Feb. 13, 2023

UCalgary economics prof invests in self-rediscovery through dance

Kunio Tsuyuhara hopes his philosophy of embracing new challenges inspires students
Kunio Tsuyuhara
Kunio Tsuyuhara, second from right, has been challenging himself to “start something” new by taking contemporary dance courses. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Leading by example may best summarize the steps a UCalgary economics professor has taken to challenge and reinvent himself, including dance steps on a public stage.

Dr.  Kunio Tsuyuhara, PhD, says his decision to enrol in ballet classes in his fifth decade was all about self-rediscovery.

“Dance was something that I always wanted to try, but it was definitely beyond my comfort zone. One day when I was talking to one of my students during the office hour, she mentioned she used to dance at a ballet company.

“I shared my dance aspirations with her, and she encouraged me to try it. So, I decided to give it a try, and the rest is history.”

On Jan. 27, Tsuyuhara took to the stage as part of the Acts of Kindness program in a piece called The Hog House.

Acts of Kindness was an event hosted by UCalgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts, in partnership with the Campus Mental Health Strategy, featuring dance, drama, and music, in celebration of kindness, connection, and mental health awareness, all which Tsuyuhara takes to his heart.

“My motto is to always try something new and outside of my comfort zone,” says Tsuyuhara.

And it’s a message the associate professor shares with his students.

Kunio Tsuyuhara

Tim Nguyen

“One thing I encourage with all my students is to speak up in class and try expressing themselves — challenge yourself and me,” says Tsuyuhara.

“Trying something new doesn’t mean having to do something drastically different. If you commit to making a positive change one step at a time, no matter how small each step you might feel, like speaking up in class, you eventually make a huge leap forward. You just need to be patient.”

One thing Tsuyuhara has been focused on the past decade is embracing aging and changing.

“Older people are doing amazing things — just look at the people in my speedskating community,” says Tsuyuhara.

“We are constantly changing as we age, like it or not, and if you don’t realize it and take a chance to grow, you tend to be overly protective of yourself and develop your own ego.”

Tsuyuhara says he believes people are not a fixed entity, and time and experience change everyone after all. That’s why for the past decade, he has been on a path of self-reinvention and redemption — he’s decided to be bold, keep moving, and continue growing.

Kunio Tsuyuhara

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

“If I don’t take ownership of this changing self, I will quite possibly change in a negative direction, and I don’t want that,” says Tsuyuhara.

“I’ve failed a lot throughout this process, though,” he adds. “But it’s been the people I’ve met during those tough times who have saved me and kept me going. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.

“And I think we need to remember that our failures aren’t failures when you are growing. And as I age and experience life, I can now clearly see the dots — 'failures' at the time — all being connected — and it’s always been a step forward.”

“I’m an old man taking dance classes,” Tsuyuhara says with a laugh.

“If I can take this dance class on campus with young dancers of half my age, anyone can do anything, and I hope my experience encourages others.”

Dance lessons have since pirouetted into speedskating and volunteering at Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS). For Tsuyuhara, it’s all part of a philosophy of lifelong self-discovery.

He says that while UCalgary’s Start Something mantra can be about research, entrepreneurship and innovation, he feels it should also be about personal growth.

“I felt very funny when I saw UCalgary’s Start Something banners on campus,” reflects Tsuyuhara. “These flags represent me and my way of life.”