Interview with: Lisa Fasullo
Photography: Rising McDowell
Lisa Fasullo of Free Motion Movement Studio in Boulder, CO reflects on the embodiment of feminine sensuality and the immediate positive effects of movement for women of all ages. Her insights from an eight-week research study on movement have recently been submitted to the Journal of Dance Research in a paper titled “The Transformative Effects of Sensual Movement and Dance: An Overview and Pilot Study.” She touches on self-expression, self-acceptance and the semblance between women of all walks of life.

Shakti Yogi Journal (SYJ): As a young lady growing up in southwest Louisiana, what were your nature activities?  Did your family encourage your relationship with nature? What were some of the early experiences that shaped your love for the earth?

Lisa Fasullo: We are excited the many community projects are going on at Free Motion—The Movement Center (which is located on Pearl Street Street in Boulder, Colorado). Choosing one of these rich programs, I’d like to share reflections of the eight-week scientific research study we conducted in 2015 – Freedom Through Sensuality – which explored the physical, emotional, and transformatie benefits that sensual movement has for women.

Before going into the details of the study, I will provide a little background about Free Motion as a context.  Our team is happy to be in our second year of making progress toward our vision of becoming a “Movement Lab”.  By Movement Lab, we mean a lively center offering low-cost classes and events to the public, while simultaneously assembling a body of research in the area of the movement classes we offer.  We offer many classes for both women and men and are currently concentrating our efforts in the area of Expressive and Sensual Movement for Women.

Our team is most passionate about exploring the areas of Movement and Play as we feel this is an essential, yet neglected area in the fast-paced and increasingly technological modern lifestyle most of us live. We are going about this in the following ways:

1.Creating hypotheses of our beliefs and suppositions around movement and how we think movement can benefit human beings.

2.Designing formal, recognized psychological measurement devices (questionnaires/surveys) based on recognized psychological mood scale and indexes.

3.Gathering research participants who are also interested in this subject area, and more specifically, desire some of the expected benefits.

4.Conducting the actual eight-week ‘intervention’—meaning, teaching or offering the material that the researcher believes will have the intended impact and benefits.

5.Compiling the data gathered.

6.Preparing a scientifically formatted paper for submission to a research journal.

Another way we conduct research is through collecting and assembling anecdotal data – which simply means any non-formal way of gathering information on whatever is being studied.

Although I am involved in both areas–formal and informal research–I am much more of a social scientist and very much enjoy the social interaction that collecting anecdotal data nurtures.  This stems from my concentrated educational training – a Master’s in Health Education from Columbia University and a Master’s in Social Work from NYU.

Most recently, I’m excited to be the lead author and part of a team who has written and submitted the completed paper on the findings of the eight-week study.  The paper is entitled, The Transformative Effects of Sensual Movement and Dance: An Overview and Pilot Study.  It has been submitted to The Journal of Dance Research.

The results are fascinating. To have conceived the vision, implemented the program, and now, be part of the team formulating the results in a scientific paper has been one of the most satisfying and rewarding adventures of my life.

We are happy to be forerunners exploring the area of Sensuality.  This subject, although something all women (and men) experience as essential parts of themselves, is not often discussed in our society.  We have found from over a decade of offering programs in this area, as well as now through scientific research, that women in touch with their sensuality are happier women, and that feeling sensual in the midst of day-to-day routines is something most women like to feel.

SYJ: What is your mission? Why do you serve? 

Lisa: My mission is to listen closely to what people seem to want to talk about (yet feel they lack the permission to do so), specifically in the area of women and sensuality.

The ideas I am most interested in, and what we have based the research study on are:

1) Identify what sensuality is and how it is accessed/felt/embodied.

2) Determine why so many women are not only feeling the lack of sensuality, but are also not even able to identify what they feel a lack of.

I felt I could serve women (and, ultimately, our community) best through documenting how movement, dance and being part of a community of women eager to experience body-based, non-cerebral blossoming would provide comfort and “aliveness” in their bodies. A woman’s sensual well-being affects every part of her life: career, family, self-esteem, relationships and body image.

Self-expression, confidence, and inner strength all evolve naturally from this awakened awareness. What has emerged from this is the awareness that those who have a healthy relationship with their sensuality are more satisfied. More than talking about sensuality, our research shows that women desire to use movement and dance to infuse more aliveness and playfulness in the different areas of their lives.

The greatest lesson I have learned from the women in our research study is that we are all kindred spirits, and we are all on a continuum — single, married, thin, full-figured, with children and without, career-driven or on another path in life. No matter what our walk in life, I’ve found that feeling alive, expressive, and sexy is something most women love feeling.

We all wear different hats during different parts of our daily lives. I know that I wear different ones when I am reading with, or picking up my kids from school; when I am out to dinner with my husband, when I am at the grocery store or teaching a class, or when I‘m giggling and having coffee with a girlfriend. The hat I wear when I am dancing or teaching seems to infuse all the others with playfulness, elegance, and vitality.

I feel as though my mission, or life purpose, is to provide environments and opportunities for women to come together and rediscover, restore, remember and ‘real-eyes’ themselves.

SYJ: What are the sessions of the study like?  

Lisa: Each of the sessions builds from the previous one and includes both movement, group sharing and conceptual teachings that help create a context for the movement.  In terms of movement, women learn the style of sensual dance and actual moves, which can be like rediscovering a new, yet familiar bodily language.

Women learn sensual moves and sequences; all very simple and without actual steps to follow. They make their dance uniquely their own. Most exciting to me, and also to each of the women in the study, was to experience the immediate positive effects as they walked out the door after each session. They were a little more freed up, a little more happy than when they walked in, and walked with a little more playful, elegant and sensual sway to their step.

Throughout the eight weeks, women also learn skills and tools to help them activate ease, comfort, and sensuality in their bodies through non-instructional portions of each session. Specifically, they learned the ability to:

a) Perceive when they are feeling out of balance.

b)  Access the knowledge, skills, and behaviors to restore themselves to feeling a natural balance.

c) Know how to self-soothe, self-enthuse, self-nurture and self-revitalize without having to rely on substances, other people, or circumstances to feel good.

Many women shared very intimate details about a lack of vitality in their lives and discomfort in their own bodies. It was a continual surprise how comfortable and open women felt in the company of other women who were strangers—- with ages in the study ranging from 18-69. Through discussions with students, many stated that it felt like something had guided them to sign up for the classes, even though they had thought they “couldn’t dance,” “were uncoordinated” or” just not a sensual person.”

The following are some of the predominant recurrent issues that women shared and that seemed to lessen in intensity throughout the eight weeks of the study:

– Overeating.

-Younger women talked about how common promiscuity and eating disorders were in their age group.

– Lack of a satisfying sensual relationship with their partner.

– Inability to begin or maintain a relationship.

– Feeling old and undesirable (even middle-aged women).

– Feeling out-of-shape and unattractive with no motivation to improve their sense of themselves.

– Not feeling comfortable in their own bodies; however, noticing the ease other women seem to feel.

– Feelings of low-level depression, disconnection, and loneliness even around others

Reflections from Women on their Sensual Dance Experiences

“How do I express the power of your Sensual Dance teachings upon my life? I am a therapist and have done years of personal work around my femininity and sexuality. I am 47 years old and my life is rich with my life purpose and service to others in my career … and still, your class was the equivalency of years of therapy. No matter what we heal and acknowledge from our childhood wounds and baggage around femininity, sexuality, and the gifts and power of the sensual feminine, until you fully step into the dance, the feel, the movements of your own sacred sensuality, it remains in the left brain… clinical, analytical, and a theory only. You gave it life. You gave it a pulse. You gave me a real confidence in accepting the vast magical power of being a woman. It was lovely and freeing and godly. I delight in this dance I now have. Thank you Lisa.”

(Clinical Social Worker, age 46)

“Even though I never quite get the moves ‘right’ (even though you let us know there is no right!)— Every time I take your class something good happens in my cells. I am always the fattest girl in the class and I don’t quite like the way I look in the mirror BUT, when I leave I am always proud that I did something scary for me which is to show up as a beautiful woman just a little bit. I feel always the safe and loving environment you create. You are a total inspiration to me. I love being in your study.”

(Esthetician, age 29)

“I was in Whole Foods today and a song that I’ve been considering for my solo sensual dance came over the speakers. It was so funny, because I had to suppress breaking out into the routine, but I did swing my hips while walking down the aisles. Your class rocks. Thanks for turning me on to it. I’m so excited!”

(Writer, age 44)

SYJ: How many people have been involved in your service project & how many are you looking for in the upcoming year? 

Lisa: The team consists of four members and there were twelve female participants in the study. We will be opening up the Call to Participants again in August 2016 for 20 more women who would like to participate in our next study. Our Free Motion community has over 1,000 members.

SYJ: What has been your biggest “AH-HA” moment about working on what you love?

Lisa: Although on the surface, all the participants who enrolled in the study seemed confident, happy, and very functional as they began the study, most shared very quickly what they were very self-conscious about:

Their sense of sensuality, their actual abilities to dance, and their ability to dance in front of/or with others. After people take our classes and participate in our research, we find that their self-consciousness either decreases markedly or goes away completely.

SYJ: What was the biggest mental obstacle (if any) along the way?

Lisa: That I didn’t know enough to be doing what I was doing.  That I wasn’t smart enough, or confident enough. I just did it anyway.

SYJ: What do you want to be remembered for?

Lisa: The Lisa I would like people to remember: That she chose movement and dance as medicine because it is one of the most direct ways to access a temporary break from our increasingly technological, fast-paced lifestyle and being in a constant ‘get things done’ mode.

She chose it because she felt, and saw measurable evidence daily in her students, and in herself. She left a legacy where women can find their way home.

She noted the continual renewed sense of confidence and the mysterious yet consistent alleviation of self-consciousness in herself and others. She was hooked!

That she danced and created discussion groups to sustain and celebrate her own emotional, physical, and spiritual self and did her best to be an inspiration to others to do the same in their own unique way.  She was a catalyst for the positive change that she always noticed around her

She raised incredible awareness through her teaching, public speaking and research in the area of bringing sensuality and sexuality out of the shadows and into the light. From this, many women, some for the first time ever, were able to feel the playfulness, the power, and the sensuality of being a woman.  And their lives were changed forever.

She felt things deeply. She loved that her husband called her ‘Foxy’.  She and her three children giggled a lot of the time. She felt guided. She cared. She acted. She made a difference.  She was loved by many.

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