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ZULEIKHA: An Artistic Approach to Wellness

It’s a phone call I anticipate with excitement. When Zuleikha calls to announce her presence in Delhi, I know I can look forward to several interesting conversations and new learning, over tea and lunch. This American storyteller, dancer and healer travels to several countries to help marginalized communities with her special brand of bodywork, and always has inspiring experiences to recount.


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SHILPA HOME (2006-2008, Sri Lanka) Movement and wellness classes for 60 girls and staff trainings.
SHILPA CHILDREN’S TRUST (2006-2008, Colombo & South, Sri Lanka) Training program for educators and social workers working with those who have been devastated by the tsunami and civil war. This program is designed for wellness and trauma relief, building resiliency and capacity through movement and exercise.
SRI YASODARA ORPHANAGE FOR GIRLS (2003-2008, Sri Lanka) Movement classes for ages 4-18 with Girl Leadership program and staff trainings.
GIRL TO GIRL PROGRAM – Shilpa Children’s Trust, Sri Lanka, Katherine Delmar Burke School, San Francisco, and Project View (Stanford University), Palo Alto, CA (2008). GIRL to GIRL is an intercultural, international program for teenage girls in digital storytelling and movement. GIRL to GIRL connects groups of teenage girls from two very different places on the globe using a unique curriculum of movement, story and Internet technology.
PEACEMAKER CIRCLE and HOLYLAND TRUST (2004, Bethlehem West Bank and Tel Aviv, Israel). Core wellness movement sessions and presentations for: Schneider Children’s Hospital Petach Tikvah, Israel; Holy Land Trust Women’s Wellness Center, School and After-school programs for teenage students, and daily program for kindergarten children in refugee site; Dar Al Kalima School, Children’s Defense Fund, St. Joseph’s School & more.
ARAVIND EYE HOSPITAL (2008-2009, Madurai, India). Using TSP Core Wellness exercises, a program in self-care and renewal for hospital staff to reduce stress, increase focus and promote health and well-being.
PALLIKOODAM SCHOOL (2004-2007, Kerala, India). Program for school children, grades 5-8 in rhythmic exercises, nature concentration, creativity development and rhythmic and movement expression.

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International storydancer, performer, educator and humanitarian. Zuleikha grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, a center for cultural interchange and artistic innovation. She studied Western classical music, and devoted years to the exploration of so-called “natural movement” and avant-garde dance with choreographer Anna Halprin. Interested in how different cultures find expression in movement, Zuleikha also studied the foundations of Chinese martial arts, esoteric therapeutic movement, and Japanese and Balinese dance. She attended the Ali Akbar College of Music, which was the first classical Indian music college in the West, and later studied with the Afghan musician Ustad Hashim Chishti, who was an exponentmand master of the myriad expressions of North Indian classical music, including melody (raga), rhythm and dance.

As Zuleikha’s practice of various art forms and sacred traditions deepened, she became aware of profound commonalities. She realized that “underlying all of these creative expressions are ancient technologies containing wisdom on how the body, mind and spirit come together through movement.” In performance, Zuleikha started to work with a synthesis of dance, storytelling, poetry, music and humor. She developed movement techniques of body, mind and spirit awareness that have become integral to her presentations. For example, she performs her own style of whirling through focusing on “the roots of inner space.” Zuleikha’s “whirling” is considered by many to be one of the highlights of the Rumi Concert, an inspirational collaboration among Zuleikha, Coleman Barks, the well-known poet and interpreter of Rumi, and world class musicians. Presented to audiences throughout the world, the Rumi Concert exemplifies the connection between artistic expression and the inner experience of the Divine.

(Excerpt from article about Zuleikha, “The Dancer is in the Dance,” by Susan Skeele for SUFI, Issue 85, Summer 2013


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