Alumna Kellyn Uhl is a Registered Dance/Movement Therapist (R-DMT) who, after graduating from Michigan State University in 2010 with a BFA in Theatre, worked as an actor, dancer, and photographer in New York City and all around the world. She credits all these experiences, including her time spent at MSU, for leading her to where she is today.
Dance/Movement Therapist Career
As an R-DMT, Uhl works full time at Cedar Creek Hospital in St. Johns, Michigan, a behavioral health hospital where she works with adolescents and adults coping with a range of psychosocial stressors and/or mental illness. In order to initiate growth and healing, Uhl uses creativity through movement, dancing, drawing, and writing.
“In my work, creativity is the means for therapeutic growth,” Uhl said. “My primary duty is to offer creative arts therapy groups and individual therapy sessions to support clients in processing thoughts and feelings, while working to discover personal treatment goals and expand options for coping. Part of my job is to provide an environment in which all forms of expression are worthy of existence and exploration.”
Dance/movement therapy honors and acknowledges the role of the body, of movement, of nonverbal and creative expression.KELLYN UHL, BFA THEATRE 2010
Uhl never knew what dance/movement therapy was until it came up in a casual conversation. With a combination of art and theatre and her desire to serve others and encourage well-being, Uhl describes it as “all my ingredients in a career.”
“My theatre background has allowed me to see that my work as a therapist is the ultimate exercise in improvisation, as my task each day is to first meet every single client where they’re at without assumption or expectation,” Uhl said. “Dance/movement therapy honors and acknowledges the role of the body, of movement, of nonverbal and creative expression within the therapeutic process, in addition to verbal expression.”
Working Around the World
While living in New York City, Uhl volunteered with New York Cares for which she started dancing with the elderly, children with autism, and adults with traumatic brain injuries who were confined to wheelchairs.
“I knew in my gut, after no more than two volunteer gigs, that I needed to follow this path further,” Uhl said.
That path led her to Tamil Nadu, India, where she lived for three months and volunteered as a medical aide and dance instructor at leprosy colonies, and at a boarding school for leprosy-affected youth.
“The arts have the potential to not only entertain and provoke, but to serve,” Uhl said. These ideas were seeds that would develop over the next three years, and they grew into the eventual pursuit of my master’s, and my work now as a registered dance/movement therapist.”
During the spring 2015 semester, MSU’s Department of Theatre needed someone to immediately step into the role of Professor of Musical Theatre and Choreography and Uhl took the position. She taught Dance Improvisation and Beginning-Intermediate Tap courses and was the choreographer for both The December Project and Hair, alongside director Deric McNish.
Uhl’s role later expanded to include administrative arts work within the MSUFCU Institute for Arts and Creativity at Wharton Center and she also served as Interim Artistic Director of ĭmáGen, a musical theatre immersion program in the Department of Theatre.
Uhl also credits her time as an MSU student with helping to lay the foundation for a successful career.
“MSU honed in me the skills and self-belief necessary to navigate a career as a multifaceted creative person,” she said. “Through great mentorship from teachers there, my array of interests were sharpened and refined, rather than pigeonholed.”