Join Essence of Embodiment for

Our Artist Talks

March 18th - 21st, 2021

SMUSH Gallery presents the Essence of Embodiment Festival as part of the Curatorial Fellowship in Dance '20-'21. We have four talkbacks prepared for you all as a part of this year's festival. We've invited our teachers, writers, and filmmakers to participate in themed discussions. We hope you'll enjoy the insights learned here and continue to participate in the rest that we have to offer!

You'll find each of our themed artist talks below. (Closed Captioning to be included shortly).

For more information on our movement workshops, talkback discussions, and film premieres, visit our Festival page.

Day One - 3/18/21 - Thu

A Conversation on the Lasting Impact of Disassociation:

Understanding the Relationship with your Body through a Trauma-Infused Lens

Moderator: Katelyn Halpern, SMUSH Gallery Owner/Artistic Director

Thu, March 18th, 2021 | 6-7 PM ET

Does your body remember emotional trauma? How do you recover repressed memories? Can We Ever Fully Heal From Trauma?

Join artists and filmmakers, Laura Sánchez-Garcia, Paul Scott Bullen, Tal Levy-Cohen, Giorgia Valenti, Audrey Thao-Berger, Jiang Feng, and Azaria Hogans as they discuss the Lasting Impact of Disassociation: Understanding the relationship with your body through a trauma-infused lens and how this not only relates to their vast bodies of work, but also their approaches to creating work and teaching.

Meet our panelists

Laura Sánchez - Garcia

Laura Sánchez is an expressive dance artist, choreographer and educator originally from Cádiz, Spain. She began her flamenco education as a child and received professional training from the Dance Conservatory of Madrid. Laura holds a Professional Certificate in Expressive Arts Therapies from Lesley University where she developed an emerging therapeutic dance practice, Expressive Flamenco©. She facilitates workshops, presents this work internationally and continues to serve annually as Guest Professor for the Lesley University Expressive Therapies Master’s Program. Laura actively performs in flamenco venues in the Eastern U.S., and placed 3rd at the 2016 Flamenco Certamen USA, an international competition that takes place in NYC annually. She works as independent choreographer for organizations including Boston College of Fine Arts, Massachusetts Government, Bridgewater University, and Kingston Theater. In her most recent work, AFTER DARK, Laura found herself a filmmaker; telling the resilience stories of a community affected by the Covid-19 global pandemic.

Teaching "Expressive Flamenco" on Fri 3/19 at 10:15 AM ET

Screening "After Dark" as part of our film programming.

Paul Scott Bullen

As a queer choreographer and performer I make autobiographical solo work which falls under the grouping of ‘performance art’.

These solos are live performances or films and are multidisciplinary in nature. My interests lie within gender, eroticism, behavioural tendencies, life and death from a queer point of view.

Screening "Interstice" as part of our film programming.

Teaching "Meditative Pilates" on Sat 3/20 at 2:00 PM ET

Tal Levy-Cohen

"Stage World encounter with Therapy & Spirituality World"

Stage Artist - Creator & performer & Dance & movement Therapist. Teaches stage artists & women the way to an authentic performance & authentic personal expression. MA - Expressive arts Therapies, Leslie University Boston. Professional Diploma in Dance Studies, Laban Center, where she received the The Mary Zemke Fund award, as an appreciation for creating a positive student experience for the students. Graduated acting studies - Method Studio & The City Lit, London.

Teaching "Psycho Spiritual Movement" on Thu 3/18 at 9 AM ET

Screening "TAL" as part of our film programming.

Giorgia Valenti

Giorgia Valenti is an Italian actor, dancer, singer and writer based in New York. She graduated New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with Honors in Drama, and a minor in Dance. She is the Co-Founding Artistic Director of Et Alia, a women led theater company based in NYC.

Screening "This is me eating_____" as part of our film programming.

Audrey Thao-Berger

Audrey Thao Berger is a choreographer, dance artist, and movement based teaching artist. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she started her formal training in dance at ODC and Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. To delve deeper into choreography Audrey accepted a place in the London Contemporary Dance School’s Bachelor’s program (’20.)

Post graduation, Audrey aims for all that she has learned through her dance education abroad to inform her choreography, dance pedagogy, and art administration pursuits back in the United States. She hopes to continue learning about the impacts dance education has on self image, and to actively take initiative in evoking change within the education system in order for dance education to create positive, nurturing spaces that celebrate the individual and are accessible to all.

Audrey is currently expanding her experience in arts administration while working with The Brooklyn Arts Exchange and BEAT Global. She is also a teaching artist mentee for Together in Dance, a New York based non profit that provides meaningful arts experiences and education to youth and older adults. Independently, Audrey is continuing her choreography practice through making dance films and exploring the possibilities of dance and movement’s role within digital culture.

Screening "The Body Keeps the Score" as part of our film programming.

江峰 Jiang Feng

江峰 Jiang Feng is an agender multidisciplinary artist with an M.F.A. in Performance & Performance Studies from Pratt. They received fellowship and grants from the Taiwan government and presented works in Asia, America, and Europe. They performed in the MoMA retrospective of Bruce Nauman.

Screening "Alt-Sex" and "Organ Play" as part of our film programming.

Azaria Hogans

Azaria Hogans is a freelance dancer, choreographer, artist scholar, and educator. She holds a M.F.A. in dance from Texas Woman’s University where she expanded her research on black modern dance. Azaria serves as the Manager of Resources and Archives for kNOwBOX dance. Currently, Azaria is an Assistant Professor at Missouri State University and covers an array of classes. She has presented and performed works both nationally and internationally. Azaria has published articles in the Dance Education in Practice (DEip), Journal of Dance Education (JODE), Dance Teacher Magazine, and Dance Magazine.

Screening "Three Stages of Having to Prove Your Humanity" as part of our film programming.

Author of "The Artistic Process of Choreographing Pain," we're launching a bundle of print and digital zines, be sure to check back here or sign-up for our newsletter to read Azaria's work.

Day Two - 3/19/21 - Fri

A Conversation on Engaging the Body in Healing:

Exploring Nature, Spatial Awareness, and Reconnecting with Ourselves

Moderator: Steven Flythe

Fri, March 19th, 2021 | 7-8 PM ET

How do we establish and improve on our connections with nature? What nature can teach us? How do you create a healing environment?

Join artists and filmmakers, Margaret Wiss, Teresa Fellion, DANCE MONKS, Tai Chou-Kudu, Zsameria Rayford, and Valerie Green as they discuss the Engaging the Body in Healing: Exploring Nature, Spatial Awareness, and Reconnecting with Ourselves-----and how this not only relates to their vast bodies of work, but also their approaches to creating work and teaching.

Meet our panelists

Steven Flythe

Steven Flythe brings a rich educational and professional background to his work as a visual artist and health professional. Steven was a founding member of Thuma Mina Drama Troupe. He has served as an educational consultant working with school districts on issues of bullying, civil rights, race relations and equity. Steven is a certified ayurvedic health counselor. He is a graduate of Rutgers College (BA Political Science) and Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div, Theology).

Margaret Wiss

Margaret Wiss is a choreographer, educator, and performer. Her creative practice embraces many disciplines. She has been commissioned by PDX Contemporary Ballet, North Atlantic Dance Theatre, and The Five College Dance Department. She has her MFA in Dance with a concentration in choreography from NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts.

Screening " be continued" as part of our film programming.

Teresa Fellion

Teresa Fellion founded BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance in 2011, after choreographing independently since 2004. Teresa completed a Dance MFA from Sarah Lawrence, and has taught regularly at The Ailey School, Sarah Lawrence, DreamYard Project, and Ross School Summer Dance Program. Teresa has worked in social justice activism since the 1990’s.

Teaching "Moving Your Story" on Sun 3/21 at 4:30 PM ET

Screening "Healing Currently Downloading" as part of our film programming.


Rodrigo Esteva and Mirah Moriarty are the co-founding directors of DANCE MONKS, currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area of California in the Xučyun (Huichin) Ohlone lands and in Yucatán, Mexico of the Yucatec Mayans. They founded DANCE MONKS in the year 1999 while living in the mountains of Xalapa, Mexico, and Ook'ot International Dance Festival in 2020. They have dedicated their lives to interdisciplinary, experimental work that delves into the intimate and ancient relationship between people and Nature. They view dance as a potent medium to rekindle our relationship with the mythic and mend the stories that are held in our bodies and in the land. Rodrigo and Mirah have taught and performed internationally over the last 20+ years as a duet and extensively with world-renowned companies in major festivals, universities, and venues throughout the United States and Mexico as well as in Canada, Peru, and Europe.

Teaching "Windows of the Sky" on Fri 3/19 at 2 PM Et

Screening "Fire in the Mountain" as part of our film programming.

Tai Chou-Kudu

Tai is a Blasian Somatic Practitioner who is passionate about body-based trauma healing and reconnection in POC and LGBTQ communities.

Teaching "Guided Embodiment Practices: Earth, Body, and Nature Mapping" on Fri 3/19 at 11:30 AM ET

Zsameria Rayford

Zsameria Rayford is the co-creator of SwapDC, a Washington, DC based company aimed to bring awareness to the consequences of consumerism on our environment and culture. She hopes to creatively promote recycling and cultivate community engagement by way of up-cycled fashion. Known for her unique style approach, this DC native uses her eclectic background, years in the fashion industry, and strategic community development to pave the way to create and build environmental literacy.

Teaching "Xsa Xercise" on Thu 3/18 at 2 PM ET.

Valerie Green

Valerie Green has been an active dancer, choreographer and teacher in the New York City dance community since 1995. She created her own company, Dance Entropy in 1998, adding a permanent company home in 2005 called Green Space. Green Space serves the dance community by providing an affordable and welcoming environment for rehearsals, classes, and performances. Her choreography has been seen throughout NYC and has also toured to various venues throughout the US. Internationally she has taught and performed in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Austria, France, Italy, Greece, Poland, Russia, India, Serbia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Slovenia, Sweden Guatemala, Cuba and Canada. Valerie’s choreographic work and teaching style is influenced by her formative years working with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, her certification in Body/Mind Fitness, Somatic Phycology and her undergraduate work at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Screening "Time Capsule: A Physical Documentary" as part of our film programming

Day Three - 3/20/21 - Sat

A Conversation on Facing Ancestral Trauma I Carry With Me:

Practices & Techniques towards Healing and Better Emotional Wellbeing

Moderator: Katelyn Halpern, SMUSH Gallery Owner/Artistic Director

Sat, March 20th, 2021 | 7-8 PM ET

What does ancestral trauma mean? What are the effects of intergenerational trauma? Is empathy conditioned or learned?

Join artists and filmmakers, Olamma Oparah, Chien-Ying Wang, Sophie ZImmer, Imani Cook-Gist, Dr. Rho Boise, Aysia Middlebrooks, and Mrittika Sen as they discuss Facing Ancestral Trauma I Carry with Me: Practices and Techniques towards Healing & Better Emotional Wellbeing and how this not only relates to their vast bodies of work, but also their approaches to creating work and teaching.

Meet our panelists

Olamma Oparah

The Atlanta-based writer and director’s choice of cinema lies in its ability to convey the inner reachings of the soul. Her use of sound and visual associations represent the universal knowledge expressed through the African diasporal experience, deconstructing mainstream media’s representation of Black women, men and children. Themes in her work often pose the questions, “How does one heal from genetically ingrained PTSD?” or, “How do women exact internal change if rage is impolite, unaccepted, or ignored?”

Screening "Laundry Day" as part of our film programming.

Chien-Ying Wang

Chien-Ying Wang, a choreographer, dancer and film maker, hails from Taiwan and is Co-Artistic Director of OcampoWang Dance. She received her MFA degree in Dance from The Ohio State University. Wang was a soloist with Repertory Dance Theatre in Utah from 2002-2007. Before coming to the United States, she has danced professionally with Taipei Ballet Company and Joy Dance Company. In 2006, she was a recipient of the Project Support Grant from Salt Lake City Arts Council to present Bridging Bridges – an evening-length dance concert. Her performing experience includes solo roles in several ballets, plus contemporary works by Zvi Gotheiner, Gideon Obarzanek, Susan Hadley, Shapiro & Smith, Tandy Beal, Stephen Koester, Lucas Hoving, Molissa Fenley, Douglas Nielsen, Victoria Uris, John Giffin, to name a few. Her choreographic works has been presented in Lustig Dance Theatre, RDT, The Ohio State University, National Taiwan University of Arts, TongJi University in Shanghai and Beijing Normal University, China, Dance New Amsterdam, Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, Ailey Citigroup Theatre, Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center and 92nd Street Y in New York City, Cultural Center of the Philippines, and National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center. Wang’s current research deals with the interfacing of live performance and video dance as well screendance. Currently, Wang is an Associate Professor in the Dance Department of Rutgers University.

Screening "Slice of Life" as part of our film programming.

Sophie Zimmer

Sophie Zimmer began her dance training in Halifax, Nova Scotia, through the Intensive Training Program at a local studio, Halifax Dance. Sophie trained through various summer intensives including Walnut Hill School for the Arts, where she continued to study and eventually graduated high school with high honors in May 2013. Sophie began her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Boston Conservatory the following semester, and while training at the Conservatory had the opportunity to work with choreographers Zoe Scofield, Brian Brooks, and founding company member Joanie Smith of Shapiro and Smith. With an emphasis in modern dance performance and creative composition, Sophie graduated with a B.F.A. in Dance Performance from the Boston Conservatory in 2017. Shortly after graduation, Sophie made the complicated decision to withdraw from the world of professional dance due to a series of chronic injuries. Since then, Sophie has trialed various paths: from beginning her M.A. in Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia, to deciding to withdraw and return to Nova Scotia where opportunities for meaningful work and community-building felt more secure. Most recently she is pursuing further post-secondary education in the field of brewing and is currently enrolled in the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program in Niagara, ON. Sophie hopes to find further intersections in her past and present learning, and now with pottery, weaving, and enough plants to operate a small greenhouse, Sophie has found more rejuvenating practices for her creative expression and is excited for what’s to come.

Screening "AndShe" as part of our film programming.

Imani Cook-Gist

Imani Cook-Gist created The Rhythm of Healing during her senior year at Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, California. In January 2014, she accompanied 14 students from her school on an Investigative Journalism Adventure to Rwanda to learn about the 1994 genocide. Imani is a dancer and in this, her first film, she explored the role of dance and music in Rwanda's healing process after a genocide in which one million people were slaughtered in 100 days. The film was edited by Danielle Stolz whose documentary Wings of Peace was a result of An Investigative Journalism Adventure to Laos and has screened in numerous film festivals.

Screening the "The Rhythm of Healing" as part of our film programming.

Dr. Rhoda Moise

Rhoda Moise, Ph.D. is an internationally trained health-equity researcher and multi-form artist with Haitian roots. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Rho learned the values of resilience, education, and community from an early age. As a child, she witnessed the impact of preventable chronic disease like diabetes and cancer on the physiology and psychology of her family and community group. She also noted the need for better education and access to healthcare as well as healing outlets for artistic expression. Her scientific experience in health promotion includes the U.S. as well as Haiti, Senegal, and Thailand where she also learned traditional dance and meditation practices. Rho’s dance training spans Modern, Jazz, and Hip-Hop, African, Afrobeat, Brazilian, and Haitian styles. She continues to merge passions at the nexus where science meets soul by facilitating lifestyle practice healing workshops including dance, yoga, and spoken word poetry, while applying scientific theory in diverse settings.

Aysia Middlebrooks

Freelance dance performer, collaborator and educator, Aysia Middlebrooks, recently graduated from Ohio University with a BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography. Aysia’s choreographic work uses movement as a way to feel, inform, and transform. Finding beauty in raw, organic movement allows her to identify internal rhythms and sequential movement paired with breath and release.

Aysia has travelled to various places, such as, Durham, North Carolina, Cheonan, South Korea, Toronto and Montreal, Canada, and New York city to learn from notable dance artists, including Margie Gellis, Bebe Miller, Momar Ndiaye, and Young Sun Lee. She uses these interactions to influenced her creative style and process. Her work has been shown in various locations, including American College Dance Festival, Ohio University, York University, and Concordia University. Aysia recently completed a special events and development intern with BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance based in New York, NY.

Mrittika Sen

Dr. Mrittika Sen was born and raised in Calcutta, India, and has been a journalist, columnist, and editor. She holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Northwestern University, two Master's Degrees in Communication (The Ohio State University) and English (Jadavpur University, India), and a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature (Jadavpur University, India). Mrittika is a development and grant writing consultant for not-for-profits, and lives in New Jersey with her husband and son. Her infant daughter passed away in 2013. Mrittika was a regular contributor for, a website for and by babyloss parents, from 2014 until 2019, and edited it from 2017 until 2019. Someday, she would like to compile her writing -- on various aspects of life after the loss of a child -- in order to raise awareness and dispel the silence around grief. When she is not researching or writing, Mrittika makes jewelry with stones and metal.

Day Four - 3/21/21 - Sun

Caring for Your Body:

Defining Joy & Embodied Presence

Moderator: Pampi

Sun, March 21st, 2021 | 7-8 PM ET

What is embodied presence? Are emotions embodied? How do you live embodied life?

Join artists and filmmakers, Nandita Batheja, Doron Perk, Dani Cole, Marlene Watts, and Nicko Straniero as they discuss Caring for Your Body: Defining Joy and Embodied Presence and how this not only relates to their vast bodies of work, but also their approaches to creating work and teaching.

Meet our panelists


A 20+ year newcomer-settler of Turtle Island (currently in residency on Pennacook / Sokoki territory), Pampi is a nonbinary second-genx casteD-Bengali culture worker who plays at the intersection of healing and popular education. Founder of In Divine Company - a dance drama collective, they choreograph productions that challenge popular empire mythologies through a contemporary temple dance aesthetic.

As an expressive arts performer and dedicated culture worker, they use poetry, dance and community gardening to encourage people to materially shift the way that we look at the earth, the soil, and all those who hold us. To this end they facilitate a series of interactive workshops that help people untangle the conflicting value systems that inform the way we move in the world, named “Pathways to Reconciliation, Restitution and Reciprocity”

“Liberation is rooted in tenderness and affection for our own bodies and for each other's and for each other's and for each other's"

Pampi has been developing embodied practices that bring ourselves back to our bodies when we dissociate. They host “Waking Bird Mornings” every day to support QTBIPoC community organizers to have access to a

regular wellness practice. Central to the praxis is warming up the body through an hour of loving kindness self massage to be present in order to sit a 20 minute silent meditation.

They are dedicated to the great work of liberation through land and food sovereignty; emancipating our bodies through embodied care in community; and the struggle for living wage by dismantling the silos that separate artists from workers and laborers.

Nandita Batheja

Nandita Batheja is a somatic facilitator, artist and educator who works across sectors, advocating for justice, liberation and creative being. Their work explores ancestral stories buried in the body, memory & migration, and movement as poetry & philosophy.

Co-Teaching "Interplay: Finding Inner Authority through Body Wisdom" on Sat 3/20 at 11:30 AM ET

Doron Perk

Doron is a dancer, choreographer and Gaga movement teacher. Danced in Croatia(HNK), Spain(CND) and Israel(The Batsheva Ensemble - The Young Company). Currently living in Brooklyn as an independent dance artist and recipient of the O1 - Extraordinary Ability in the Arts visa.

Teaching the "Four Elements" workshop everyday 3/18 to 3/21 at 12:45 PM ET

Dani Cole

Dani Cole lives on the unceded land of the Lenape & Canarsie people as an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and writer. Previously, Dani served as the Editorial Associate of Imagining: A Gibney Journal and as the Curatorial Associate & Artist Coordinator at Gibney, working directly with Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Sarah A.O. Rosner, and Beau Banks. Dani’s artistic work centers body politics, improvisation, and the interdisciplinary; movement, text, and sonic vibration weave together reflections, current-ness, and imaginative realizations of disabled+ existence(s). Recently, Dani has shifted away from choreographic work to focus on facilitation and multidimensional movement spaces with access centered in process. She founded the collective Mobilized Voices/MO B I V in 2018 and received generous support from residencies at Mana Contemporary and the Steffi Nossen School of Dance, among others. Dani was also part of the 92Y’s Dance Up! next generation of young choreographers. Her writing has been featured through Gibney and shared on The Dance Enthusiast. Currently, she is a collaborator with jill sigman/thinkdance and ECHOensemble while teaching embodied writing workshops, guiding movement classes for disabled+ and non-disabled bodies, and serving on guest faculty at various movement centers.

Teaching "Crip Time, in Real Time" on Sun 3/21 at 10:15 AM ET

Marlene Watts

She has a big smile and an even bigger heart for serving and inspiring others to be their best self, inside and out. Marlene is a Dancer - High School Educator - Actress - Fitness Model/Instructor - Creator - dog-mom of two rescues (Nala Rai, 9 and Q-Tip, 4). She has such a gift when it comes to movement and teaching, and for the past 14 years of her life, she has managed to marry the two in private dance studios, public schools, and group fitness classes.

“Queen Marlene” as she is affectionately known, is a Houston, TX native. She earned her BFA in Dance at NYU and a Master’s of Arts in Dance Education at Hunter College. Marlene’s passion for fitness/dance and education are inextricably connected. Marlene is dedicated to making every class a unique and creative experience for the mind and body. While performing in cirque style shows, music videos, with pro-cheer teams, and various live theater venues, Marlene has simultaneously dedicated years to honing her craft as a true educator who values bringing healing, health, and wellness to every person who takes her class.

Nicko Straniero

Nicko Straniero is a visual artist based in Italy. He is interested in deconstructing marginal notions of taste and aesthetics in works that create tensions and potential new meanings. Over the years he has experimented with different media and interdisciplinary collaborations.

Screening "TILT DROP ROLL" as part of our film programming.