Panel: Ecological Healing Spaces: Navigating embodied connections and healing trauma in times of unrest

Monday, April 26 @ 4:00 pm CST

The panelists for this presentation come from various countries such as Malaysia, China, India, Bulgaria, and the United States. They were brought together in Fall 2020 as first year graduate students in the Arizona State University University dance program. Each panelist will speak about how the lens of social somatics has shaped their perspectives and experiences during this unprecedented time of great social unrest and difficulty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and sociopolitical circumstances in the United States and beyond. Inspired by theories and practices they explored together in their somatic movement inquiry and teaching praxis courses, the panelists will share how social somatics and somatic/body-centered psychology approaches to trauma and healing have helped them create connections across physical, and social spaces, as well as deal with cultural differences and adjust to virtual classroom learning. Joined by their professor, the panelists will discuss how the anti-racism movement, white privilege and cultural trauma can affect embodied experiences of “self”, one body’s responses to another, a body’s response to a community, and bodies of a community in relationship to bodies of another community.

Also emerging during this time has been a recognition of the immense human need for physical connection and playing a meaningful role in the social ecologies of communities. Panelists will discuss how they, as culturally distinct members of a learning community, have been maneuvering, re-orienting and challenging themselves individually, and collectively, to make purposeful changes to the ecologies of which they are a part. They will speak to how histories, migration, political unrest, and social and racial injustice relate to ecologies of the body, while also addressing the unique learning ecology that has been created through the virtual spaces they co-inhabit. Panelists will share how they have been navigating their way through the current situation and how they cope with the physical and emotional stress of distanced learning with the added complications of different time zones, cultures, and past life experiences. The panel will conclude with a discussion of how they have, in the spite of the circumstances, been able to connect with each other in significant ways through social somatic experiences.


Becky Dyer is an associate professor of dance and somatics in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre at ASU. She is a  Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst, ISMETA Somatic Movement Education Therapist and Educator, and Certified K-12 Dance Pedagogy Specialist. She received her doctorate in dance pedagogy and somatics from Texas Women’s University. She joined ASU in 2004.

Jemima Choong-Born and raised in Malaysia, Jemima Choong(dancer/choreographer) began her dance training at the age of 9 in ballet and modern at The Ballet Studio, Kuala Lumpur. She trained at Eximius School of Performing Arts as a teaching associate for the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing(ISTD) in Malaysia in 2014. To further pursue dance as a professional career, she came to the U.S. in 2014 and continued her dance training at Idyllwild Arts Academy. She graduated and received a B.F.A. in Dance Performance and Choreography from University of California, Irvine. Upon graduating, she received her American Ballet Theater(ABT) teaching certification from Pre-primary to Level 3 and has taught in various dance studios since while performing as a freelance artist. Currently, she is pursuing her Masters of Fine Arts degree in Dance with emphasis on dance pedagogy and choreography at Arizona State University. Her choreography emphasizes on using subtle gestures, focuses on playing with different rhythms and tempos, and explores the use of bodies in space to create different formations which offer a visually interesting experience for the audience.

Tongjie Kong– I come from Guangzhou, Guangdong province in the south of China. I like dancing and singing very much, watching movies and taking pictures. My research interests focus on street dance (especially Hip-Hop and jazz, but I also like popping and urban) improvisation and choreography as well as the difficulty skills, techniques and emotional expression of modern dance. I want to learn and explore deeply the pedagogy and leadership of building a studio or a community. In addition, I hope to integrate some traditional Chinese culture with Hip-Hop culture and build a bridge to be the founder of cultural communication and create some of my own new ideas and notions about dance.

Ying Ma – I come from China. During my undergraduate, my major is Chinese classical dance and Chinese folk dance, so I want to choreograph the piece that combines Eastern and Western culture. I also like modern dance and choreography, so I want to be a dancer and then to be a teacher after graduation. My research interest is dance video or film , including some cross-border art fields.

Siva Pooja Ramachandran– I am from the Southern part of India, moved to Tempe about 2 months back. My form of movement is Bharatanatyam (an Indian Classical art form). My research interest is to remove the implications of globalization on cultures and to use Somatics in helping dancers devise their individual paths towards their truth. Other interests: instrumental music, quote writing, traveling and psychology.

Tanya Stoyanova– I am from Bulgaria. I am a professional dancer and choreographer. I have been a professional dancer for 20 years now, the last 9 of which, I have been a choreographer also. I teach professional dancers and beginner lovers of dancing of all ages. I graduated from the National School of Dance Art in the city of Sofia, Bulgaria and MFA in dance in the city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. After graduating from the National School of Dance Art I went to Turkey where I had the honor and pleasure to be part of several professional international Dance companies with which we had numerous tours and concerts. My professional development in these performances was not only as a main dancer, but also as a solo dancer.I have participated in various dance groups and performances. The dance styles I was learning during these years are: Bulgarian folk dances, Balkan folk dances, Ballet, Contemporary, Belly dance, Street dance (Hip-Hop) and Jazz.  In 2008, after my return to Bulgaria I created eleven dance groups for children and adults. In 2016 I created the TDS DanceArt LTD Company. As of the end of 2016, I live in Phoenix, Arizona. Here I created the dance group Balkanik where I teach kids and adults to Bulgarian folk dances. I am also teaching ballet class for kids and adults and belly dance class in one dance studio in Tempe. 

Alyssa Calvano is a first-year graduate student at Arizona State University. Her field of study is Dance and is looking to hone in on her pedagogical experience. Her interests include Choreography, Contemporary dance, Improvisation, Pedagogy, and learning more about herself within the realm of dance. Alyssa has been teaching at various studios and preschools in Illinois since 2014. She completed her undergrad at Columbia College Chicago in 2017, and has been teaching, choreographing, and dancing since.

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