Dance Workshop Focuses on Movement, Mindfulness

Israeli instructor Michal Shahak led students through a healing through movement workshop on Tuesday, October 9.
Posted on October 12th, 2018 by

Michele Rusinko and Michal Shahak in Gustavus's Kresge Dance Studio.

While Gustavus Adolphus College students regularly add to their learning with guest lecturers and research opportunities outside the classroom, students in the theatre and dance department got the chance to do things a little differently this week – through a movement workshop.

On Tuesday, October 9, students were able to experience this kind of supplemental learning through a workshop by Michal Shahak, an internationally known movement therapist and educator who specializes in trauma healing. The workshop, titled “The Body In Conflict Resolution,” allowed students to focus less on technique (as they are used to in their day-to-day classes), and more on mindfulness.

“The focus of the workshop was on centering the body with the mind and finding a connection between the two to initiate movement. The class was different in that we spent a great deal of time thinking, imagining and working around the spine,” said sophomore dance and psychological science major Katie Rhoten ’21. “Overall, the experience was very calming and peaceful in an exploratory sense. It was slightly uncomfortable and new at the start, but with the continued practice it became easier to feel and move.”

Throughout the two-hour workshop, Shahak led students through two 15-20 minute movement sessions, had them work both in groups and by themselves, and asked students to reflect on their experiences afterwards.

“We were able to discuss, experiment and experience movement to a high degree,” Rhoten said. “I felt like I was able to connect my mind to my movement and move in a way that was new, yet comfortable in my body. I think the longer durations of time were important to gain an understanding about the way we were moving.”

This workshop was not the first time Shahak has visited and worked with students and faculty at Gustavus. Two years ago, she was involved in the collaborative creation of a dance called “Graywolves” with professor Michele Rusinko. The two met at a mind-body centering workshop in 1991 and have stayed in touch ever since.

“In the dance program at Gustavus we try to approach technique and choreography from both the inside and the outside. There are very few classes in higher education that encourage students to get to know and understand themselves from a deeply internal place,” Rusinko said. “I knew that Michal would be a great resource to help guide students into this kind of deep listening.”

The workshop had the desired effect, Rhoten said.

“I didn’t have to think about what I should do next, organic movement was just coming out. Not only was it like a meditative state that I felt in my mind, but I also felt it through my body,” she explained. “Just to experience something like that was incredible.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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