Golden Girls Leaders are body centered educators and artists, activists and healers. They have navigated along the edges of their own biographies to heal the past so that they can move into the future with grace, focus, and freedom. They are rooted in their somatic resilience and rising through their creative brilliance. All trained in the arts of body, heart, and soul through the SomaSource path as developed by Melissa Michaels, they are dancing into their destinies with clarity and warmth of heart. Inspired role models, they are all called to serve by mentoring girls and supporting them as they move into the future.
Melissa Michaels, Ed.D., has been leading groups of girls since she was 9 years old, always guarding and guiding the younger ones in her midst. At 12 years old, she ran her first summer camp and by 15 years old, she was conducting informal girls’ gatherings in her home on Saturday afternoons. The conversations always ran deep, navigating along the edges of subjects and secrets the “adults” were clearly not comfortable having. Changing bodies. Emotions expressing. Menstrual flow. Longing for connection. Sexual exploration. Pleasure. Pain. Passion. Souls stirring.
Melissa recognized the risks inherent in not educating and initiating our youth into healthy adulthood. Her work began in her own ravaged teenage body and as she did her own healing work, it grew to serve her three daughters and the communities around them. She dedicated her life to creating safer and inspired spaces for young people to come of age. Nearly four decades later, the creative steps for welcoming, initiating, educating, and birthing young people home to themselves has reached 1000’s of youth around the world in culturally respectful and ever more inclusive ways.
Melissa’s programs and mentoring encourage healthy awareness and expression of one’s body, heart and soul. She has developed community programs that inspire the early adolescent to make thoughtful choices and the older youth to discover their power in doing so. Many of the youth who have completed her programs are stepping into leadership, bringing dance, social literacy, and awareness of the vast power of embodied, creative consciousness into their communities, from villages in South India, to refugee settlements in Uganda, to college campuses across the United States, to Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation, to favelas in Brazil, to peace studies programs, to orphans in Zimbabwe, to to young people living on the streets, to the United Nations, to educational settings in over 20 countries.
Body-centered programs for educators, youth workers, parents, and therapists have also been developed and extensively implemented, training adults about how to heal their own inner adolescent and to support their children and youth in creative expression, respect, and empowerment through the body. Melissa’s book, Youth On Fire: Igniting a Generation of Embodied Global Leaders shares the story of her work with young people around the world in story, principle, and practice.
To learn more about Melissa: please see her full bio here.
Mariah Tuffy, MSW, is a trilingual social worker whose true passion lies in living in various countries and focusing on sexual health, cross-cultural relationships, and women’s empowerment. Her current role at Golden Girls Global is Co-Director of Golden Girls Global. She is Melissa Michael’s daughter!
Mariah graduated on the Dean’s List with her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Development from Eckerd College. She has worked with adolescent mothers, recent immigrants, foster children, justice-involved youth, in schools, in a psychiatric hospital, with children living on the streets, and created an island-wide mentor program for youth in Puerto Rico. She has also worked as a translator, editor, wedding planner, production manager, and international programs coordinator.
Mariah has been involved in girls groups her whole life and has led girls groups in Boulder, CO, Los Angeles, CA, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her specialty is teaching comprehensive sexual education, specifically birth control methods, and sexually transmitted infections.
“I am an avid learner, traveler and adventurer. I have lived in 7 countries, love Caribbean and Latin culture, specifically Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, the beach, Salsa, Reggaeton, and meeting people from all walks of life and cultures. I have been in varying kinds of cross cultural romantic relationships, have many vast sexual experiences, and am passionate about talking openly about sexuality, to assist women of all ages in decreasing their shame and empowering others. Growing up with Melissa as a mother has allowed me the opportunity to express myself and assist others in expressing themselves as well.”
A bicultural, trilingual native of both South and North America, and a nomad of thirteen years, Sarita is a bridge between the many worlds to which she belongs. ‘Kindling for the Fire’, a project founded in her belief in creative expression as a tool to heal, transform, empower and ignite, is the fruit of her lifelong study to what she calls heART Activism. Kindling aims to facilitate creative dialogs among people of diverse and often “opposing” backgrounds, therefore weaving a sustaining tapestry of connection and solidarity across the divides.
Sarita has guided Rites Of Passage journeys in Argentina, Bolivia, Perú, Nepal, and India. And is the author of Caminante, Bridger of Worlds, published in 2010. In 2018 she published her second book, Sweet Water Tsunami, a complex work chronicling her descent through the hell of losing her beloved life partner, and the art of being broken open by life’s complexity, rather than broken to pieces. Sarita has been holding women’s circles since she herself was a young girl, she has held circles for women in major thresholds all over the world, from welcoming life to surrendering to death and everything in between. Much of her healing and initiation into embodied leadership is owed to the profound container of the Golden Bridge/Golden Girls Global community. She is deeply devoted to her apprenticeship in this sacred work. She currently lives in Longmont, CO with her husband and beautiful son.
“I relate to my SomaSource training as one would relate to a compass and a map; One requires a lifelong practice of orienting to what is true through my own embodiment. The other guides me in ever-changing terrain by providing a lineage of wisdom, tools, practices and principles to reference when I need council.”
Born in Bogota, Colombia, to a ballerina and a journalist, Manuela has dedicated her life to exploring the connectivity between humans through movement, the psyche, and story-telling. Her immersions in various cultures across 26 countries over the last decade have informed her approach to renewing connection to spirit and the body. Focusing on human rights, body, and culture, she has focused on documenting different stories, movement and the healing arts.
Manuela and her family fled Colombia suddenly after her father wrote about the corruption occurring in Colombia at the time. Since then she has been dedicated to bringing the truth, in writing and movement to the world.
Manuela has learned different modalities that have informed her path along her journey, including a profound learning and mentorship with Melissa Michaels. Manuela has danced with Golden Bridge and Melissa for a little under a decade. She is passionate about weaving and interconnecting stories and co-creating community through video, photography, and the media. She is determined to tell the stories of resilient, powerful women in the world.
“Being born into a family of Artists, I understand and breathe the power of creativity as a tool of transformation. Throughout my work and studies with Melissa Michaels, I have deepened into this understanding, and I hold a vision of a world in which everyone has access to basic human rights, as well as tuning into creativity as a channel of transformation.”
Claudine Migisha hails from the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). While growing up, Claudine suffered hunger and sleepless nights because of civil wars and conflict in her village in the Eastern Part of Congo known as Rutshuru in North Kivu province. She has lived a profound personal journey, which began at the tender age of six years old, when she became an orphan. Relentless in her passion for the betterment of her community, she has pursued educational and professional experiences throughout the world.
Claudine holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Africa University (AU). She is also a 2019 Master Card Foundation Alumni, a 2020 Watson Accelerator Program Alumni, and is currently in the SomaSource Leadership training with Golden Bridge. She is also a CIYOTA Alumni and volunteer and a Women Deliver Conference 2019 delegate.
Her passion is to see women and girls empowered, as well as peace and community development. Claudine believes that women and girls in her community possess not only the power to bear children and support their families, but also the power to deliver sustainable peace and development in her country. Claudine is the Founder and Executive Director of Nguvu Ya Africa (Power of Africa). Her program empowers other young women leaders as the solution to the toughest political and economic crisis facing marginalized girls and women in the Eastern part of the DRC. She is determined to help create a more healthy and peaceful community.
“I am passionate about working with young women and girls especially those orphaned ones and marginalized, because I believe there is a gift of hope in every girl. Working with GGG has been a wonderful experience to discover that golden gift of hope I bring to more young people in my community. I am thankful to be called a GGG leader."
Born into the world from the womb of a dancer, Johannah has been seeped in the visual and performing arts since birth. After exploring art school at the age of sixteen, and a brief stint at fashion school which pushed her away from the material world, she unexpectedly found herself solo, traveling the world for nearly a decade. The culturally rich experiences she had in turn gave birth to the humanitarian, educator, and ceremonialist she is today.
Johannah became an activist for social change through her own soulcentric and contemplative education at Naropa University and her Waldorf Teacher Training. She graduated with a BA in Peace Studies and minored in Early Childhood Education and Visual Art. She has taught in schools and leads girls groups throughout Southeast Asia, Central America, Africa, India, and the Caribbean. She has studied for over ten years with her mentor, Melissa Michaels, and became a leader in Golden Girls Global and Rites of Passage work with Golden Bridge.
Dedicated to social renewal through education, Johannah currently lives and works in Boulder, CO, and runs a Waldorf-homeschool program for young girls. She is the Founder and Director of Wakeful Nature, a Rites of Passage and on-going mentorship program for young girls crossing the threshold from childhood into adolescence. Johannah’s work is a weaving of Waldorf pedagogy, SomaSource, nature connection, fine and expressive arts, and cultural awareness. And of course, the ever-changing needs of today's children.
“I have been blessed with the mentorship of many wise women in my days and it is my greatest wish that all humans have access to such wisdom. I have devoted my work to supporting young girls as they transition from childhood into adolescence because I have seen how the dominant culture burdens them with unnecessary pressure during this critical time of development. My wish is to support them in knowing themselves, the world, and their place in it through embodied, artistic exploration and expression!”
Angus (they/them) is a Portuguese-American dance movement and applied theater facilitator specializing in queer and transgender collective healing. As a clinician in training at the Pacific Center in Berkeley, California they co-facilitate transgender groups for pre-teens and adolescents and work with trans adults one-on-one. Angus also facilitates queer and trans councils with Stepping Stones and Golden Bridge, pairing life cycle development and somatic psychology with rites of passage programming.
They are in training to become a SomaSource practitioner and are also a Drama Therapy graduate student at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA on the unceded land of the Ohlone. Angus has deep respect for the indigenous peoples of the SF Bay Area, where Angus and seven generations of their white settler lineage have lived in love with the mountains, ocean, and forests of the region.
Furaha Antoinette, originally from Democratic Republic of the Congo, currently lives in Canada, Ontario. She is a community activist and ally for African women and refugees. She was given the Anzisha award by the African Leadership Academy which is given to African young entrepreneurs for helping solve the problems facing their communities. She was also among the nominees for Global Change Maker in 2011.
In 1997, Antoinette’s home was attacked by militias, killing many of her people including her father. As a young child, her sisters and brother, along with her mother were able to escape together to seek refuge in Uganda. Over time, her family was resettled to Kyangwali Refugee Settlement. In Kyangwali, access to education, health care, and any extra human services were extremely limited. But with courage from others, she was able to complete primary school and join secondary school. Although many girls at the time were denied education in the settlement, she managed through and in 2015 was proud to graduate from high school. She also graduated from an entrepreneurship program offered by Educate.
Antoinette is one of the founding members of the Coburwas International Youth Organization (CIYOTA). Antionette was one of the few female founding members of this incredible organization which has given hope to so many refugee students and nationals with access to secondary school and university education for pursuing their dreams. Through CIYOTA, Antoinette founded a women’s focused microfinance group. With the help of Jeane L. from Colorado and many other supporters, Antoinette made the journey to Canada where she is currently based. She and her husband are committed to supporting their local community of immigrants and refugees and run many projects serving their local communities.
“I love working with women, especially solving the challenges they face on a daily basis through business and entrepreneurship. Having been brought up by a single mother, I am determined to work and help as many women as possible. I understand what African women endure every day, and which sometimes limits women and girls from accessing certain opportunities.”
Antonia Ndumba, born and raised in Namibia is currently pursuing a degree in Social Entrepreneurship at Watson University in the United States.
Antonia and her twin brother were raised by their mother along with four other siblings. Growing up they moved a lot, even up to twice a year sometimes. Because of this, she struggled with a sense of belonging. In her years of coming-of-age, she learned to occupy herself so as to not fall prey to all the predators in her community, especially drug abuse and teenage pregnancies. Antonia did well in staying focused and was even selected as the valedictorian of her class. She knows how close she came to her life turning out differently, as even her twin brother and so many of her peers did not make it out.
Antonia is now dedicated to creating safe spaces for children to engage in meaningful extracurricular activities and to help young women without access to education create employment for themselves. Her dream is to one day have a space where women, young and old, can have a sense of belonging. She dreams of a space where women can gather, where they do not have to fit and can let their creativity flow. She wants to create this space in her community where women can learn something from one another and make a living from it too. Like Thomas Sankara said: “Women hold up the other half of the sky.“ Antonia plans to hold up her half of the sky.
Carolina Brizuela is a long-time dancer, choreographer, and performer. She currently serves as the assistant director and choreographer of the Bell Gardens Intermediate and Generation Dance Team. She is also a program leader for After- School-All-stars (ASAS-LA). Her work takes place in the predominantly Hispanic community in which she grew up in Bell Gardens, California. Many of the students she works with come from low income families and are impacted by gang affiliated violence.
She was first introduced to Golden Bridge by Margie Torrez and Fidel Rodriguez in 2013, and she has been a student of Melissa's work ever since. Carolina primarily works with young female-identified people and focuses on creating dance pieces that tap into one’s emotions, not only for the dancers, but for the viewers as well. Her mission is to send a message that "you are not alone" to anyone who witnesses the performers in action.
Carolina links contemporary/modern dance as a doorway for concealed emotions to surface, along with story-lined choreography, intricate movement, and acting. She has held workshops in preparation for upcoming performances whether it be facial workshops, improv dancing to decrease stress and pressure, or freestyling as an invitation for joy and playfulness. Carolina has also worked with young teens preparing for their coming of age ceremonies, choreographing for their quinceañeras, a traditional celebration for a girl transitioning into womanhood.
She dedicates herself to being a pillar for young girls who are sexualized early in their development, have self-esteem issues, battling with self-harm/coping mechanisms, or just need someone to listen. She offers support for healing through movement as well as building healthier relationships with oneself and others.
“Coming from a competitive dance background, the vision I have for the future is to have my own space where dancers can not only train but where I can incorporate the therapeutic side to dance. I want to build a team where members can look at each other as an extended family that gets to travel and perform for organizations and fundraisers and inspire viewers from all walks of life.
Dancing has always been my voice. I am passionate about incorporating my experiences and teachings from my mentors Jesse Mendoza, Melissa Michaels and all that SomaSource has taught me. I strive to cultivate their wisdom into my work and lead by example for all the girls I have had the privilege to work with. My own journey reminds me to be gentle on myself and has given me the confidence to give back to my community and empower my girls. I want to devote my life to working towards shifting the mindset of others and in doing so, supporting and uplifting one another.”
Caroline was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado and graduated with a BA in Art Therapy from Naropa University. She is currently in pursuit of a Masters Degree in Art Therapy. Her current work is with young women as they journey through addiction recovery. Her greatest aspiration is to provide an open internal landscape for the growth and empowerment of women all over the world.
As an adolescent and young adult, Caroline studied the process of identifying and reconciling the dissonance between the mind and the heart. She took a deep and personal look at the correlation between addiction and trauma, core beliefs, and personal resilience through her path of addiction recovery. She is an advocate for the tenacity of the human spirit, the courageous heart, and the ever evolving experience we call self. Caroline resides in Boulder, Colorado where she is raising her son.
Chenxi Ouyang is the Co-founder and CEO of Bright & Beautiful, a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to empowering adolescent girls in rural China. Chenxi graduated from Boston University with a dual degree in psychology and film. She co-founded the Bright & Beautiful Girls Project in 2013 to help girls build self-esteem and unlock potential through arts. She has traveled to 21 countries, and is currently working as a freelance videographer, editor, and writer while she continues to develop Bright & Beautiful with her team. She lives in Hangzhou, China with her husband Felix. They have a dog named Kabul and a cat called Bambi.
“Six years ago, I met Melissa in a Watson class in Boulder. I remembered how excited I was when I heard Melissa describe her work with the youth. She invited me to Golden Bridge programming, and that was when I found a place that my heart belonged. Melissa and the community empowered me. [My Bright and Beautiful co-founder] Juliet and I both had a sense that this was also what we visioned for our community and our girls in China. Our camps and our workshops have been greatly inspired by Melissa’s work. It’s been 7 years since we founded Bright & Beautiful. There are many obstacles along the way, but we are so thankful for the Golden Bridge community for always being there offering us tools and protecting our courage.”
Dorcus Odera is an Integrative Counseling Psychologist with over ten years of experience serving in diverse roles, including working with children with intellectual disabilities and neurodevelopmental disorders, refugee children, and children living in informal settings in Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana. She holds a B.A. in Counseling Psychology from Africa Nazarene University in Nairobi, Kenya. She is trained in Child Protection: Children’s Rights in Theory and Practice through HarvardX.
Since 2008, Dorcus has founded or helped found several organizations serving youth in Western Uganda and Kenya. Her projects have offered training and programs to youth in the fields of literacy, social entrepreneurship, peacemaking, and youth leadership and mobilization. In 2014, through the impact of her work with AMFR, she was selected by A World at School to represent her country as a Global Youth Ambassador. In early 2018, she was selected as one of the Emerging African Leaders and trained in “Leading in Public Life” by the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Dorcus leads by tapping into an individual’s potential, bringing out the best in them.
Dorcus has been studying with Golden Bridge since 2015. She serves on the Golden Bridge Social Justice Advisory Team and is also a mentor on the Golden Bridge Support Team.
“I landed into the field of psychology by a well-design by fate. Psychologists believe that you only serve to meet your inner silent needs. I can proudly say that my healing path was what I was meant to walk in, to get healed from my wounded inner child self.
I met Melissa about six years ago, and I have been dancing with her since then. It is on the dance floor with Melissa that I was able to truly get immersed in the healing fire and learned to fully embody my calling as a healer. Her teachings have helped me to approach my work with an open mind and to integrate those teachings in my work with children.”
Amorous Ebony is a musician, performing artist, arts instructor, curator, lightworker, and radical activist centering her work around the freedom, sensuality, agency, empowerment, and self-expression of Black Womyn and girls. Ebony holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Arts from Coppin State University. She is a 2018 Community Art Collaborative MICA fellow and currently serves as Resident Artist and Education Coordinator at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the lyric.
She began her work in activism as a youth cultural organizer for the Youth Resiliency Institute under the leadership of her mentors; Navasha Daya and Fanon Hill.
Focusing on the marginalization, brutalization and disparagement of Black womyn and femmes Amorous Ebony has hosted numerous Say Her Name events and protests with collective Black Womyn Rising. Amorous Ebony has curated staple events that include but are not limited to Black Girl Glitter, Adorning with Amorous and The Bruja Series.
Amorous Ebony’s work has been highlighted on WYPR radio station and in The Baltimore Sun, The Baltimore Beat, Baltimore Magazine, Bmore Art and more.
With years of experience in cultivating spaces of spiritual empowerment and body positivity for Black Womyn, she fosters growth and healing in the face of unchecked misogyny; and in her years-long work as an arts instructor specializing in African Folklore and theater for children in grades K-8, Ebony continues the work of dismantling white supremacy in our most vulnerable populations.
“I have come to myself and this body in so many ways, form, and fashion. I am constantly chiseling, refining, and redefining. I am on a mission to create the best form of myself, actualized into being the wildest dreams of my ancestors. I have become and I will never stop becoming. I am thankful for this community of global sister-hood and the work that bridges our very different practices and communities. May we all continue to rise up.”
Gal Levinson is a dancer and teacher based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Gal has a degree in Dance and Education from Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and the Arts. She has studied and worked as a dancer and as a dance teacher working with students from many different backgrounds and ages. Gal currently works as a dancer creating her own art pieces, teaching pilates and working as a producer in a small theatre (‘Hahanut’).
Gal also works with a Palestine/Isreali organization called Ajeec, supporting youth and girls. Her work creates space to use the dance as a healthy tool to deal with the many challanges facing Isreali and Palestinian girls. These mixed groups form and support the youth in dealing with adolescence, cultivating shared dreams and sharing dilemmas. This work brings light to the common area between us, promoting peace and shared human connection.
The dances Gal creates are always working through the space of the feminine and adolescence. She is passionate about the right to dance, and our inherent human right to create in the world. She wants to teach and dance as a way that will bring health and joy to the world. In her greatest dreams, she always keeps on dancing and creating and developing herself.
Hannah Loewenthal is a socially engaged artist interested in investigating the place between pedagogy and performance where the art process becomes a social connector; both inspiring the ‘performers and public’ to engage in social issues beyond the theatre space. Her main medium is dance.
Hannah is a certified 5Rhythms® teacher using dance improvisation both at the performance level and as an everyday practice. She gained invaluable experience as a performer with Remix Dance Company (a mixed abilities company in South Africa), and as an assistant director with internationally acclaimed South African dancer/choreographer & activist, Mamela Nyamza. In addition, she has headed up the education program for the Cape Africa Platform (Biennale for Contemporary Art, Cape Town) and has regularly worked with the Iziko National Gallery as a facilitator in their educational programs. She has been lucky enough to teach, learn, facilitate, absorb, perform and create on three different continents with workshops, social projects, community programs, theatre, and festival performances and artistic residencies ranging from: Edinburgh, London, Oslo, Denmark, Norway, New York, and Colorado to her home continent of Africa where she has worked in South Africa as well as in Mali, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
“I have had a long association with Melissa Michaels and Golden Bridge; enriching & supporting my life both personally and now particularly in my work with young women in South Africa – the SomaSource curriculum is invaluable. I appreciate the creativity of this work that deeply considers difference whilst at the same time transcending difference. Melissa’s lifelong deepest dedication to her work with young people all over the world is what gives this work true integrity.”
Jaya Cruz is a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Jaya was initially trained in advertising, cultural production, and professional dancing. Later she was trained in holistic integrative therapies at and as an educator in live food at Terrapia / Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FioCruz).
As a dancer, she has specialized in Araabic and Brazilian dances. She has also dedicated herself to Afro Dance, Flamenco, Odissi Indian dance, fusions, and FCBD (r) Style. She has taught Belly Dance and participated in dance festivals in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Argentina. For two years she studied the Laban system and its Study of Movement, in Rio de Janeiro.
Since then, she has developed research studies on movement with a focus on somatic, body awareness, and movement therapies, which include: eutonia, Klauss Vianna technique, Ivaldo Bertazzo method, Pina Bausch, circular dances, sacred dances, African women dances, and SomaSource by Melissa Michaels. Jaya has developed a work called Harmonic Movement in which she brings together body awareness and movement therapy as part of a process of self-knowledge and liberation, recognition, and reframing of life experiences for a more integrated life.
As an integrative holistic therapist, she has also studied as a Bach Flowers practitioner, master Reiki Usui, and Karuna Ki, psychoaromatherapy, herbal medicine, and natural gynecology. Jaya regularly supports gatherings with women, elders, and the indigenous communities she is connected to.
Jaya’s work is focused on the feminine and offers healing journeys, self-knowledge, feminine cycles, and ancestral processes. She currently runs a small business called Casa Jaya Udja for holistic integrative therapies, natural food, art, and self-care products.
“I was a girl who dreamed of being a choreographer to teach other girls to dance and go on stage. I always dreamed of sharing something with women. My life experience was not easy and I spent my life searching for meaning for my existence and ways to cure my pain. Looking back, I realize that everything I did I looked towards the sacred and healing, a path of liberation for our bodies where fertility, cycles, movement, the pulsating life in us were made sacred again.
My goal is to unify my work in a holistic way. I have been researching and applying the knowledge acquired to unify everything under a system that creates connection and strengthens our power centers, food, fertility cycles, ancestral memories, self-care, spirituality. I believe in movement as a path of healing and self-knowledge. I am very interested in developing a social business and supporting the creation of collaborative economics for a more just society. The study of Rites of Passage and SomaSource has deeply informed my work. I believe that the sacred feminine considers the womb to be a place of power. From the power of our wombs, we can change our lives and affect other women. This is my place and that is why I like to work with women.
We can change our way of living by reframing memories we carry in our wombs, and showing the path I have built and inviting other women to walk it with me is the most exciting thing I have ever experienced.”
Juliet co-founded Bright & Beautiful in 2013, a not-for-profit organization which supports rural girls’ wellbeing through an embodied arts curriculum, the first of its kind in China. Over 2,000 girls from the township areas across 8 provinces in China have benefited from Bright & Beautiful’s educational programs.
Juliet started dancing at age eight and has been a dancer ever since. Over the past five years, she has studied with Melissa Michaels through the SomaSource training. She is also trained in Dance/Movement Therapy. Since 2017, she has hosted somatic workshops for the public across Beijing, Shanghai, and Guiyang in China.
Juliet received her MPhill degree from the University of Cambridge in Arts, Creativity, and Education. Her research interests include embodied learning and girl development (from a feminist psychology perspective). She completed her undergraduate study across thirteen countries on five continents. She also served as the Executive Director, and now the board member, at Career Intelligence, the biggest educational NGO in China focusing on the career development of university students.
She is a dancer, a social entrepreneur, an adventurer, and a truth seeker.
“I started dancing for beauty, but then I decided to dance for authentic expression.
I started with listening to the unheard voice of girls, then I was also able to hear the voice of myself.
I started as being a changemaker for the world, but then I realized the world exists both inside and outside of me. I owe deep gratitude to the girls I have worked with. It is through working with them, I am able to see the light that shines from my soul, and it will keep shining, as I keep moving in action.”
Kanika Batra is a seasoned shapeshifter and bridge builder and has 20 years of experience working at the intersection of youth, art, and social change. Kanika was born and raised in New Delhi, India. At the age of seventeen, she traveled to Soka University in California to pursue her undergraduate studies in liberal arts with a Social and Behavioral Sciences major. She went on to do her postgraduate studies in Dance Movement Therapy in Barcelona, Spain.
Kanika has a gift for clueing into the needs of a community as they arise and responding in culturally-relevant and sensitive ways. Her twenty years of experience doing just that include working in India developing Bridge Programs for rural and urban youth, Arts for Social Change Programs for adolescents, and embodiment and sex education programs for young girls from the slums. She led integration programs for immigrant and refugee women in Spain, along with bringing the expressive arts to classrooms in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Kanika taught embodied leadership courses at the University of Valdivia, Chile, and psychosomatic approaches to peace-building at the UN University for Peace in Costa Rica.
She is currently living in an Indigenous community in Guatemala working with under-resourced children and families. Her work is focused on cultivating trauma-informed and art-based alternative educational opportunities for young and old. She is deeply immersed in the community she works and lives in, and is dedicated to establishing a safe learning container for the children and families she serves.
“I began studying SomaSource in 2006. It was my introduction to the world of arts and movement for social transformation, embodiment practices, and an opening to the world.
That was when and how I realized that the world is my oyster, that I am not limited, and that wherever I go into the world, there’s work to do. My SomaSource training informs me on how to be an embodied agent for change. Through my own embodiment practice, I am able to connect with my heart and therefore serve from a place of oneness with whoever crosses my path. On the Golden Bridge dance floor, I was truly met for the first time. My apprenticeship to this work has taught me how to “meet” whomever I am working with, to find the heart at the center, regardless of differences, barriers or challenges, to create a container that empowers everyone.”
Leah Maille was born in the paradise of Mandeville, Jamaica to a strong and wise Tanzanian father, and a sweet and eternally loving Jamaican mother. Together, her parents instilled the truth of manifestation, the power of voice, and an unfathomable love.
Leah grew up and spent most of her adult years in Connecticut where she graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a Bachelor’s in Sociology and was heavily involved in dance communities in Connecticut, New York, and Boston. Upon graduating, Leah spent some time dancing in New York and later returned to CT where she worked for numerous community organizations. Leah is currently the owner/operator of Stage Left Dance Studio, in Middletown CT, where she provides a safe space for young people to gain confidence, build relationships, and explore the art of dance.
Leah has traveled around the globe using her movement teaching experience to guide different dance and yoga spaces in various countries including Australia, Indonesia, and Uganda. Leah also serves as a doula in her community, coaching & guiding expecting families into parenthood. She plans to dive deeper into birth work as she aspires to be a Nurse-Midwife, aiming to shed light on and alter the implicit biases present in a health-care system that disproportionately harms black women.
Additionally, Leah founded a campaign & youth empowerment program, “The Beauty Campaign: Beauty Ambassadors”, to plant seeds of self-work in young people. Working with Melissa Michaels & David Blumenkrantz has afforded Leah the opportunity to step into her own beauty, and she believes that introducing youth to the concept of self-love and embodied emotional literacy in a safe, supported, and contained community can be revolutionary.
Through the teaching and mentorship of Melissa Michaels, and the deep guidance afforded to Leah by her many mentors, she lives by the teaching of Embodiment, Community, Humility, & Love.
“Being black in this world is both a privilege and an experience of misery. We are strong. We are beautiful. We are resilient in the face of Global Systems that seek to diminish our worth in the name of capital gain. We have soul, full of flavor that is so violently stolen and appropriated, yet deemed unacceptable when embraced by our own. We love bold. We sing songs of truth and faith, and we hold tight to our own, committing to ensuring the legacy of our ancestors. We close our eyes and dream of a world where our strength won’t be deemed a threat, where our sons and fathers and uncles and brothers can walk in freedom with their heads held high, void of fear that their next step may be their last. I close my eyes and dream of a world where mothers and daughters and aunts and sisters birth kings and queens in comfort, knowing that their ancestors are there to hold space of love and comfort, with ease.“I am my ancestors”.
I believe that guidance comes in moments of stillness. When I close my eyes and silence the noise of the world around me, I envision myself older and wiser, caring for those getting ready to usher in new life. I come from a lineage of mighty village Midwives from the country of Tanzania. My paternal great grandmother was a Holistic Pediatrician and Midwife who stood tall in the face of adversity and committed her life to caring for those in her community; this knowledge runs through my veins.
As a black woman, my intention in becoming a Midwife is to educate, advocate, and empower black women in a biased, unequal, and inequitable system. I believe it is my role to be a beacon of positive change in a world where systems were created to diminish the value of black lives. I am here to continue the rich heritage of beautiful black women who dedicated their lives to loving and guiding beautiful black women. I’m committed to ensuring the legacy of my ancestors.“I am my ancestors.”
Mashol Rosero received her Master’s Degree in Dance from the University of Paris 8, and has been professionally dedicated to art, culture, and dance for more than 15 years. She is an artist and body pedagogue with a somatic, social, and integrative focus. She is currently a teacher and researcher in the public education system in the Dance Career Department at the University of the Arts in Guayaquil, Ecuador, her native country.
Mashol has grown and fed many types of movement, from contemporary dance to capoeira, aerial dance, gumboot dance, circus, Arab dance, improv dance, yoga, 5Rhythms®, and pilates. She has also had experience with theater, music, film, and photography. She has a passion for floor work and improvisation and interdisciplinary work.
Besides maintaining her work as an artist (creating and pedagogy), she has focused on exploring and sharing the possibilities that dance has to offer, the movement and art for human development, and personal and spiritual growth. She is a certified leader and mentor-in-training of the Sufi Dances for Universal Peace. She also shares circle dances and conducts new leader trainings.
For many years Mashol has led women’s circles. She has danced with and co-created with various companies and projects in Ecuador and France. She has been invited to share her pedagogical work in the United States, Europe, and Asia, passing through Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium, France, Israel, and Turkey.
“Having Melissa in my life for more than a decade, has been a great gift, a journey, a deep encounter with myself, an opportunity to weave my internal world with my external world. SomaSource has provided me with the tools to become a mind and soul-centered mentor and leader; to be able to walk a collective social change using dance, movement, creativity, and art.”
Rajaveni Balasudharam (Raji) hails from Auroville, an International Community located in Tamil Nadu, South India. She is the Co-Director of the Mohanam Cultural Heritage Centre in Auroville. She met Melissa Michaels in 2004 at Golden Bridge’s International Youth Camp in Boulder, Colorado, USA. It was an inspirational meeting as well as a rich experience where she learned about women’s empowerment. This helped her to initiate a project of her own in Auroville.
Mohanam Cultural Centre began in 2001 with the aim of providing the younger generation of the villagers with an opportunity for extracurricular activities. This helps them to find identity and connection to their own original culture, which faces tremendous change in the globalization process.
Mohanam Cultural Centre offers traditional Tamil folk dance and music, South Indian Art called “KOLAM,” martial arts, theatre, women’s empowerment, community development, education on youth learning and performing arts, evening/after school activities, and cultural festivals with the native villages to promote diversity.
Our offerings in Mohanam aim to train, self-motivate, build self-confidence, and empower the native women and girls. Currently we work with a group of 150 married women and 11 young girls.
Along with co-directing Mohanam Cultural Center, Raji runs another small project in Auroville called ‘LIVELY’. At LIVELY, she works to train and support people from the local native villages to design and manufacture local products.
Raji wishes to continue her work with full dedication to train others to continue on with future generations.
Remy Nanyonga is based in Kampala, Uganda and is a zealous agent of social change. She believes in empathy, grit, and creative management skills to create a sustainable and measurable impact in society. Remy is a certified creative facilitator, a graduate in social innovation management and impact investing with a strong background in community psychology.
For nine years Remy has dedicated her life to studying and deeply understanding the struggles of girls in low-income communities in Uganda. Through her initiatives and with a community of friends and colleagues, she is innovating around those challenges to alter the sad narrative. She is a part of Golden Girls Global to share space and experience with other like-minded young women from all over the world in pursuit of measurable impact in society.
Tara King, M.Ed. from Denver, CO, USA is a mother, grandmother, advocate, doula, mentor, and educator. Over the years, Tara has worked with women of all ages encouraging a healthy embrace of creativity, fertility, and sexuality and facilitated many coming of age workshops for young people. She has worked with families in the birth and parenting cycle and supported the transition from maiden to mother with understanding and wisdom.
Tara is a long-time student of the SomaSource work as created by Melissa Michaels and was in the first apprenticeship program in 1998. She has since served on the faculty many times in different capacities in support of Melissa, SomaSource, and Golden Bridge. Tara currently advocates for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and families whose adult children have special needs. She teaches accessible, adaptable yoga and movement for every body and offers self-care, movement-based classes for caregivers. Tara has two adult daughters and two grandchildren.
“SomaSource is a beautiful laboratory of alchemical collaboration that creates a time-tested, supportive and specific container for uncovering one’s potential. Through the process of learning and accessing intelligent, real, usable tools and resources, I have been able to turn potential into action.”
A descendent of German, Swedish, and Chickasaw American Indian ancestry, Tess Eckert is an educator and expressive arts practitioner, using dance and other creative modalities for community-building, youth-empowerment and social liberation. Born in the majestic Rocky Mountains of Colorado, to a pilot father and flight attendant mother (also both passionate dancers) you could say Tess has the love of travel and movement deep in her bones. This inherited jitter-bug has taken Tess to nearly every continent on the globe, where she has immersed herself in cultural studies, local dance/art forms, and decolonial pedagogy in South America, India, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand.
Tess spent the last seven years living in the Bundjalung Nation on the Far North Coast of NSW, Australia. She worked in a number of different organizational, school, and community settings as a creative artist and a youth worker. Tess has employed her passion for the arts & social justice throughout her work across various sectors; from mixed-ability dance companies to running silent discos for elderly people living with dementia, to mentoring young Indigenous Australian women, and co-creating dance theatre performances with diverse migrant women. All of her projects have been ways to share and transform stories of oppression and resilience through creative embodiment. Having recently moved back to the U.S. from Australia, central to Tess’ work is an investigation of how to create a sense of belonging, safety, and responsibility in and between our inner and outer landscapes, specifically as it relates to healing settler-colonial violence against the sacred feminine.
Tess is currently undertaking a Master of Social Work with a concentration in American Indian & Alaska Native communities at Washington University St. Louis, where she is hoping to explore the intersection of the arts, decolonising methodologies and neuroscience. Tess' artistic practice is strongly informed by many years of training in contemporary dance, 5rhythms®, Contact Improvisation, BodyWeather, and SomaSource.
“My relationship with Melissa Michaels and the Golden Bridge community has supported me in my healing and recovery from a traumatic brain injury, sexual trauma, and on an ongoing basis with healing from whiteness and wounding around my sexual and cultural identity. SomaSource has supported me to liberate my spirit through the power of movement, community, voice and art, and empowered me to embody leadership to support others seeking liberation and connection. Melissa’s dedicated mentorship has supported me to find my own unique dance on and off the dance floor, which has given me the strength, tools and ability to read my own inner compass in order to better show up in solidarity, with resilience and humility and to walk alongside other humans in the spirit of collaboration and restoration of balance and well-being in the body, mind, soul; in our relationships with one another; and with the earth. I am deeply humbled and grateful for the privilege of this opportunity, to use my life to show up more fully for the rest of life, which begins with and will carry on through the health of the divine feminine.”
Lines in the Sand: Re(Making) Contact
Young woman roaming
Seeking connection and culture
Sitting in circle
Remembering how to listen.
Vanessa Kambi was born in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). She graduated from African University in Zimbabwe with a BA in agriculture and a Mastercard Foundation Scholarship. She discovered her mission to farm and feed the hungry through the extreme hardships she endured in her childhood. Having suffered from malnutrition as a child, Vanessa experienced first hand the way hunger can affect a child's self-esteem and marginalize them in their own community. This inspired her passion for farming in order to provide healthy food to kids, as she did not want them to go through the humiliation and suffering that she went through. Vanessa founded Malisho Bora Kwa Afiya which means “Better Nutrition for Health'' while she was being mentored by the CIYOTA community and she currently mentors young girls in her community. She was introduced to Golden Bridge via her mentor and long-term SomaSource student Claudine Mgisha. Vanessa is currently part of Claudine’s team serving the newly emerging project NGUVUYAAFRICA. Vanessa is a gifted dancer, poet, and performer.
“Being part of the Golden Girls Global leadership development program has sharpened my leadership skills and capabilities to work with girls and women in my community. It has also helped me in my healing process to focus on the path towards my dreams. As a farmer, I dream of a world with no malnutrition, a place where every family has enough food on their table. I live to feed the world.”
Since 2010, Xoli Fuyani has been holding space for young women in Capetown, South Africa. Her work empowers girls by teaching them tools for personal growth and development as well as inspiring them to make better decisions for themselves.
Xoli is a certified 5Rhythms® teacher and offers the dance as a bridge to connect under-resourced communities to the wider dance community. She facilitates dynamic, fun, and transformative spaces for young women with an aim to stimulate the girls to find their voices and courage by equipping them with mentorship and leadership training.
Xoli is also a founding member of RisingUpGirls_of Self Love, a mentoring program supporting young women to hold Brave Spaces for young girls, where they can find support and discover new pathways to self-empowerment. Learning to become their own Shero’s.
“The work with Melissa Michaels has been my compass, guiding and supporting my work with groups and young women in South Africa. It’s been a key in my growth and transforming in all aspects of my life. SomaSource training and resources have helped me in fostering an including community and leading through serving others.”
Yolanda is the founder of Upijata, a non-profit serving youth on the Oglala Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota, USA. Upijata is dedicated to creating safe, inspiring, and empowering spaces for women, girls, and families to express themselves and heal themselves through the arts. Yolanda has been dancing since the age of six. She has worked in collaboration with various community health projects serving the native community in South Dakota where she lives. Among them are ‘Re-member,’ and All Nations Gathering Center. Yolanda has been a dedicated student on the SomaSource training track since 2018. She is a dancer, a ceremonialist, artist, mentor, teacher, and a dedicated mother of many. Her family is the love of her life.
“Art is therapy. Movement brings out creativity and helps us see who we are. Sometime when we try to look inside we have blind spots, but when we express creativity we see our truth and our potential. Dance has made me who I am now. It helps me to understand myself better, and express myself. I am happy when I am dancing. It raises my energy, my perspective and my endorphins, opening my perspective to believe that anything is possible. Golden Girls Global has helped me deepen my understanding of the power of movement as therapy, it has helped me align with my purpose and see the way through.
I have seen the way society treats women, I want to be in alliance with healing the feminine. I want to be part of empowering women to stand up and have self-worth; especially our young ladies. I want them to be respected in their relationships, to not forget themselves and know their worth. In a field of dysfunction, there is no stability. I want to be a stable presence in the lives of our youth. I would like the youth to have a better opportunity for happiness and healthy mindsets through Expressive Arts in all forms to help alleviate the suffrages of poverty. Our children are the future, if our foundation is strong, our futures will be strong.”
Yolanda Demétrio is the Founder and Director of Espaço Aberto Art Studio, the 1st Dance school of Art, Culture and Children's Literature in the Rocinha Favela in Rio de Janeiro.
Having been born to a family with limited financial resources but abundant riches in the form of immense heart and culture, she did not have many opportunities. Despite her challenges, she discovered art, which is her lifelong passion.
At the end of her adolescence she went to live in Favela da Rocinha which was full of the dance forms of Classical Ballet, Jazz, Afro, Samba etc. Dance led her to discover the world through training and professional dance in Barcelona, Spain. She has participated in several courses and workshops in Guinea, Bissau, Africa, Morocco and France.
After returning to Brazil she opened a Dance School in Rocinha, Espaco Aberto to rescue her students who were involved in the favela in drug-trafficking, prostitution and drug use. Over the years, she has been developing her work and has always had the need to have her own space to create. Her mantra is: “Breathe, sleep and wake up with dance.”
In 2015 she met Melissa Michaels through her mentor Celia Macedo. Through her exposure to SomaSource and 5Rhythms®, she learned to deconstruct all of her professional education, and felt reborn in her dance.
“I have been so inspired by being a part of this wonderful Golden Bridge Community! I feel adopted by Melissa Michaels and all her team. I feel safety, solidarity and family. I have been making my dreams come true and today I am a mother. I am a blessed woman. My life is filled with light. I am a teacher, a director and an advisor. I thank God and the Universe for directing me every day, so that I, as a community leader. I can transform lives and bring dreams to reality for the marginalized communities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.”
Anne-Marie began her career in journalism and has worked in the communication and production industry for 17 years, producing film projects across the Americas, Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia.
Over the past 5 years, she has pursued her deep interest in how to harness the power of story as a tool to inform innovation.
Anne-Marie has lived in France, the US and the UK before returning to Cape Town in 2011, where she has co-mentored a girl circle with her friend Hannah Loewenthal since 2015, focusing on empowering young refugee girls to find their story, own their story, and embody their chosen story.
Women and Girls on the Move: Dancing and Dialogue in Global Community.
Saturday, January 9th: 9am-10am MST
Online and sliding scale!
All who identify as feminine are welcome.
ASL, Spanish and Portuguese.
Diverse online girl groups are forming in different locations and languages.
If you are a preteen, middler teen, or young person heading into your 20’s, there may be a group for you.
We will link you up with our seasoned and skillful leaders who are trained in the arts of body, heart, and soul adolescent development. We are working online at this time.
Join us. Moms, we are also offering English speaking groups for mom’s of preteen and adolescent girls. These groups are private and practical online community gatherings for the exploration of your own inner girl as you evolve in relationship to your maturing child. These groups are held by seasoned moms of daughters.