Lisa Russo Pettigrew
As a native New Yorker and professional dancer, during my undergraduate degree in dance I was trained for the Lincoln Center Aesthetic Education Training Program. Shortly after I became employed with The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and Deborah Riley Dance Projects in Washington D.C. The work I had been doing with the aforementioned was rooted in interdisciplinary arts & grounded in established outreach programs. During my time at the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation and when I moved to California, I spent another decade piloting, directing, consulting and facilitating community workshops and classes for various institutions and organizations throughout the country including Senior Access, Girl’s Circle Groups, The Life Enrichment Center, The H. Lee Moffit Cancer & Research Institute/Arts In Medicine Program for people in their end-of-life stages; and Creative Aging West. Although this work was primarily rooted in dance and interdisciplinary arts, I would come to learn that much of what I had all ready been offering in my teaching, consulting and private sessions reflected the core principles of intermodal expressive arts therapy, and a way of utilizing dance and the expressive arts as a healing art. In 1999, I began my Master of Fine Arts degree at Mills College in Oakland California where I majored in Choreography and InterMedia. This was a very fulfilling time in my life as I hurled myself back into high art and placed my passion for the healing arts aside. After I graduated I accepted a variety of part time guest positions at different universities teaching and choreographing. Although rewarding I knew something was missing? So in 2004 I started my own non-profit, Forward Movement – an arts & healing collective. From 2004 thru much of 2006 I juggled both the artist residencies and the non-profit. I did this back and forth dance between the two throughout my career. Thus far, I did not understood how or that I could have both or that one could support the other. When I met Anna Halprin in the summer of 2005, through her approaches and work I began to explore the aforementioned and how my life experiences were feeding my art and how my art was informing the real issues in my life. I discovered that this concept had a particular name and renowned people were doing pioneering work such as The Life/Art Process and that this work extended out to a field called Expressive Arts Therapy. During the 3-year certification program at Tamalpa Institute and in my studies with Daria Halprin I learned a solid set of methodologies, tools and philosophies that have become the foundation for bridging my love of dance and the expressive arts as a change and healing force in both my personal and professional life. I believe we are all born with an innate desire to connect. For me, this is a primal need and it extends first to self and then out with a passion thru my art in service of and in respect to and with individuals, groups, and communities. I am committed to making a difference. I believe the power of the creative process and that creativity and creative expression can be a problem solving tool and a force for change. Knowing that the arts are healing and that when art is used in and as medicine it can provide profound experiences that hold the potential to bring each of us closer and closer to ourselves and each other anchors me and has been described by those I serve as an unimagined gift. To know something in and through the body is to be embodied. I believe we each have this awareness. To utilize the arts as the link to this knowing is at the core of what I bring to my leadership in the work.