. She also closed her private practice.

From then on, Kathy taught ballet full time at the Draper Center for Dance Education, Nazareth Academy, the Pittsford Dance studio, and the Ballet Theatre, among others. When one of Brockport's dance professors went on leave, Kathy was hired to fill in as an adjunct instructor. She says, “I taught an advanced ballet course for only half a semester, but those two months at SUNY Brockport changed my life. It became clear to me that I wanted to teach dance at the university level.”

In 2007, she enrolled in the MFA program in Dance at Brockport, which she says “is extremely busy and wonderfully exciting.” In addition to her studies, she now holds a Graduate Teaching Assistantship. ”It has been an amazing experience,” she says. “I have been able to apply what I am learning in my own coursework directly into what I'm teaching.” She also is seeing things come full circle. Her mentor, Tim Draper, introduced her to Brockport years ago and now she will be following in his footsteps. “As I stood in the studio as a teacher this past semester,” she says. “I realized how everything seems to happen for a reason.”

After she completes her Masters Degree, Kathy plans to teach full time at a university. She would like to explore doctoral program possibilities. It all started at SUNY Brockport; she says that the faculty and students at Brockport gave her the support she needed after making the difficult decision to close one door and begin to open another. “It is quite a transition to go back to school after being a working professional for so long, but my professors and colleagues have helped me a great deal with this adjustment.”

W.B. Yeats once wrote, “How can we tell the dancer from the dance?” Once conflicted by possibilites of two professional career options, Kathy made the brave decision to risk all for her art. Now as her life, work, play and future have all fused into one—she is truly, blissfully inseparable from her new life in dance.

Last Updated 7/12/21