Fate takes dance professor into new life

Josh Coffman

Jennifer Tarrazi-Scully did not believe in fate a year ago. But then she came to Western and found what may prove to be her destiny.

A visiting professional-in-residence, Tarrazi-Scully?arrived on the Hill last fall to teach contemporary dance. She lived in New York City before coming to Western, where she taught and performed, landing roles in several off-Broadway shows, including “The Changeling” and “The Donkey Show.”

But Tarrazi-Scully eventually realized that life in the Big Apple can be as tough as its concrete core. Six years of big city living left her seeking a different atmosphere.

“I needed a break,” she said. “There was a reason I left that big city … I was looking for a slower paced environment where I could be happy.”

Tarrazi-Scully – or Scully, as friends and colleagues call her – went to Maryland to visit family after leaving New York. And that’s when chance took hold.

She called an old friend, just to say hi. That friend was Stephen Stone, a dance professor at Western.

He told Tarrazi-Scully about an opening for a visiting professional-in-residence at Western, and she jumped on the opportunity.

“I never thought I’d end up in Kentucky,” she said.

Scully and dance: lifelong partners

Tarrazi-Scully started dancing when she was three years old. While in middle school, she moved to North Carolina and became a regular at a nearby studio.

“It became a good home for me,” she said. “I studied hard, worked hard … I became a better dancer.”

She said there is so much she enjoys about dancing, she doesn’t know where to start.

Her passion for the art continues to show through her teaching. She said she likes helping young dancers grow, though she initially never planned to teach.

“I kind of fell into teaching,” she said.

Stone said Tarrazi-Scully was the best candidate in a national search for the one-year position.

“She’s inspiring, because she loves what she does,” Stone said.

Stone and Tarrazi-Scully met in Greensboro, N.C. where both attended college. They didn’t meet up until both were in the Gamble/Van Dyke Dance Company, after Tarrazi-Scully graduated.

“I’ve always thought she was an incredible performer and she shows great promise as a teacher,” Stone said. “Her choreography is impeccable.”

Love falls into Scully’s lap

Once on the Hill, Tarrazi-Scully attended a new-faculty orientation where she met John McLester, an exercise physiology professor who was also new to campus.

The flicker of fate in Tarrazi-Scully’s life suddenly became a full-blown fire.

“I knew she didn’t have a car,” McLester said. “So I offered her a ride.”

Soon, a trip to the grocery store became a table for two at Spencer’s Coffeehouse.

McLester said his time with Tarrazi-Scully has been like a fairy tale.

“She has so many great qualities,” he said. “I’ve told a lot of people that she’s the greatest woman I’ve ever met.”

Tarrazi-Scully seems just as delighted. Although it may not seem that way on the outside, inside her heart is beating fast.

“I kind of feel like I won the lottery, meeting him here,” she said.

Where will fate take her next?

Tarrazi-Scully will soon move into a house in Bowling Green. It will be the first home she has owned in her life. She said she does not yet know what fate holds for her down the road.

Not having a master’s degree, she is ineligible to teach full-time at Western. She still plans to instruct classes on a part-time basis next fall. Ultimately, she wants to stick around.

“I like Bowling Green,” she said, noting that its rural charm is sprinkled with large-city-like offerings. “It has a great Japanese restaurant.”

McLester hopes he and Tarrazi-Scully stick together.

“I see it being a lasting relationship – hopefully without end,” he said.

Stone also likes the idea of having her at Western.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “She’s going to make a huge difference in the long term.”

Regardless of what hand she ends up with, Tarrazi-Scully now believes that the cards in her life are being dealt from somewhere.

“I’ve never been a believer in fate,” she said. “But now I believe certain things guide you … It’s changed my outlook on life.”

Reach Josh Coffman at [email protected]