||"The mask shows more than one part of me...
it shows the real me."
I believe that by investing in the dreams of all our youth, the quality of life in all our communities will be uplifted. Conversely, when any of the youth in our communities are suffering from lack of access to resources, education and opportunity, the strength and vibrancy of the future of our entire community is diminished. The health and well being of our communities is inextricably linked with the health and well being of all our youth.
Imagine the future of our communities if all our youth are supported to find meaning and purpose for their lives. Imagine what our future would be like if all youth have the opportunity and skills with which to build their life from that place of creative purpose. What interesting, innovative and fulfilling possibilities could exist in our world as a result! The current devastating statistics of youth violence, suicide, anorexia, bulimia, obesity, addictions, school truancy and drop out rates, early pregnancy and disease would be reduced to a bad memory.
Here at Moving Creations we are committed to helping the youth we serve learn how to discover purpose and meaning for their lives, develop positive leadership and social skills, and become part of a supportive community through creativity and the arts.
I founded Moving Creations, Inc., out of a deep sense of responsibility to engage youth and their communities in the transforming power and joy of creativity in motion in their lives. As a dancer, I know first hand how powerful body movement is in creating new possibilities and positive life change. As a teacher of dance and theater, I have seen how powerful these art forms are in transforming the lives of children and adults. As a dance/movement therapist using drama therapy techniques, I have witnessed the power of dance and theater to heal trauma and change behavior positively and powerfully from the inside out, both for children and adults from all backgrounds and realms of experience. Like dance and theater, the act of making poetry, fashion and visual art, music and film opens new doorways into experiencing oneself and previously unimagined possibilities of life. With the ability to envision new possibility, comes the ability to create positive change.
My Personal Quest for a Vision
In 1992, while an actress in the Living Theater Company in NYC, I traveled to the heart of the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico to engage in an artist residency at the Fellowship for Ecology and the Arts. During the days I walked through ancient desert canyons, gathering ideas for new songs and searching for my true purpose on the planet. Burnt out from witnessing the deep despair of the many homeless and drug addicted people living on the margins in New York city, and deeply angered at the inequity and oppression within the social system that caused this situation; I wanted passionately to be a part of changing these realities during my life time. The Living Theater, under the inspired direction of Judith Malina, challenged audiences to embrace the need for social change through theater, and much as I loved this work, I hungered to be part of changing the system on a much deeper level. I decided to undergo a Native American Vision Quest in order to help me find my highest purpose with my work. As I fasted for three days on a high mesa in the desert utterly alone, I let go of my identity as a white middle class young woman and felt my connection to all of humanity – I opened myself to the unifying connections between all the diverse creeds, cultures and colors of humanity– and I opened myself to being part of a much larger natural world made up of animals, birds, fish, insects, wind, rock, water, fire, air, sky…. of which humanity was but a small part. I carried within my heart an ancient Cree Prophecy I had just discovered…
When the earth is sick and the animals have disappeared
There will come a tribe of people of all creeds, cultures and colors
Who will restore the earth to its former beauty
They will be called the warriors of the rainbow
During the opening of my quest, I stated my intention to the natural world around me to dedicate my life to being one of these warriors of the rainbow. I asked for guidance in how to serve this mission with my skills as an artist in the most powerful and effective way possible. On the late afternoon of the second day, the northwestern horizon was black with clouds, and soon a furious lightening storm engulfed the mesa that lasted the entire night. I truly believed that I was going to die. I remember feeling tremendous terror, and that I was utterly insignificant in the vast scheme of things. But I also remember that never before had I seen or felt so much beauty and power; never before had I felt so much sheer joy in the majesty of life. Early on the third day, as the storm subsided, I arose to a new world filled with bird song and I added my song to theirs and sang with passionate joy all day.
When I returned to New York, it was as if the lightening on the mesa had struck into every facet of my life there, and soon I had to let go of everything – my job, my theater company and my 5 year relationship in order to take care of my body which had suddenly begun to crumble due to mercury poisoning. I left New York and returned to my parents’ home in Philadelphia to heal. I underwent a 6-year journey of self-transformation through terror into beauty and power which took me all the way to Hawaii and back. The result of my quest for a vision finally became clear to me in 1998 when I entered the Creative Arts in Therapy Program at MCP Hahnemann University in Philadelphia. Here as I developed specialized clinical and educational skills in dance/movement and drama therapy, and began to research and identify the theoretical framework needed to create life changing youth and community programs using the creative and performing arts, I knew I had found the way that I could serve the change I wished to be part of bringing forth with purpose and meaning. Through the development of my thesis at Hahnemann; I was able to establish a scientific basis for the importance of creativity and of the symbolic quest for a vision of meaning and purpose in youth development and community health. All of Moving Creations’ programming is built upon this foundation.
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How Moving Creations was Born
As I developed my skills in dance/movement therapy with children and teens in Norristown, PA, Coatesville, PA and Hampton, NJ and with adults in North Philadelphia, my experiences during this time fueled my thesis research. I researched every rites of passage ritual for youth that I could find from indigenous cultures across the globe, and sought to discover how they incorporated creativity, the quest for a vision and community support in order to empower youth to become positive transformers in their worlds. During my research, I discovered western psychological theories that were present in these indigenous rituals, and created a theoretical matrix that combined rites of passage ritual theory and techniques with creative arts therapy theory and techniques – to promote adolescent self empowerment within the context of a supportive peer and adult community.
Central to my research was the theoretical inquiry into three aspects of identity, namely, personal, cultural, and community identity in order to address poverty and system repair. To further augment the research, I test ran elements of this matrix to address the three aspects of identity repair in a Pennsylvania State Arts Council Residency in Coatesville, working with a cross- cultural mix of predominately low income elementary school age children who had difficulty with anger, communication and attention. By studying the forces that both harm and empower these three aspects of identity, I created a program that uses the creative arts to uplift and positively impact the lives of teenage youth and their communities. My thesis program was titled: Moving Creations: A dance and drama therapy-based model for preadolescent identity repair. My company Moving Creations Inc. was created soon after the thesis was published, in order to raise money to pilot the program with Philadelphia teens and evaluate its results.
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The Girls on the Move Project
After securing funding to pilot my program with adjudicated and pre-adjudicated predominately African American adolescent girls, ages 13 – 16, living in inner city areas of Philadelphia, I began a collaboration with the Family Planning Council, resulting in the creation of the “Girls of Promise” program in August 2003. From 2003 – 2005, under the auspices of this program, I found and trained a team of artist mentors with whom I developed and piloted a 12-week workshop series that served over 80 adolescent African American girls, and was called the Girls on the Move Creative and Cultural Arts Program. From 2005- 2008, two new phases were piloted and evaluated, culminating in a 12-month adolescent girls’ leadership program titled The Girls on the Move Project. Recent graduates of all three phases of the project have been featured on NPR and honored at the Wingspan Arts Kids Film Festival at Lincoln Center in NYC when their culminating film for the Girls on the Move Project, Our Visions of Change, was selected to be screened there, and won Best Story Design and Audience Favorite.
From the time it was first tested, the phases of the program have been adjusted and developed to create a long-term prevention program that will promote sustained positive behavior change. Since its beginning, all of the girls enrolled have come from low-income, high-risk urban areas, and many have needed social services and faced adjudication.
Today, Moving Creations continues to expand its Girls on the Move Project though continued collaboration with family services organizations, research teams, artists, community organizations, and interested friends and members of the Philadelphia arts and social service community in order to best meet the leadership and mentorship needs of inner city adolescent girls living in communities made vulnerable by poverty and systematic oppression.
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Moving Creations began as a Pennsylvania Council on the
Arts residency/pilot study in 2001 as part of masters’ thesis research in
the field of creative arts therapy and community change. Founder and executive
director, Emily Nussdorfer, MA ADTR, conducted this study in Coatesville,
PA, an economically impoverished community with a history of violence and
gang activity. Ms. Nussdorfer ultimate goal in this organization was to implement
projects that would positively stimulate the character development of children
and teens living in this and similar communities and inspire them to become
activists for change. Ms. Nussdorfer utilized her strong background in the
creative arts, including dance, drama, cultural enrichment, and performance
creation, to create and implement arts-based education programs to empower
children and youth living in these communities under the name of Moving
Moving Creations became incorporated in 2004 and in 2005, Moving
Creations Inc. officially became a small non-profit organization.
Since its beginnings, Moving Creations Inc. has dedicated
its programming to changing lives, one performance at a time, and has positively
impacted the lives of over 200 young people and their families and communities
with many inspirational youth performance projects.
To this day, the goal of Moving Creations programs is to
support community change through energizing the creative potential of youth
to take empowered action on behalf of their dreams. Ms. Nussdorfer recently
said, “I founded Moving Creations Inc. out of a deep sense
of responsibility to engage youth in the transforming power and joy of creativity
in motion in their lives. The direct experience of creativity –whether through
dance, art, music, theater, or poetry – illuminates purpose and meaning for
one’s life – and energizes hope and motivation for positive growth and achievement.”
Our Founder, Emily Nussdorfer
Ms. Nussdorfer's background includes several years as an actress with the Living Theater Company in New York City and directing creative theater camps and developing and implementing arts education residencies for children and teens in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Florida, and Hawaii. She obtained her masters degree in dance/movement therapy in 2001, began implementation of the Girls on the Move Project in 2003, and became the executive director of Moving Creations Inc. in 2005. She became an ADTR in 2008, and now splits her time between conducting dance movement therapy groups and private practice, and developing and implementing Moving Creations Inc.’s youth leadership programming with her team of inspired artists and community activists, and youth program graduates.
Giovanna Guevara, Salsa Dance Instructor
Born in Panama, Giovanna is a professional musician, singer, dancer, and founding member of Universal Rhythms and Routes, a Latin-based musical group. She teaches piano and singing at Meridee Winters School of Music and conducts salsa dance/percussion workshops. She performs throughout the US and South America.
Melanie Cotton, Hip-Hop Dance Instructor
Melanie Cotton is a Philadelphia native who started her formal dance training at the age of 4 and has studied ballet, jazz, African dance, hip-hop, belly dancing, classical dance, and musical theater. Melanie is working on an associates degree in communications theater at the Community College of Philadelphia, she is the resident choreographer at CCP for theater productions directed by Dr. Ardencia Hall- Karambe. She is also an active member of theater fraternity DELTA PSI OMEGA, and is a member of the all-female hip-hop dance company Montäzh.
LaTonya Grant, Stepp Dance Instructor
LaTonya, a Philadelphia native, began her dance career at age 5 and has studied with New Freedom Theater and Philadanco. She has also performed in numerous shows and festivals, including Alkynza Danz, Black Nativity, the Rittenhouse Row Show, Ladies Fest, and Fringe. In 1997, LaTonya co-founded the BSU Dance Company at West Chester University. Presently, LaTonya teaches Afro-Modern and Hip-Hop classes at the Art Sanctuary North Program and stepping with the Girls of Promise Program.
Gabrielle Cassella, Theater Instructor
Poet, actress, writer, director, martial artist, eastern arts instructor, and member of ArcheDream Dance-Theater Company, Gabrielle has performed her original works of poetry/theater in fringe festivals all across the country as well as in Canada. Gabrielle brings her gifts of theater improvisation, creation, and direction to the girls of Girls of Promise.
Akua Hinton, Poetry Instructor
Akua is a performance poet, artist, photographer interested in using poetry to impact the lives of young people-particularly poor urban youth of color. Akua earned her BA at Rutgers University in English and urban studies, and has performed her poetry and organized spoken word performance events throughout South Jersey and Philadelphia. A graduate candidate in the Reading, Writing, and Literacy division at UPENN Graduate School of Education, she currently teaches poetry at Rutgers for interim college freshman.
Jacqueline Tichenor, Fashion Arts & Black Light Mask Instructor
Stylist, performance artist, costume designer, and member of ArcheDream Dance Theater Company for 4 ½ years, Jacque has performed at fringe festivals and colleges up and down the East Coast. She received her formal training in cosmetology at the Jean Madeline Aveda Institute and apprenticed in costume design with South African artist and Artistic Director of ArcheDream Dance Theater Company, Allan Bell. Prior to her fashion arts training, she was a synchronized swimmer for 17 years, eventually designing the suits for her team. Now she serves as the chief costume designer for ArcheDream, currently working on a portfolio book of costumes of her original work and pursing further training.
Michael S. Rassweiler, President/Treasurer
Professional Background: Business Consultant; Owner and Operator of North Slope Farm & Stewardship Guild ( Lambertville, NJ); and Member of Open Space Coalition of New Jersey.
Specialty: Financial Planning and Management
Elan Gepner, Secretary
Professional Background: Community Arts Producer, Educator and Consultant; Documentary Videographer and Editor; Theatre Director and Performer.
Specialty: Community and Events Organizer; Video Production; Performance Presentation, Fundraising, Curriculum Development.
Rodney Whittenberg, Trustee
Professional Background: Film/TV Composer, Producer and Director, and Owner of Melody Vision Creative Audio, Video and Music Production Company
Specialty: Composing; Audio/Video Production; Digital Performance; Writing Articles; Lectures
Tamika Townsend, Trustee
Professional Background: Nurse, Long-term and Critical Care; Children with Developmental Disabilities, Adult & Geriatric Populations
Specialty: Community Health Information, Neighborhood Coalition Building, Program Development, and Parent Support. Mother of an award winning GMP graduate.
Frances Marine Bravo, Trustee
Professional Background: Director of Public & Media Relations at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP, a 1400-attorney law firm with offices in the US, Europe, and Asia; Attorney by training, PR professional by experience, spent a decade in governmental public affairs before entering the private sector, volunteers with various non-profits.
Specialty: Corporate communications, strategic planning, media relations, public policy research, non-profit communications and development, strategic partnerships.
Patrick Masoucci, Trustee
Patrick is a graduating business student at Drexel University's Le Bow School of Business. Patrick took first place in a state-wide marketing competition (DECA) in 2008. He interned as a marketing director with Comcast Spectacor in Philadelphia. He plans to contribute to Moving Creations by drawing on his experiences as a project manager for both Merck and Mind Body Spirit, Inc. where he leveraged social media, financial analysis, and qualitative research techniques to propel the organizations towards meeting their respective goals. Patrick brings his skills in strategic and operational planning to Moving Creations with the aim to maximize the organization's ability in inspiring youth and peace in communities.