As a sporadic advisor to Emily over the last few years I have seen how this organization is a moving creative expression in and of itself. Emily's deep background in living theater and therapeutic movement combined with her youthful passion for people and the healing value of the arts makes a powerful role model both for the artists who work with her and for the young women who find their home within this organization. What better gift to the community than the freedom and life that exudes from newly creative young women, whose faces were once frozen in bitterness, anger, sinicism or despair!
I began volunteering at Moving Creations shortly after Emily Nussdorfer, founder and executive director of this truly visionary program, incorporated the organization. She had implemented her curriculum successfully as part of another program for at-risk girls and then worked tirelessly to expand her efforts by creating her own organization with the Girls on the Move program at its core. The history of the organization alone--including Emily's thesis work to turn her graduate education and experience as a movement therapist and dance instructor into real action on behalf of the Philadelphia community--was a true inspiration. But more moving was witnessing Emily's dedication and commitment to the organization and each and every girl served. From my behind-the-scenes role, I was able to see this each and every time I worked with Emily on a project, be it a grant proposal or some other administrative matter in the office. Moving Creations and its signature Girls on the Move program is not just an organization/program with proven results (as demonstrated by various evaluation activities) in bringing about positive changes in the girls served. It is a stellar example of the impact a program can have when it grows from a well-researched problem analysis that is linked to measurable, obtainable outcomes that are achieved through the work of skilled and passionate staff.
Moving Creations Inc. is a visionary company that is committed to helping young women in Philly rise above violence, stereotypes, and low expectations. These young women learn how to access their inner wisdom through the interdisciplinary arts projects designed by dance/movement therapist and visionary director, Emily Nussdorfer, and developed with a collective of extra-ordinary local artists. I have watched this company evolve from its originals as a graduate therapeutic thesis model into the non-profit that it has become. Emily is tireless in her pursuit to create supportive experiences for the Girls on the Move Project. In order to truly serve and expand this transformative social project, substantial additional funds are needed to allow for this work to reach into the schools and after school programs. The Girls on the Move Project is a grassroots approach to empowering inner-city girls through the process of finding their own stories and their own voices and giving them a place where they can be seen and heard and witnessed. As they take a stand against violence and limiting views within their urban communities, any girl who can commit to the multiple modules already developed will be given a chance that few other projects can match.
These were articles I wrote a few years ago about Moving Creations What is the profile of a modern day Goddess? It looks like an inner city young woman whose face was lacerated with glass held in the hand of another teen who thought she was too pretty and in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could appear to be a courageous girl who left an abusive relationship. It may even be a group of junior and senior high school students who witness that women are not valued and as a result, don't honor themselves. And it definitely takes the form of a dedicated movement therapist named Emily Nussdorfer who is the founder of à½The Girls on the Move Visionary Arts Leadership Programà½. Under the umbrella of Moving Creations Inc., this program serves at-risk girls ages 12-16 living in Philadelphia. She describes the demographic as:à½Predominantly African American girls, who live in socio-economically vulnerable communities marked by resource deprivation, violence and crime. Many of these girls are in single parent households, often don't go to school, or have the motivation to do well in school and often get into fights. The program fills the need to become part of a united community in which they can be friends with other girls. They get together and make things happen, supporting one another.à½ Many of these girls have little trust for other females, seeing them as competition for boys and attention. By the time they reach pre-adolescence, they have already internalized the culture's negative stereotypes about women. One of the program’s goals is to teach them that girls can empower each other together and help each other to have the motivation to transform their lives and encourage each other to become community leaders. The first time they meet, they are total strangers. By the end of a 12 week module, they have become a family. They experience à½identity repair amidst their culture, community and within themselves through artistic exploration, expression and creation in an empowering and creative female community.à½ One of the factors that makes this program so successful with the girls it serves is that, according to Emily: à½We meet them where they're at.à½Powerful, successful female artists who are predominately from a similar background and culture to the girls are mentors and guides in the program; and diversity is celebrated, as many of the teachers are multi-cultural. Emily offered that à½The number one goal is to form a mentoring relationship with each girl that will endure beyond the length of the program, finding a way to reach that girl. à½ She carefully trains each artist; they have clinical supervision daily, and need to complete a D.A.P (Data Assessment Plan) for each participant and group that they run. At this point, Emily and her troupe of female artist mentors have successfully completed two of the three phases of the program. Fund-raising is a crucial factor in allowing for entry into stage three. Phase one is entitled: Introduction to Performance Creation. It involves empowering the girls by means of artistic self expression; using the genres of dance; which includes step and hip-hop, honoring their culture, conflict resolution, theater improvisation, writing poetry and designing costumes. It allows them, Emily shared à½to safely channel libidinal and aggressive energyà½, in ways that heal and construct rather than harm and destruct. It provides safe space for them to à½speak the truth of their own identities and worlds to themselves and others through the creative arts.à½ Using rhythm is vital to the work since she observes à½When people share rhythms together, there is a non-verbal synchrony that transcends language and belief systems. Dance celebrates the power of unity through shared movement.à½ The second phase is called Visionary Mask Creation and literally allows the girls to à½envision the life they want to create for themselves and their communities using a combination of dance, theater, creative visualization and mask art.à½ Emily brought in a group of mentors to embody various archetypical figures, representing Goddesses of the Haitian, African, Egyptian, Native American, Hindu, Celtic, Mexican, Greek, Germanic and Israeli cultures. Each woman had an assignment to create a visual template that involved symbolism related to the Goddess; that incorporated elements of Jungian theory, the Shamanic journey and fairy tales. In this way, they enabled the girls to take an archeological journey into the past, unearthing treasures that expressed how various cultures valued the Divine Feminine. It provided them with powerful and positive role models from which to re-build their own fragile sense of self. At the end of the second phase, there were seven girls who remainedcommitted to the program and each chose an archetype to embody: The Peace Maker; this was the girl whose character ended the abusive relationship by standing up against it. The Healer ; this was the young woman whose character had been assaulted by girl gangs and danced away her pain. The Leader explored what it is to be a leader to herself. Duality represented love and hate, water and fire; all the essence of who she is. Conscience communicated having been stepped on and destroyed and then passionately commited to the process of re-building herself. The Mother was the soul of communicating for violence to end in her community. Opticon Naturale was the Mother Goddess who was about parenting, celebrating the seasons of the Earth and connecting to the creator within to heal abandonment, loss and pain. The girls performed their character’s dance stories in mask with black light and received a standing ovation from an audience of over 100 people. Stage three is called MAP ( multi-arts performance) for change and involves investigative research and original movie making integrated with a live black light group dance celebrating the power of the visions of the super girl characters. This stage will focus on à½group performance creation utilizing the visions and stories of each super-girl character as catalysts for positive community and system change in Philadelphia. Each girl will be armed with a camera and her character’s vision for change and will interview members of her community to gain support in her community for her vision of change. The girls will come together to integrate their video data into a collective film testifiying to their passion to make positive changes in the quality of life for themselves and their communities. The girls will perform live black light mask street theater dances in their communities throughout Philadelphia to draw attention to their vision and mission and heighten the movie making process. The finale of the program will be a Multi Arts Performance (MAP) incorporating the screening of the girl’s original movie with a live performance of the super girls’ black light mask theater dances of power and transformation. Through offering this MAP of the girls' collective visions of a better life for themselves, their communities and for Philadelphia as a whole, the girls hope to inspire and create momentum for positive community change on every level in Philadelphia.à½ This MAP for Change will be offered to a gathering of civic and community leaders with time for Q & A. I watched a DVD of the performance that occurred at the end of the second phase and found myself in tear-filled awe of what this group had manifested. This was not merely a collection of potentially damaged girls; it was a clan of polished, confident young women who had blossomed exquisitely into talented artists. They were each interviewed and one of the most poignant statements that speaks volumes of its success, came as an expression of gratitude that if not for the program à½I would have been a statistic.à½ How is it possible to adequately place a value on that sentiment? Donations are necessary for this program to continue. It is a non-profit(501C3?) organization and all monies given can be taken as a tax deduction. They also welcome space for performances and rehearsals, transportation, food, creative supplies and materials, referrals, video editing, marketing and equipment. Last summer I was introduced to a group of inner-city young women (ages 12-16) . Although we had not met face to face until today, I felt that I had been privy to watching glorious hued wildflowers springing up from what some might consider impossibly rocky and infertile soil. The catalyst for this amazing growth is my friend Emily Nussdorfer. Her vision, into which she has poured heart and soul, has reaped remarkable rewards. The program is called Moving Creations and according to their website www.movingcreationsinc.org “The mission of Moving Creations, Inc. is to promote youth development, cultural awareness and community revitalization through supporting youth in the making of original performances that celebrate their individuality and their potential to succeed in transforming their communities. Moving Creations, Inc. grew from 2001 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts residency/pilot study first implemented by Moving Creations' Executive Director Emily Nussdorfer in Coatesville, PA, an economically impoverished community with a history of violent gang activity. The project used dance, drama, cultural enrichment, and performance creation to positively stimulate the inner workings of self-development for children and youth from environments that lacked such opportunities.” Last year, I wrote an article about the program and the girls whose lives it has touched, which appeared in Lilipoh Magazine (Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness), called Dancing Goddesses . When the opportunity came to actually see the girls perform and meet them, I knew I had to be there. Toting along my last copy of the magazine, my intention was to get their autographs. I was honored to see that copies of the article were already on the information table. Arriving late (my sometimes numerically dyslexic brain reversed some of the digits in the address) I took my seat in the darkened theater, as four of the teenaged girls danced on stage, wearing cut off jeans and white hooded sweatshirts with the Moving Creations logo on the back. This was their graduation since they had completed all three stages of an intensive, soul searching, perspective- stretching program. When I initially wrote the article, I heard about the genesis of their involvement in Girls On The Move. Many were resistant, angry, disconnected from the other girls and women in their lives. What I witnessed on stage yesterday was nothing short of a miracle. This ‘multi-media performance’ included videos that the girls had made that focused on their lives, the important people in them, their passions and even their fears. The images of them with loving, laughing family and friends, is juxtaposed against stark portraits of neighborhood decay. After each video, they did a short movement piece. India’s video highlighted “A Day In My Life”, from the moment she opened her eyes to take in her world as it is, to the moment she closed them to dream of one that is more peaceful. Her vision is “If you have a happy place in your heart, your outside self and community start to look brighter.” Shalante’s presentation was called “A Day In Killadelphia” and focused on the senseless murders that have occurred in a place ironically referred to as “The City of Brotherly Love” . She wisely expressed: “I want to change my community into a safer place; and make people see that things will get better.” Brittany’s dream is to be a model. Her video shows a beautiful young woman playfully posing for the camera. According to her ”Admitting flaws is human. It takes courage to admit flaws...through modeling, I gained confidence to shine my light and perform.” Keisha envisions profound change in her community and by extension, the world. “A leader is someone who is willing to take risks, they step out of the norm, always willing to try...someone who acts on what they talk about.” Following the individual videos, they gathered together to offer a ‘stomp’ performance, rhythmically pounding out their fears, hopes and dreams onto the wooden stage, in synchrony and harmony. Their intensity and enthusiasm were contagious. A video montage expressed their shared perspective. One quote continues to haunt me: “We used to shop for clothes. Now we shop for coffins.” At the end of the performances, each one was declared to be “Girls on The Move Visionary Artist and Community Activist”. Their families and friends who filled the seats on a August-steamy Philadelphia day, clapped, cheered and gave them standing ovations. The girls beamed beautifully. When I asked the new grads for their autographs, they gladly agreed and Shalante giggled and said “You want my autograph?” I assured her that this would not be the last time someone asked. The next class of Girls On The Move will begin shortly. What the visionary team needs is tremendous support. What that entails is a laundry list that includes: 1. Funding- Moving Creations Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization-your donation is tax exempt. 2. Grant writing- if you or someone you know is a grant writer, your assistance is appreciated. 3. Volunteers- your time and energy is valued. Guaranteed you will experience deep gratification. 4. Media coverage-if you have press connections, please pass this along. 5. Supplies-art supplies, costuming materials.... To contact Emily please email firstname.lastname@example.org