Dancer. Actor. Poet. Performance Artist. Somatic Educator. Sensory Awareness Leader. Exercise Physiologist. Marathon Runner. Mover & Shaker. Trail Blazer. Innovator. Integrator. Dharma Practitioner. Nature Lover. Community Builder. Human. Some labels that support the being.
My arts education started formally as a child in ballet at The Metropolitan Opera House School of Ballet. Next, I attended High School of Performing Arts (drama), and was a member of the New York City Theater Workshop for Students, a formative time in the avant-garde, improvisation, and political anti-war guerilla street theater. We performed Lehrsruck the learning operas of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Our director recommended Kenyon College, where I graduated in the first class of women with a BA in Theater.
My exploration in movement sciences, sports and fitness led to graduate studies in Exercise Physiology at Queens College (CUNY), Master of Science. In 1984, on a trip to Paris, I met Therese Bertherat, author of The Body Has Its Reasons. A student in the lineage of Elsa Gindler, among other influences that shaped her work. She named it anti-gymnastics. At our meeting over lunch she invited me to her first formation, a professional training. I certified in Anti-gymnastics/ Therese Bertherat, 1984-86, (Paris, France). It was then that I found another Gindler teacher in New York City to study with, Carola Speads, author of Ways to Better Breathing. Speads studied directly with Gindler, a right hand, and alongside Charlotte Selver, who created the Sensory Awareness Foundation, both first-generation teachers. All my teachers in sensory experiments learned and developed under the lineage of Elsa Gindler, who is considered the innovator of somatic education, bringing mind, body, heart, along with a meditative presence, into the broader field of physical re-education and physical therapy. The revolution was to bring forth change from the inside, a radical approach from the common regime of calisthenic exercise. Instead, movement experiments, experiential and curious, asking questions and exploring, were the rigorous approach. Bertherat's other influences encouraged more threads of connection and ways to work with the body: Francoise Mezier's theories through the science of observation identified the integrity of the skeletal-muscular system; Dr. Alfred Tomatis, the importance of the listening ear, sound, language and communication.
This richness of study and practice inspired me to organize and produce two conferences. In 1988, I created a two-day conference, "De-Stressing the Work Place, Movement Techniques for Modern Times." In 1989, at the request of New York University, I produced "Life In Motion" a four-day professional conference, a first in the newly acknowledged field of Somatic Education, supported by the Dance Education Department and the Center For Career Development. Thirty-five modalities were presented with over 200 professionals in attendance.
In the 1990s, I supported a New York City community of 5,000 as Community Affairs Director (Waterside Plaza, NYC), then transitioned to Executive Search Consultant, another people-oriented career, a generalist at the start, then recruiting Senior Executives in the Non-for-Profit Sector at Korn/Ferry International.
I joined the Sensory Awareness Foundation in 2015 at their New York City conference. In 2021, I was invited to join the Leaders Guild of Sensory Awareness Foundation. I'm honored and proud to be among 70 colleagues world-wide. Sensory experiments emerge in my background as the very essence, the common thread in performance, writing, play, art-making, connection and freedom.
Sensory awareness practice is a wonderful companion to live with and helpful when I began exploring meditation in 1981 with Siddha Swami Muktananda. My formal practice began in earnest in 1988 at the School of Practical Philosophy with a foundation in Adaita Vedenta. Other meditation practices I've delved into include Kashmir Shaivism, with Sally Kempton, and Theravada Vipassana with New York Insight, Insight Meditation Society and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, with many gifted teachers, Bhikku Analayo among them, and Tibetan practices, with Lama John Makransky.
But it was in 2010 that I found my first Vipassana teacher, Ruth Denison, who was a student of Charlotte Selver. Meeting Ruth, whose Buddhist practice was in the Theravada lineage of Sayagyi U Ba Khin, furthered my Dharma practice with sensory awareness. Eventually I was invited to teach at her retreat center, Dhamma Dena, in the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree, California, offering "mindful movement" a trademark of Ruth's teaching. Today, I offer meditation through JASA and Time Bank in New York City, and "Sensing with Shelley" weekly classes on Zoom, resuming a private teaching schedule from the 1980s.
I am a member of Dharma & Art Sangha and The Path a year-long study and practice through the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, for which I am deeply grateful.
A Strawberry Toast, part of the Bamboo Jacket Banquet shared at New York Insight Artists' Salon