Mental health, performance strategies and self-regulation are key elements for personal and professional success. Will Centurion, Counselling and Life Coaching for Actors, Singers and Dancers, has helped numerous artists achieve just this.
In a world where demands and expectations are high, it’s important to treat yourself with kindness, and evolve through the process and harness the superpower of creativity to let your light shine.
As an industry professional with over 20 years of experience, Centurion has provided coaching to clients in order to help them improve their wellbeing and resilience so they can enjoy the spotlight. With industry relevant and evidence-based techniques catered for each client, he offers Counselling, Mindset Coaching, Student Coaching, Teacher’s Mental Health Toolkits, workshops to Rewire, Reboot and Repair, and The Resilience Training Program to develop mindsets to recover from challenges and adversity.
Dance athletes and artists have to train vigorously, overcome injuries, set-backs and juggle studies along with other commitments – not to mention life’s highs and lows. Offering tools to overcome difficult situations, manage stress and wellbeing, Centurion has worked with clients and organisations such as Brent Street, Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance, Transit Dance, Victorian College of the Arts, Monash University, The McDonald College, The National Theatre Melbourne, The Australian Ballet School, Royal Academy of Dance, TAFTA (The Australian Film and Television Academy), Moulin Rouge the Musical, Magic Mike Live and Hairspray the Musical. Centurion has also been a beloved speaker at Victorian Dance Festival‘s renowned Vitality dance teacher conference several times.
Join us as we speak with Centurion about his work and how he enables his clients across Australia, America and the United Kingdom to achieve their personal best.
Will, tell us about your experience as a dancer and three key highlights.
“I started dancing at age 18. I was a late bloomer to the world of the arts. But what I lacked in knowledge, I made up for in passion. Always at the back of the class and never featured in any school showcases, I knew that the best way to get ahead was to stay in my own lane. Rather than trying to be someone else or wishing that my journey had been different, I learnt to appreciate my own timeline, process and approach. Eventually, even with only three years of dance training under my belt, I managed to break into the industry and have a rewarding 20-year career as a musical theatre performer in shows like A Chorus Line, West Side Story, We Will Rock You, Saturday Night Fever, Aladdin, King Kong Live on Stage and The King and I.
My three highlights are: 1.) debuting in AIDA in Germany in 2003 as an Assistant Dance Captain, 2.) playing BANZAI in The Lion King for the Melbourne and Perth season of the tour, and 3.) ending my 20-year career with In the Heights at the Sydney Opera House.”
Career transitions are such a critical shift for dancers and a challenging one to navigate. How did you personally work through this process?
“Taking my last bow on stage was an emotional experience. I knew that it would be the last time I performed in a show. What helped was already having something else in sight that I was passionate about. The mental health sector has been a huge source of fulfilment and incredibly rewarding. It has allowed me to continue to lean into my creativity. You see, our skills are transferable, no matter what industry we choose to go into next, and that makes the grief more tolerable and a valuable member of any team we decide to join. I took a day to mourn and then announced myself a counsellor and mindset coach who specifically works with performing artists. It felt incredibly powerful to pivot my career on my own terms and to look back at my time in the performing arts with appreciation and gratitude.”
For those who are curious, what does a ‘wellness coach’ do, and how can dancers and artists benefit from having one?
“A wellness coach is someone who supports their clients through the mental, emotional and physical challenges of their chosen career. It’s someone who you can co-regulate with when facing setbacks, uncertainty, change and confusion, or if you are simply needing to be reminded of your strengths. It’s so important for dancers to have someone working alongside them in this way, just as any other elite athlete would. Think of all the successful swimmers, tennis players and track runners, and I could guarantee that part of their support system would include someone who works on the psychological aspects of performance.”
Where are your clients based, and do you work with a broad age group?
“My clients are based in Australia, the UK and the USA. I have worked with a range of both professional and emerging artists, from cheerleaders, to circus artists, to actors and ballet company members. The ages have all varied from 14 to late 60s. My passion is to work with full-time students and emerging artists, offering the kind of support and guidance that I wish had been available to me in my time as a theatre school student working and early career artist.”
There are so many demands for dancers and performers. What areas and topics do you help people with, and what kind of tools do you provide them?
“Emotional health is something that often gets missed in actors, singers and dancers. There’s a lot of focus on the mind (a top down approach) without taking into consideration the role the nervous system plays in the way we relate to challenges (a bottom up approach). The more someone sees a song, scene or situation as a threat, the more likely the body will do what it needs to do to keep that person safe. Some coping styles often end up being anxiety, depression, avoidance, ambivalence, self sabotage, fawning and overwhelm. My aim is to help performers learn practical skills to re-regulate the nervous system after a challenge, setback or disappointment and to train them in ways to maintain an athlete’s mindset even when it feels uncomfortable.”
Providing solutions and accountability is a key element of your job. What is your approach to navigating each individual’s circumstance?
“The key element across everyone’s circumstances is to learn self-compassion and resilience. We often have such high expectations of ourselves as artists and although that’s a great standard to strive for, our thinking and response can very quickly become rigid rather than flexible. We are different, but the same. Ours is a shared experience of attaching our self-worth to our art, of burning out from the hustle or forgetting that we are human and always expecting the perfect audition performance or outcome.”
Can you give us an example of how someone can reduce performance anxiety?
“The way to reduce performance anxiety is to change your relationship to it. Often we see it as our enemy, or a part of ourselves that is getting in the way. However, anxiety has a much kinder and positive intention – and that is to keep us safe. Safe from disappointment, safe from threat, safe from pain. The issue isn’t what it’s trying to do, the issue is the way it’s trying to do it. If we can learn to listen to what it is trying to tell us, if we can learn to help it to feel understood, safe, protected and guided, then anxiety may start to let us do what we need to so we can move to the next level in our lives. I find that mindfulness techniques together with some somatic practices can help anxiety to feel the safety it needs to, in order to let go.”
What are your top three tips for goal setting?
“Goal setting can very quickly become overwhelming and take us away from our end destination rather than toward.
Here are my top three tips for goal setting:
#1. Always start with the smallest thing you can do. That’s the best way to get the motivation happening.
#2. Aim to improve by 1% every day and make the goal about the process, not the outcome.
#3. Don’t set goals that are too big. Keep them smart: there’s no point in setting goals that leave us disappointed!”
Can you provide any words of advice for those considering a career change?
“The golden ticket is on the word considering. There’s nothing you have to do, just what you choose to do. A career change should be about reclaiming your power, not about a surrender. Find something that sparks your curiosity, consider how you can add value to it and use your gift to be of service to others. We are very fortunate in being able to reinvent ourselves. That’s a privilege, not a curse. If it feels overwhelming, ask for the right kind of support.”
Tell us a little about your Ebook?
“5 Self-Care Steps for Emerging Dancers, Singers, and Actors is a concise way to help performers expand on their self awareness. The aim is to provide guidelines that anyone can use on a day-to-day basis. The important thing with self-care is that it is a daily practice and an ongoing development. The more we stick with it, the more rewards we have. It’s like taking a shower; it doesn’t just happen once. Self-care is a commitment because without your wellbeing, there is no creativity.”
For more information on Will Centurion and his services, visit www.mrwillcenturion.com.
By Renata Ogayar of Dance Informa.