SomaSource in the World

Embodied Global Leaders Dedicated to our Collective Liberation

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SomaSource Leaders are body-centered psycho-spiritual educators, artists, activists, and healers who have an integrated understanding of how to creatively work in developmentally attuned and culturally sensitive ways with diverse people throughout life’s cycles. They all have grown up in the Golden Bridge community, and have been trained and certified by Melissa Michaels and the Golden Bridge team. Individually and collectively, these SomaSource Leaders bringing their unique and inspired initiatives to the world.

Their work focuses on the embodied arts in the following areas:

  • Life Cycle Education and Initiations
    For people in all ages and stages from Birth – Death
  • Social Justice
    Education. Arts. Action
  • Sustainability in Traditional Cultural Arts
    Education and Performance
  • Healing Arts
    Body work. Psychotherapy. Psycho-Spiritual Educational Groups
  • Coming of Age for Youth
    Golden Girls Global
  • Innovative, Contemporary Arts
    Performance. Publishing. Multi-media Productions

Renee Sills

Astrologer. Multi-media Artist. Yoga Educator.

Renee is the co-founder and co-director of Sola School of Contemplative Arts, a somatics and mindfulness-based yoga teacher training program that has a strong focus on accessibility and social justice. Through Sola School, she offers yearly courses in Experiential Anatomy and specializes in teaching the complexities of the human body through unique, inclusive, and fun approaches to movement.

Embodied Astrology is one of many creative projects that keep Renee’s life full and joyful. Renee offers her clients chart interpretations that include individualized yoga, meditation, and self-care regimens. She posts free bi-monthly horoscope columns, podcasts and guided meditations which focus on how astrology manifests in our everyday experiences and through our bodies. Visit her personal website here.

From Melissa:
Renee came to this work as a preteen. She was not interested in traditional schooling. I began to create body-centered curriculum for this young person who spent her first dance class with me hiding under the table. Over the past 26+ years, I have had the honor of supporting and then simply celebrating this brilliant being as she found her creative pulse and then applied it to every possible medium available. From the macro to the micro, from stars, to film, to the bones, Renee’s understanding of how things work is uniquely vast and on point. And, she figures out how to make meaningful art out of it all! Above all, Renee is a clear and beloved family member and ally to Melissa and the work.

Sarita Rivard Guerrero

Author. Mentor. Cross-Cultural Guide. Creative Coach.

Sarita is an artist, a conjurer and coach of creative-expression. She uses the arts to heal, transform, empower, ignite, and catalyze individuals and communities in creative dialogues across the many divides. Her work aims to weave a sustainable tapestry of connection and solidarity amongst unlikely allies through writing, conscious travel, and ritual. She currently works with Golden Bridge as a mentor and as the director of story development. She offers transformational coaching and workshops throughout North, Central and South America.

Sarita 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. Learn more about Sarita and her creative offerings or purchase a book at:

From Melissa:
Sarita came to this work as a heartbroken young person, annihilated by the loss of her fiancé and ready to be held and healed. Over the years, I have had the honor of tracking her closely as she reassembled her shattered pieces into the majesty of her creative expression. She was a steadfast student, open and humble. Her work in the world now reflects that same spirit, in her community leadership and her mentoring of so many others who she now tracks with impeccability and vast love. Not to mention, Sarita has a gift for writing about the subtlety of the inner landscape!

Meagan Chandler

Performance and Ceremonial Artist. Arts Educator. Cultivator of New Cultural Seeds.

Meagan Chandler performs and directs a rich array of original works, cultural forms. She also teaches people of all ages and walks of life across the U.S. and around the globe. She is currently engaged in sacred community theatre with Sage Programs in Boulder, Colorado; Flamenco arts education with Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana; and recording and performance with Desert Dwellers. In 2013, she released her first original album, Sensual.

Meagan teaches private voice lessons for authentic expression to all ages and performs traditional Spanish Flamenco in her hometown of Santa Fe, NM. Meagan is a playful, cultural shapeshifter and dedicated change agent, dipping into darkness and light, seeking to inspire authentic expression and the spirit of inquiry everywhere she goes. Her work inspired the creativity needed to grow a healthy and sustainable world can arise in the generations to come.

Learn more about Meagan and her creative offerings at

From Melissa:
The first time I saw Meagan, she was on a stage. Her fiery creative presence was compelling, raw, vulnerable, and uniquely powerful. I wanted to know this girl. She was 16 years old. We met. Meagan quit her day job, began her apprenticeship with our work, and from that point forward, Meagan never stopped making stunning magic through her creativity, her singing, her writing, her directorship, her handiwork, and her rituals. A brilliant artist, a radical educator, a devotee of peace, and a lover of all things wild, Meagan is a leader to watch as she continues to RISE!!!

Meagan’s mystical voice has inspired thousands of Golden Bridge dancers to sing and sound the truths of their hearts. She is a lead sound artist for the Golden Bridge Rhythm Keepers, a beloved musical muse in all of our lives.

Balu Ponnusamy

Tamil Arts Educator and Cultural Center Founder. Bamboo Farmer and Teacher.

Balu is the co-founder and director of Mohanam Cultural Centre, located in the Kaluveli/Auroville Bioregion in coastal Tamil Nadu, South India. The mission of the Centre is: to act as a bridge between Auroville and its surrounding villages and to keep alive the local, rural Tamil cultural heritage

The Mohanam Cultural Centre offers creative arts classes on the weekends for school-going children. It also has a creche/kindergarten and is actively uncovering remnants of original performing and craft skills in the local villages surrounding the International Community Project of Auroville. The purpose of these activities is to keep alive this intangible heritage through youthful interest, classes, studies, and special programs.

Balu is also the founder of the Auroville Bamboo Center. The Bamboo Center’s mission is to increase the use of bamboo as a sustainable resource through education, workshops and eco-product development. The Bamboo center hosts internships and custom workshops for both domestic and international groups.

From Melissa:
We were blessed to be Balu’s first stop out of the village life into the world. He arrived with his beloved partner, Rajaveni. The two of them were wide eyed and ready, ready to learn about the world and the inner landscape stirring from within. Balu devotion to the work was immediately contagious. Through the fire of his birthing soul, he fearlessly faced rage at people who had dishonorably betrayed his trust as well as graciously, he opened wide to the majesty of his being. Discovering his limitless capacity to vision and manifest, he honored what he learned in the West by transforming it all into culturally relevant medicine for the children and the Earth in his homeland of South India. To have Balu standing by our side as a colleague is a blessing. His nobility of spirit is a teaching from East to West and back again!

Hannah Loewenthal

Dancer. Artist. Educator. Visionary.

Hannah Loewenthal’s work primarily focuses on dance and art as both pedagogic and performative. She has worked extensively with groups of adults, adolescents, and children in theatre, in schools, and in diverse public spaces around the world. Hannah is a certified 5Rhythms® teacher and combines this with her background in integrated dance, improvisation, and design studies, both in her own practice and with others through classes and workshops.

Hannah is currently based outside Cape Town, South Africa where she has built her own small studio, working on an ongoing basis with the local community as well as traveling for artistic and teaching projects.

For more information about Hannah, please see her website:

From Melissa:
Hannah and I met each other through a dream. When that dream became a reality, we were ecstatic, long lost allies living half away around the world from each other yet with roots as kindred as if we were grown on the same soil. At a soul level, we were. It was a profound gift to align with this co-conspirator in the dance. Blessed by the many layers of our shared schooling and destiny call, we immediately got to work. Hannah was a dedicated student of our rites of passage work allowing our community and the process to quicken her brilliantly creative emergence on the world stage as an artist and teacher. With dedication and clarity, she stands by my side offering feedback, insight, and support. Hannah brings intuition and insight into her leadership with piercing precision and love. Hannah also has a unique gift for making the invisible visible, innovatively creating safe spaces for the most marginalized ones, those who do not fit into any other community care. Hannah is a fierce friend, a mighty teacher, and a beacon of grace and beauty.

Jeremy Roske

Musician. Actor. Transformation Guide.

Jeremy Roske is a multi-talented musician and performer. His evolving musical style weaves together conscious lyrics and soulful melodies drawing inspiration from folk, rock, reggae, hip-hop and world fusion.

Jeremy has released two albums: People Rise in 2005 and in 2019 an EP titled Seed: Five soul-stirring songs from the heart. His music reflects his passion and purpose; to make music that opens the heart, expands the mind, and connects souls.

Jeremy also leads transformational workshops around the world with his beloved wife, Melanie.

To learn more about Jeremy, his music, and his creative offerings, visit

From Melissa:
Jeremy was the first young male person to enter the dance in the 90’s. His devotion to a life of discipline and practice rooted him rapidly in this work. The creative magic moving through him from the beginning was compelling and engaging. Jeremy studied and served the work for decades, modeling to dudes how to heal the wounds of the past and wake up into the dignity of one’s being. His music moved our youth camps for decades, many songs becoming victory cries for young souls tuning in and turning on. I had the blessing of witnessing Jeremy occupy audiences in small mountain towns in Colorado all the way to big community stages in New Zealand. Jeremy always brings his open heart, his humble gifts, and his devoted leadership to every stage, interaction, and moment on the dancing path.

Jeremy has called forth the song in all of our souls as he sings the story of our community and our times. A lead musician for the Golden Bridge Rhythm Keepers, he helps us ground through the beat and open through the melody as energy moves through our bodies.

Vusi Makanya

Choreographer. Artistic Director and Educator. Community Leader. Youth Mentor.

Vusi is both the founder and Executive & Artistic Director of KwaMashu School of Dance Theatre, in Durban, South Africa. Vusi has over twenty years of professional performance and administration experience in dance, dance theater, and dance education. Over the past 15 years, Vusi has been running his organization in collaboration with various national and international guest teachers. He is deeply woven into the fabric of the SomaSource community. Years of cross-pollination have inspired community around the world.

Vusi Makanya graduated in Choreography and Practice of Dance Teaching from Phenduka Dance Theatre as well as Dance in Education at the University of KwaZulu Natal. He has been nominated on various occasions as Most-Promising Male Dancer. In 2010, he won Best Choreography Work in the FNB Stepping Stone Dance Umbrella Festival. He has been recognized as an INK Excellence Community Development Artist (INK: Inanda, Ntuzuma, KwaMashu).

Vusi has performed, choreographed, and conducted dance workshops for performing companies, schools, colleges and universities in Africa, South America, Asia, and Europe. Vusi is a well-known artist on the Golden Bridge Creative Liberation stage, each year moving onto new frontiers in creative leadership and performance. Vusi continues to create new works wherever he goes. He is currently sourcing funds to build his own Dance Theatre School in the KwaMashu Community.

From Melissa:
I met Vusi in the clothing section of a department store in Durban South Africa. He showed up wearing bright pink pants and a contagious creative enthusiasm. He was ready. He knew how to dance, how to lead community, how to choreograph. He wanted more. Vusi was longing to learn how to bring the dance into his community as a source of healing. Beyond what he had already offered, he wanted the work to be a deeper source of transformation for himself and his people. During our second meeting, Vusi watched me teach. I knew that he was keenly scrutinizing me. By the end of that afternoon, our soul date was clear. We had many creative things to do together. Since that day, we have been dancing together as student, mentor, and colleagues. It has been an honor and joy to witness Vusi’s brave dismantling of his cultural machismo, allowing himself to heal and open to his true noble heart. A dignified guardian of the little ones and the feminine, Vusi’s benevolent spirit blesses our community and the world every day. His mission is mighty and important. The children need to remember their home language, the dance. Vusi can guide them there and will, whether he has the funds to pay his bills or not.

Rachael Lenore Bonaiuto

Healer. Counselor. Dance/Movement Therapist. Somatic Educator. Authentic Movement Facilitator. Mother.

Rachael has built a private practice that offers counseling, dance/movement therapy, mentorship and Authentic Movement study and practice. Rachael works with humans of many walks, primarily those that identify as women, facilitating the process of reclaiming truth, trusting self, reconnecting with our inherent worth and finding healthy relationship with the wisdom of our bodies, emotions, and souls. She works privately, in the community and teaches at Naropa University.

Rachael also offers Authentic Movement workshops in the Boulder community. She discovered the practice of Authentic Movement in 2004, while studying Somatic Counseling Psychology, and has been in reverence and study of the work ever since. Rachael’s offerings have been deeply informed by her work with SomaSource, expanding her capacity to hold space and deepening her understanding of all things related to Soma and Soul.

Learn more about Rachael and her somatic offerings at Embodied Wellness.

From Melissa:
Rachael arrived to our work with a huge smile on her face, ready, enthusiastic, disciplined, and humble. Her profoundly gracious attitude made it easy for the teachings to slip deep inside her every move. She showed up open. And she stayed open in the face of life’s very rigorous challenges. Over the years, Rachael has become a living embodiment of these teachings, finding ever deeper embodied connection on and off the dance floor. She is fluid with her vulnerability and power, modeling what real leadership looks like. Amidst it all, that smile of her never stops radiating!

Gabriel E. Cannon

Youth Mentor. Therapist. Counselor. Coach. Musician.

Gabriel is the founder of Boulder Mentors, a private practice that works with youth in the greater Boulder/Denver area. In this mentorship capacity, Gabriel and his team have pioneered innovative ways of offering therapeutic services and support to teenagers who were previously turned off by traditional therapy. Gabriel builds strong relationships with both the young person and their parents and can offer a range of support, including individual and family sessions, parent coaching, and specialist referrals. Boulder Mentors has grown to include a variety of allied qualified professionals who offer unique and authentic support for adolescents.

Gabriel is also a founding member of The Boys School of Denver (BOYS), a movement-based middle school for boys. Since 2017, he has worked alongside Julie Dolin to build a robust counseling program that serves over 150 middle-school boys and their families. Gabriel loves working in a school, where he is able to support students in their element: at school, in their peer groups, with their teachers, which is a place where teenage stress can reach its pinnacle. In a school where movement is integrated into every aspect of the day, Gabriel gets to draw upon his SomaSource Training in myriad ways as he helps students find their footing through this tumultuous life stage.

With Men’s Leadership Alliance, Gabriel c0-leads the Crossing the Threshold Rite of Passage Program. This work involves taking a group of teenage boys into the wilderness every summer where they create sacred space to mark the transition from boyhood to manhood. The program works closely with parents and the greater community to support the youth in integrating their experience. Youth participating in the program tackle a wide range of coming of age topics, including responsibility and freedom, sexuality/intimacy, working with emotions, peer relationships, substance use, and meeting challenges.

From Melissa:
Gabriel took longer than most to fully get in the room. Fascinated by edges, he was often flirting with the wild places that most never would go. The shadow. The trickster. The fast moving dude on skis, on motorcycles, with his own brilliant mind. Gabriel understood things quicker than most, and then he would allow his slow and organic timing to guide him home, into the room of his body and into our dancing community. Once he rooted in his ground within, Gabriel became the master of the mundane, fondly known as MOM. He became a protector, a director, still a wild one! So much of that mischievous life force got channeled into the drum and into helping others learn to navigate through their unexplored shadow dances. Innocent and naughty, the best brother to all, a friend of the children, Gabrielle is a lover of the feminine and all things that grow along the edges.

Gabriel also holds the beat for the thousands of feet that dance across our Golden Bridge floors. He is a lead drummer for the Golden Bridge Rhythm Keepers, a blessing as he helps us all find our groove.

Alicia Patterson

Counselor. Dance Movement Therapist. Womb healer. Teacher. Guide.

Alicia runs a thriving practice offering a variety of avenues for self-inquiry including embodiment, dance movement therapy, counseling, and holistic pelvic healing. Alicia works from trauma-informed, spiritually and emotionally inclusive, safety and consent-focused lenses. Alicia’s practice works with individuals, couples, and groups locally in Colorado and online, supporting the discovery of bodily wisdom. Alicia brings a background in somatic psychology, mindfulness, yoga, competitive sports and strength training, massage therapy, nutrition, Gestalt, cosmology, ecopsychology, and perinatal psychology to her work. Alicia’s main mission and purpose in her work is to normalize and support awareness of pelvic health as the foundation and ground of life.

The holistic approach to health, wellness, and embodiment is Alicia’s driving force for all her projects which include individual and couples counseling, intensive individual pelvic health programs incorporating pelvic floor therapy / pelvic organ assessment and treatment, pelvic health online group cohorts, a training for trauma-informed pelvic care practitioners, and collaboration with colleagues. Alicia offers clients support in cultivating a positive and loving relationship with oneself through psycho-education, self-care exercises, body-based practices to promote healthy sustainable tissue change, organ energy healing, cognitive restructuring, visualization tools, and much more. Alicia opens a space for seekers to inquire what exists beyond the polarization of spiritual bypass and pathology when one sits with the inquiry of transformation and evolution of human consciousness. Visit her website to learn more:

From Melissa:
Alicia is the dance. Her capacity to surrender to her own most authentic ways of moving is a teaching for all. On the dance floor, she is present, vulnerable, powerful, beautiful to behold, filled with the Spirit. Not only is Alicia a deep devotee of the dance, but she is an impeccable ally to those finding their way home through the dance. She has a unique capacity to track people’s moving process and to support them in navigating their way through to ever more liberated versions of themselves. A seer, a healer, a teacher. Alicia brings her loving ways of seeing and serving to all of her good works, be it with individuals or groups of people on transformational journeys. Alicia is a life-long learner and leader, a true pleasure to create with!

Darren Silver

Ritualist. Guide. Storyteller.

Darren’s work is focused on bringing people into the wilderness, within and without, through modern-day vision quests. He guides quests across the US, and occasionally other locations around the world. While there are shorter options, the full vision quest program is 9 days in the wilderness where one moves through the ritual arc of severance, threshold, and incorporation. The vision quest provides individuals with the profound opportunity to deliberately mark life transitions in the reflections of the greater worlds of nature. Essentially, vision quests are opportunities to embody life questions while remaining attuned to what nature has to share in return.

Darren also teaches and guides a wide variety of offerings including, an ancient earth-based form of divination, wilderness living skills, leadership models, youth rites of passage, and the ritual arts. Drawing from lived experiences with elders, robust academic study, much of Darren’s work is rooted in the revival of the old ways of living in connection with the earth.

In pursuit of this aim, Darren’s work with SomaSource has been an invaluable tool to help facilitate individuals in bringing their visions into and through the body, and manifest in the world!

From Melissa:
Darren enters spaces dancing with the mysterious. Whenever he is in the room, there is a sense that the unseen world is close. His trickster medicine is rooted in his own intimate relationship with Spirit and his call to connect this world and That. He teaches through story and being. His compelling storytelling takes people on journeys that require them to stop, listen without distraction, stay the course, and then digest the powerful teachings that feel like they are directed specifically at you. Darren is a teacher for these times. Go outside. Sit by the fire. You may hear Darren whispering to you to get even more quiet so that you can truly dance wild!

Leigh Senna

Sacred Sexuality Teacher. Women’s Pleasure Coach. Mama. Priestess.

Leigh believes that sexual energy is the foundation of our health, creativity, and the experience of the sacred. Our energy fuels everything we do each day.

Pleasure is a form of energy, and sexual pleasure is an energy that originates and is sourced from our sex organs and that oh-so-special area between our legs. Most of us have been taught to go through life without being connected to this major source of our own energy. We become familiar with feeling depleted in our life, versus sourced and enlivened by pleasure energy flowing through our body.

When you take your pleasure into your own hands by making choices to prioritize it, be curious about it, and expand your body’s ability to feel it, you are essentially teaching yourself how to use more of your own energy!

Your body is built to feel pleasure, and building a relationship with this pleasure fuels a satisfying sense of aliveness that touches every area of your life!

Leigh graciously guides people into this life-giving relationship through teaching women’s programs and offering in-person retreats. She lives what she teaches, growing a family, tending a farm, and loving the wild and free abundantly alive all around her.

Visit her online women’s pleasure experience here:

From Melissa:
Leigh is a jewel. I remember the first time she joined us for our youth rites of passage program. Cooking healthy food for all, wearing clothes she had made herself, dreaming of vast possibilities for her life, she brought a contagious bravery and integrity like no other. Leigh danced deeply into her childhood traumas, repairing her disconnection from her body while accessing her true light. She was passionate about it all, inspiring everybody with her creative truth-telling through poetry and with her endless devotion to tending to practical community life. Leigh rose from the ashes ablaze with wholesome medicine for the world. She is now a mighty leader and lover. She leads by example. She loves with utmost attunement and compassion. Leigh can soar to the highest heights while making sure the cow is milked and the children are smiling. Leigh is to be trusted. I do.

Xoli Fuyani

Teacher. Mentor. Environmental Activist. Artist.

Xoli Fuyani has dedicated her life to teaching conservation. As an environmental educator for Earthchild Project, she’s offering EE programmes to primary schools, with a particular focus of guiding Young People to a Safe Sustainable GreenFuture.

Xoli is a certified 5Rhythms® teacher and offers the dance as a bridge to connect under-resourced communities to the wider dance community.

It was while hiking with grade 7 learners for whom she runs a hiking club that something struck her. “I start difficult conversations on relationships, menstruation, and so on. I am often surprised by the lack of information and myths,” she says. She wanted to provide more formalized support to them. “I then created co-created Girls Space with Hannah Loewenthal for adolescent girls, where they can find support and discover new pathways to self-empowerment.” She now 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.

In 2020, Xoli officially founded Black Girls Rising (which has been in existence since 2015 under Earthchild Project). Their mission is to Inspire and empower Black Girls from marginalised communities to be Bold, Brave, and Rise beyond their circumstances. Black Girls Rising creates a community where girls are seen and given space to amplify their voices. They expose girls to new possibilities by breaking down barriers, giving them a window to dream and tools to realize their dreams. For more:

From Melissa:
Xoli’s laughter fills every room she is in with healing joy. Despite the day-to-day challenges she faces in her community, Xoli brings light into her teaching and into her guardianship of the children and the Earth. She is able to channel whatever she is given, difficulty or abundance, into relevant medicine for those around her. Steeped in her cultural roots, she respectfully carries the past into the future with elegance and delight. Xoli inspires through her gracious ways, her bright presence, her deep study of life, her generous loving, and her intelligent teachings. She is a steadfast friend of the future, now.

Yuko Lawrence

Holistic Therapist. Healer. Mentor. Dancer.

Yuko Lawrence is a somatic, holistic, and experiential therapist working with teens and adults in the Boulder area. Her years of study in the SomaSource path and in meditation and mindfulness have deeply shaped her work as a therapist. She teaches her clients to listen to the messages and currents of the body and the subconscious; and to learn how to ride the waves of their inner emotions as a way to release stored traumas, feelings, and integrate forgotten parts of themselves. She constantly guides clients back into their bodies where they learn to release trauma directly from where it is stored in their nervous systems. Clients learn how to stay present with themselves, find their inner source of power, and to trust that they can navigate their inner currents with compassion and gentleness.

Yuko spent several years working as a grief counselor for hospice and has developed a somatic approach to working with grief. She has presented at the Colorado Grief Networking Alliance and at the 2019 Youth Leadership Alliance. She is also trained as a meditation guide and facilitator of a group meditation practice, Social Meditation, that brings the principles of meditation into a group context to help participants develop more authenticity and connection with each other.

From Melissa:
Yuko is always a blessing to have in the room, as a leader, a therapist, and as a student. She is consistently disciplined with her inner studies and generous with her outer service, always hosting a compassionate gaze as she moves through it all. When people are needing a close companion through the depths of their suffering, there is no one more adept than Yuko to be there with them. She shows up with spaciousness, capacity, and a wide well of listening. People know that they are safe and loved in her skilled presence. Quiet and potent, Yuko is actually magic. Her creativity, humility, and keen mind work together in mysterious ways. Be prepared to laugh, to cry, and to feel whole again in the presence of Yuko.

Melissa Walker

Somatic Sex and Relationship Therapist. Author. Educator.

Melissa is the author of Whole-Body Sex: Somatic Sex Therapy and the Lost Language of the Erotic Body. She offers somatic counseling for individuals, couples, and conscious nonmonogamous relationships, as well as online workshops for those wanting to refine skills of relational and erotic embodiment. Melissa facilitates integrous learning experiences about bodyful eroticism and intimacy as a source of increased vitality, inspiring relationships, and healing of the whole self. Fundamentally, these offerings support allyship with sexuality as a transformative force within us all.

From Melissa:
Melissa knows about presence and surrender. When she dances, she lets go into an inspiring flow of grace and power. Her work and her dance are both rooted in her compassionate heart and her fierce dedication to the life force moving through us all. She works with high integrity, inviting everyone else in her midst to do the same. She expresses herself with confidence and comfort in the complex topics she embraces while helping others to do the same. Melissa and her work are grounded in love and devoted to the mystery of who we can become in the wild and sacred dance of togetherness.

Kanika Batra

Artist. Teacher. Healer. Community Bridge Builder.

Kanika is the founder and director of Camino Canicas-Expressive Arts Healing Collective. This grassroots movement focuses on cultivating trauma-informed expressive arts education and resilience building in the Indigenous communities in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. The project creates a safe space for children who come from under-resourced families affected by trauma, neglect, and alcoholism. Through art, stories, ritual, and playing together, the children learn to express themselves and gain tools for self-regulation and resourcing, learning to navigate the difficult situations they are born into. Often serving the children leads to holistically serving the family, providing council tools and support for the parents who are also struggling with the dynamics that oppress the children. Kanika provides group expressive arts therapy, movement art, and emotional intelligence training, adapting psycho-somatic and mindfulness practices into developmentally appropriate activities for the children. Naturally, this work builds bridges between the indigenous local children and those who are traveling through or who have moved to the community. Working with privilege and diversity through storytelling and drama, Kanika helps diverse communities build strong resourcing memories and resilience together.

From Melissa:
Kanika graces us all with her spacious and deep presence. No matter how life is challenging her, she remains grounded and gracious in her dance through life. Generous beyond measure, creativity pours abundantly through Kanika. She is a dancer, a visual artist, a poet, and a social artist endlessly innovating. A bit of magic runs through Kanika. She is able to manifest beauty, cultural richness, and ever new learning opportunities out of seemingly nothing. She is resourceful, courageous, truly a Bhakti leader. Love pours through Kanika in all that she does. Her joy uplifts and heals all of us fortunate enough to get to dance with her. Stunningly beautiful images of Kanika gliding across the dance hall with her radiant smile will nourish us all long into the future.

Tess Howell

Movement Educator. Writer. Artist. Buddhist Eco Chaplain.

Tess’s work investigates how we can become fully embodied on the earth, present to the preciousness of it all, daring to tell the truth about how it is to be human.

She is a specialist in leading dance sessions outdoors, using silent disco headsets to support people in moving with wild nature, with no noise pollution to disturb the land or all the beings that live on it.

Tess set up and run several rounds of a dance/nature-based rites of passage program for young women in the UK, inspired by Melissa’s work in the USA and the SomaSource maps. The program explores leadership from an embodied perspective – expanding somatic awareness of who we are being- alongside offering hard skills for developing our work in the world.

In covid-times Tess switched to deep dive online offerings and offered the Dancing Under Wide Open Skies series to support people’s personal practice of dancing outdoor during lockdown. Tess is a SpiritRock trained Dharma and Yoga facilitator and offers free meditations on Insight Timer. She is an advocate for deep nature connection, mindful movement and the creative arts to feel fully and live deeply.

For more information about Tess please see her website:

From Melissa:
Tess Howell inspires us all to find ground and open to Grace. A true adult in the room. She is a humble, embodied leader who listens and loves with total ease. Tess’s presence gifts us all with an experience of flow. Her ways of leading are prayerful and full of love. Tess invites us all inside by taking us outside. She is magic.

Lucia Rich

Collaborative Theater Artist. Clown. Mother. Movement Educator.

Not just your average performer…dancer, clown, puppeteer…Lucia is at heart a collaborative artist. Deeply devoted to the practice of embodiment and enlivening the creative spirit through performance and teaching of the expressive arts, she follows the creative muse wherever it leads.

Lucia has collaborated on more theater, dance, puppetry and clown pieces than you can count and is a long-standing member of Clowns Ex Machina, an all-female clown troupe based in NYC. With a diverse background in both traditional and unconventional forms of theater and movement, Lucia offers a unique multi-dimensional approach to teaching that draws on her MFA in Lecoq based physical theater, thirteen years of training in performative improvisational dance and her many years of somatic dance training with Melissa and Golden Bridge. Lucia has served youth and university students alike as a choreographer and movement director, teaching dance, theater, puppetry and commedia dell’Arte.

The last five years have been a deep dive into the domestic realms, tempered in the fires of motherhood. After recently exchanging the chaos of NYC for the quiet flow of Westchester, Lucia has discovered a deep love of growing beautiful things in her garden. Whether on the stage or in her living room caring for her two children, Lucia never stops moving. She continues to improvise, devise, create something from nothing and pursue unique fusions of dance, theater and beyond.

From Melissa:
Lucia has inspired our Golden Bridge community for decades. Her dance is grounded and surrendered. Her heart is wide open, pouring forth such sweet love. Her creativity is an endless stream of surprises. Her capacity to bring her audience and community to tears is like none other. She also causes us all to laugh and delight in the human reality that we all find ourselves moving through. Being with Lucia is like basking in sunshine. She is warm, radiant, and clear. I can hear her laughter now; gracious, spacious, free. Lucia is filled with light because she is not afraid to be with the darkness. On and off the stage, she is a teaching and teacher of paradox and wholeness!

Yolanda Demétrio

Yolanda Demétrio founded Espaço Aberto Art Studio in 1998 in Rocinha, the largest favela in Latin America, located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Studio was created with the mission of discovering and developing the skills and abilities of children and young people through dance, art, culture, and children’s literature. Espaço Aberto serves the neighborhoods of Rocinha, Gardenia, Cidade de Deus, and Cruzada São Sebastião – all considered high-risk areas marked by the presence of drug dealers and militiamen (former police officers).

Over the years, Espaço Aberto has rescued students who were involved in drug-trafficking, prostitution, and drug use. The art studio currently serves 46 children, 21 youth, and 2 elders on a regular basis with a fighting spirit for families living in low-income favelas who cannot afford dance activities. They are also focused on training new leaders who will continue building a love for the arts in the future.

From Melissa:
Yolanda is a gifted dancer, choreographer, and teacher. With extraordinary tenacity, she built a wide reaching safe space for the young people of Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil. Her studio, Espaco Aberto, is a beloved community gathering place, a place for learning, creativity, and connection. With few resources, Yolanda finds ways to train her students and present them to the world through inspired performance. They dance with dignity, skill, and enthusiasm. Her students are empowered through the arts to uplift culture and share stories of resilience. They have a place to belong, a place to grow, a place to experience beauty and kindness amidst enormous daily challenge. Yolanda is a serious student and loving role model sharing how dance can be healing and transformative for all. Life force pours from all of her creations.


Rajaveni founded Golden Girls Mohanam in 2015 in Auroville, India. With its developmental focus on the girls and women of the greater Mohanam community, the Golden Girls Mohanam project emerged from the Mohanam Village Heritage Center with the goal of protecting dozens of girls through health education, lifestyle guidance, and self-care practice. The Mohanam Village Heritage Center, of which Rajaveni is the Executive Director, acts as an indispensable bridge between Auroville, an international city in Tamil Nadu, India, and its surrounding villages. The Center’s Mission is to keep alive the local and rural traditions of the Tamil culture.

Rajaveni, fondly referred to as Raji, created Golden Girls Mohanam under the guidance of Melissa Michaels, Golden Girls Global Founder and Co-Director. Raji has followed in the able footsteps of Bhavana, a now Ancestor and long-time mentor, who started women’s village work after meeting Melissa in Kottakarai in 1987.

Golden Girls Mohanam is working to preserve and teach the traditional Tamil cultural arts, natural healthcare, and diet. The programming serves as an antidote to the infiltration of western ways, phones, TV, drugs, early sex, etc. Raji has cultivated freedom and empowerment in her work with the girls and is lifting the veils of oppressive cultural protocol. Her work has been so transformative that the girls’ mothers want to learn what their children are doing. They want to participate.

From Melissa:
Raji came to our work as a very young person, wide-eyed, eager to learn, ready to awaken to her gifts and her innovative leadership. From the moment she set sail across the oceans to our shores, she was brave and bright. Through her vision and dedication, Raji has been able to cultivate a body of work that uplifts the lives of many young women in her midst. She also has a way of listening deeply to what is being asked of her, learning from life, the treasures and the challenges. Raji is a bridge between cultures, a true protector of her traditional Tamil ways along with being a pioneer seeking new frontiers and relevant ways from all cultures. She is a true friend of the future.

Johannah Reimer

Johannah Reimer founded Wakeful Nature in 2016 in Boulder, Colorado, USA. The organization offers programs designed to enrich tweens and teens’ social and emotional lives by providing a safe container for them to connect with their peers and explore who they are and their place in the world. Through ongoing mentorship in intimate groups, they use the age-old wisdom of the natural world, expressive arts, and council to ground young girls in trust and authenticity as they dive deep into the mysteries of their changing body, heart, mind, and soul.

Wakeful Nature is led by educators and ceremonialists trained in soul-centric human development, SomaSource-inspired rites of passage, and wilderness education. Their work is blessed and guided by the wisdom of their elders including Sage Hamilton and Melissa Michaels.

Wakeful Nature currently works with 30 girls between the ages of 10-17 on a weekly and monthly basis. Wakeful Nature is unique in offering truly long-term, not short one-time or even year-long, programming. This allows the leaders to track the youth throughout their adolescence and to support them with all the changes that come with it.

From Melissa:
Johannah’s work is inspired, filled with love, beauty, and relevancy. Each girl in her good care is seen and honored for the journey they are on. Everything Johanna offers, every artistic activity, ritual, and conversation is intentional. She tracks the subtlety of adolescent developmental needs along with the ever changing climate of these times and her girl’s lives. She is a social artist, a friend, and a trusted colleague. Creativity flows freely through Johannah. To be a great teacher, one also has to be a good student. Johannah is a disciplined and devoted student of life, of our shared work, and of her own evolution. Every girl around the world needs to be welcomed, educated, and blessed on the path of becoming. Johannah is doing just that. Enjoy the majesty of her leadership!

Yolanda Cordova Swalley

Yolanda Cordova Swalley founded Upijata in 2019 on the Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, USA. It is dedicated to creating safe, inspiring, and empowering spaces for women, girls, and families to express themselves and heal themselves through the arts.

Upijata provides relief from historical trauma and the impacts of reservation life by combating the public issues of suicide and pervasive substance abuse through arts education on the Oglala Lakota Sioux Reservation and surrounding areas. This form of education empowers the community and offers students an emotional outlet by giving them access to therapeutic artistic expression and providing them with fun and enriching experiences, practical skills, and healthy challenges. Upijata programming is focused on personal growth, and developing healthy community identity and pride serving everyone from young children to senior members of the reservations.

From Melissa:
Yolanda Swalley is a humble leader who graciously shows up to support some of the most marginalized young people on this continent. With an open heart and a very generous spirit, she offers her time and teachings even when the supports are few. A true visionary, Yolanda gifts her entire community by offering safe and inspired spaces for the youth to gather and remember their traditional ways, their dignity, and their possibilities as humans. Yolanda is also a brilliant artist in her own right. She is a dancer, a knitter, and a leader who bravely moves along the creative edges of her own becoming. She moves through life with respect, joy, and wisdom. We are always blessed when Yoli is near!

Claudine Migisha

Claudine Migisha founded Nguvu Ya Africa in 2019 with a team of 90% women and 10% men in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is a creative non-profit organization and enterprise committed to peace and sustainability. Their work specifically focuses on breaking the cycle of trauma and economic crisis facing the marginalized girls and women living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Nguvu Ya Africa provides a unique economic empowerment model that combines both psychosocial and creative artistic tools to equip marginalized girls and women. Engaging men as powerful partners helps fulfill Nguvu Ya Africa’s mission for a more equal, healthy, and peaceful society.

In addition to entrepreneurship and self-development training, women receive tools and grants to support their families and build their communities. Nguvu Ya Africa stays connected with these women on the ground to evaluate how they are doing with their small businesses and to help them build their self-esteem and confidence. Women who are successful, repay the initial grants and sometimes apply for a second round of funding. Women who were not as successful continue to receive training and grants. These grants have been made possible through funding from Golden Girls Global and the Watson Accelerator.

“The support we have received from Golden Girls Global (GGG) and Golden Bridge is the foundation of all of our successes. GGG mentoring and the community of colleagues to support our inner life and outer plans have been invaluable to us. The curriculum for teachings was generated from the SomaSource curriculum (menstrual health, micro-grants, financial support, and day-to-day leadership). Our affiliation with Golden Girls Global gives us status in our country” ~ Claudine Migisha, CEO & Founder, Nguvu Ya Africa.

From Melissa:
Claudine is a spiritual leader, community organizer, scholar, and guardian of peace. She has navigated through unfathomable losses, personally and in her community. Her personal resilience is a work of art. Dance and devotion have guided her through. Claudine is gracious, curious, fierce, focused, and on fire. Everyone, at every age, is inspired in Claudine’s good company. She cares. And, she is passionate about her service. She loves her ministry and the call to fully actualize her destiny. Nothing can stop this fine young woman. We are all blessed by moving through life with Claudine. This is one to uplift in whatever ways she sees is needed for her own development and for the world. Whether tending to menstrual education of girls or waging peace between Hutu and Tutsi youth leaders, parties, Claudine is global leader on the rise.