Performing arts program for at-risk teenage girls at-risk

Mt. Airy performing arts nonprofit
seeks to bring program back
for displaced Germantown High
School Students

NewsWorks.org, Sept. 26, 2013

Emily Nussdorfer’s phone has been ringing. The girls from Germantown High School want to come back. Parents want to enroll their daughters. Nussdorfer is founder and Executive Director of Moving Creations, Inc., a non-profit that runs Girls On the Move©, a project using performance arts with at-risk teenage girls to build self-esteem, better interactions, and leadership ability that they can use in their communities. Last year, she started working with girls from GHS. The school closure also shut down Girls on the Move©.

“We ran the program from January – June, with a two-month preparation/selection process with teachers, parents and students, identifying girls on the edge of failing, but with leadership potential, who needed therapeutic support and artistic channels to turn it around,” said Nussdorfer.

Christina Fanizzi, who had been neighbors with Nussdorfer in Mt. Airy, opened Pilates Alchemy at 20 East Mt. Airy Avenue last November. In the spring, Nussdorfer invited Fanizzi to a Moving Creations benefit.

“I was profoundly moved,” said Fanizzi. “I told Emily, ‘I’ve got to do something.’. I wanted it to be community based to reach a broader range of people. Mt. Airy has a lot of heart, compassion, and supports positive energy. When more people hear about Emily, and see how passionate I am, they will come on board.”

On October 5, Fanizzi will host a silent auction and party at her studio from 4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.

Girls on the Move© is broken into different levels. A fund raising campaign raised $20,000 for Level 1 at GHS. It costs $3,450 to sponsor a girl for two years.

“The (GHS) show rocked the house,” said Nussdorfer. “A mother came up to me and gave me $150. She and her husband felt what we had done for her daughter could not be repaid. It was important for her daughter’s self-esteem and the family.

“Another mother said, ‘I saw my daughter on stage and was shocked. I realized I was getting in the way of her development. She’s getting along better with her peers and finding her voice. She wants to go to Villanova.’”

Moving Creations became a non-profit in 2005, but the genesis of the idea came while Nussdorfer pursued her master’s degree in dance movement at MCP-Hahnemann University in 2001, researching the use of dance movement, expressive and creative arts in medical settings and the community.

Moving Creations has worked with pre-adjudicated and adjudicated youth, and teens who have been victims of physical and sexual abuse. Many girls have social phobias and are prone to violence. A total of 55 girls have graduated all three levels.

“At the beginning, they don’t care; are very reactive, quick to fight, with a huge level of distrust, depression, and not wanting to participate,” said Nussdorfer.

The program teaches the girls conflict resolution, sexual health, dance – Hip Hop and Stepp – poetry, teamwork, and performance skills from a diverse group of instructors.

“In Level 1, dance and drama therapy emphasizes group dynamics and teamwork. Poetry is a vehicle for self-expression of pent-up feelings that they want to change,” said Nussdorfer. “The show includes dances, fashion, self-affirmation presentations, and poetry readings, as a group and individually.

“In Level 2, the girls create a super girl character reflecting their strengths and leadership potential, that they transformed. They design a full body mask and perform individual theatrical presentations and dances, describing their visions of change.”

At level 3, “they make a film that shares their visions of community improvement and change, and empowering themselves to live their dreams.”

In 2008, the first four graduates produced a film, Our Visions of Change, which was selected for screening at the Wingspan Arts Festival at Lincoln Center in New York City. They rode Amtrak and stayed at the Marriott, experiences they never dreamed possible. The film won Audience Favorite and Best Story Design. Two girls presented with Nussdorfer at the American Dance Therapy Conference in Austin, TX.

Keisha Duncan, a graduate of the program, works with Beshabi, an organization that works to eradicate HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. She led the sexual health discussion for the girls at GHS.

“What Emily is doing is inspiring,” said Fanizzi. It’s transformative, empowering, life changing to girls. It’s important to support people helping others to not be crushed by the world.”