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History & Philosophy: Creative Transformation - from the personal to the collective


Movement Theatre for Social Change: 

I was an actor in the Living Theatre Company in the late 80s and early 90s.   During this time I learned from Judith Malina, Carlo Altomare, and others to use my body as a metaphoric vehicle in live performance - to literally "move" audiences into an experiential journey into the heart of social justice issues; such as homelessness, violence - both systemic and interpersonal, and environmental waste.  The Living Theatre was one of the first companies to go off Broadway in the early 50s with a vision to explore the transformation of consciousness both individually and collectively through symbolic, physical interactions between performers and audience members.

Working with Judith and her team was an inspiring and life changing experience for me, deepening my performance skills while at the same time increasing my desire to be of service to social justice.  During my time with the Living Theatre, I learned to activate audiences to engage in the quest for solutions for critical issues of social justice in an intensely personal, creative and impactful way via live performance. In the mid 90s, I became ill from long term exposure to mercury and other environmental toxins, causing me to leave New York City, and begin a healing journey of my own.  


Personal Alchemy through Dance:

As I struggled to heal from the cumulative effects of environmental toxins, I soon came face to face with the inextricable connection between my physical health and my emotional and spiritual well being. I turned to dance as an outlet for the pent up, complex and ineffable emotions that buffeted me as  I encountered more and more  obstacles in my body and life, and found in dance a source of liberation from these obstacles.  As I channeled my emotions into full physical expression in the dance, I felt an increase in physical vitality and positive outlook, and also an increase in personal awareness. 

During authentic movement and improvisational dance healing groups, I began to see that I had patterns of toxic thoughts, that like the environmental toxins, were taking a toll on my ability to heal myself. I reflected on how these negative thought patterns had many times been source of secret paralysis as I developed my artistic work - often inhibiting me from experiencing the fullness and joy of my own creativity and its healing power, even as I was guiding audiences into authentic, vitalizing experiences of their own. As part of my healing, I developed an original multimedia solo piece, which I performed at the CEC, in Philadelphia, in 1995, called Rider, that explored these patterns of fear and pain within. The performance, using elements of flamenco dance and the movements and symbology of horses, created a cathartic and liberating pathway out of these experiences of limitation and entrapment through empowered movement expression.

Dance Movement Healing as Creative Transformation in Community: 

As a result of the empowerment that dance provided me on my personal healing path, I became passionate to learn more about the healing qualities of dance, and in 1997, engaged in a course of study at University of Hawaii to learn about cross cultural shamanic movement and meditative healing rituals. I was especially inspired by the dance rituals connected with nature from the Huna and Kahiko traditions in indigenous Hawaiian culture, in the indigenous Coast Salish dance/theater ritual of Spirit Dancing, and in the ritual initiations of Black Elk (Oglala Sioux) and Malidoma Patrice Some (Burkina Faso). 

In 1998 I began a masters course of study in Dance Movement Therapy at MCP Hahnemann University in Philadelphia researching transformational healing movement processes from a clinical psychological perspective for adolescents and their communities. In my studies I encountered Candice Pert and later Bruce Lipton, researchers into the neuro-biologic connection between the emotions and the body - and found much scientific support for the use of creative arts in ritual ways to create healing and empowerment in mind and body. During my masters training, I learned how to use movement and dance to facilitate healing, self expression, catharsis and empowerment with adults, elders, children and teens across a wide spectrum of class, race, and culture.

In 2002, I began a course of study that would eventually lead me to certification in 2005 as a movement healer in a form of shamanic energy work using dance and movement developed by Iana Lahi called Spirit Gateways. I founded a non-profit in 2003, called Moving Creations Inc. that was born from my masters thesis research into how therapeutic creativity can facilitate adolescent identity repair. The mission of Moving Creations Inc. was to provide creative transformational dance/theater empowerment workshops with teens to support teen leadership and civic engagement in their communities. I ran our signature program, Girls on the Move, from 2003-2013 with a team of multicultural creative artists, providing small groups of hundred of girls intensive, life-changing experiences in expressive creativity development and leadership through performance creation (see photos below and website: In 2012 I became trained as a meditation and yoga teacher in the schools through the YES (Youth Empowerment Service) for Schools program, and integrate this training into all that I do.

Artist as Creator, Healer, Transformer, Teacher: 
I see myself as an artist, healor, teacher, and cross-cultural explorer - all inextricably intertwined. I am committed to bringing students into a deeper connection with their own life force and creative power experientially and to providing them opportunities to explore their artistic identities from this place.  I provide opportunities for students to directly experience their own capacity to transform and uplift negative psychological states through dance - and to view dance as a form of alchemical moving meditation. I seek to help students tap into the wellspring of visionary inspiration deep within them from a place of union with body, mind, heart and soul.  At the same time I challenge them to expand past their cultural boundaries and perspectives to embrace the wisdom within diverse cultural traditions and worldviews,  and find creative ways, verbally and non verbally, to connect to this wisdom and grow from this process.  I have developed curricula to teach the power of creative transformation through dance movement processes, dramatic/ cathartic ritual and performance creation in youth, and people of all ages. Currently I am in the process of writing articles and eventually a book on my work with youth, adults and elders in the transforming fire of dance, creativity and life.  


Below is a sample movement based workshop I presented at Drexel University in Philadelphia (2013).


Emily Nussdorfer, MA, LPC, BC-DMT 
Founder’s Notes 


Emily Nussdorfer, MA, LPC, BC-DMT, is a clinically trained, board certified dance/movement therapist and certified Spirit Gateways® Movement Healing practioner trained by Iana Lahi.  She has over 20 years experience performing and teaching dance and theater and 15 years of providing dance-movement therapy services. As a visionary activist, she views the creative and performing arts as vehicles for inner transformation, self-liberation, and self-actualization.

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