About the event


Free Body Project's first conference was held in partnership with  the Martha Graham Dance Company on June 18th, 2015 in the Martha Graham Dance Company Studios in New York, NY. 

Through an engaging panel presentation, the event sought to: 

  • More deeply understand how dance positively benefits the physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills of individuals. 
  • Discuss how dance and movement can be more widely utilized in international development and peace building initiatives. 
  • Engage with the question of how more dancers can use their skill to become involved to perpetuate positive change. 

A dedicated group of dancers, therapists and development practitioners attended the panel event which included presentations and topic specific break-out discussions with the panelists.

Video resources from the event below. 



Expert Panelists


Sohini Chakraborty

Founder Director, Kolkata Sanved

Sohini Chakraborty is an Ashoka Fellow, a PHD scholar, a sociologist, a dance activist, and the Founder Director of Kolkata Sanved. Sohini uses dance andmovement as an alternative tool for therapy , recovery, rehabilitation and self expression for mainstreaming survivors of trafficking and violence.  She received the prestigious ‘The Dian Von FurstenbergAward’(DVF) in 2011 for transforming the lives of other women.  

Sohini began the search for a synthesis of performing art and activism when she was a student of Sociology at the Calcutta University. Emerging from a rich background in the performing arts, Sohini fused her years of training in Navanritya,  Bhartnatyam, contemporary dance, dance therapy, other dance forms and theatre with her academic career of sociological research to create Kolkata Sanved. The success of Sohini’s work led to the establishment ofKolkata Sanved on April 29th, 2004. The organization is establishing itself as a center of excellence in the field of dance therapy in South Asia. Under Sohini's leadership, Kolkata Sanved received the Beyond Sport Award in 2009 for “ Best Project for Health” and was recently awarded the Global Fund for Children's Catalyst Award.



Yasemin Ozumerzifon

Community Action Manager at Gibney Dance

After completing her primary education at the Royal Academy of Ballet, Yasemin moved to the US to study Dance and Psychology at Connecticut College. In order to combine her two passions, she pursued an M.A. at Columbia University in Developmental Psychology with focuses in creativity and human development. During her apprenticeshipat the New Victory Theater, she created a School Tool™ which is a resource guide designed to support the New York City Department of Education’s Blueprint for Teaching and Learning the Arts, and the New York State Learning Standards. Additionally, Yasemin has a background in conducting research which includes assisting a year long study that evaluated Guggenheim Museum’s “Learning Through Art” program. Since 2011, Yasemin has been working as a Community Action Manager at Gibney Dance which is the first program to unite dancers with survivors of domestic violence. Her role at Gibney Dance includes the areas of advocacy, trainings and the Community Action Hub, a physical space dedicated to dance and social action.



Carrie MacLeod

Research DirectorDancing at the Crossroads Conflict Transformation Project at the University of British Columbia

Carrie MacLeod integrates the vital life force of movement and dance in education and social action projects around the globe.  Her work focuses on peace and reconciliation initiatives in post-war contexts and within refugee resettlement programs in Canada. In Vancouver she is the Coordinator for the Enacting Resilience project at the University of British Columbia. At the European Graduate School she is on the Faculty of the MA Program in Expressive Arts in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding and is the Director of the International Centre for Arts in Peacebuilding. Her latest co-edited book The Choreography of Resolution – Conflict, Movement and Neuroscience has recently been released by the American Bar Association.


Alison Gardy

Director of International Relations92nd Street Y

Alison Gardy has served as Director of International Relations at 92nd Street Y since 2001, when she became the director of a newly-created Department of International Relations. That same year, under Alison’s leadership, 92Y launched the Ford Motor Company International Fellowship of 92nd Street Y, which brings proven international community leaders from all over the world to 92Y for intensive management and leadership training. The fellowship, which has served 296 community leaders from 73 countries, has been recognized by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as one of the top management training programs in the U.S.  During her tenure, Alison has also developed 92Y’s International Way, a display of international booths at 92Y’s annual fall Street Festival that began with one booth in 2003 and now boasts two dozen (from 15 countries and 20 international cultural organizations). Alison was instrumental in creating 92Y’s Diplomatic Outreach Program, engaging diplomats from more than 70 countries in initiatives including educational forums, program collaborations, and off-the-record dialogues. Under her leadership, 92Y’s diplomatic contacts have grown from a handful to more than 500, including ambassadors, consuls general, foreign ministries and grassroots organizations around the world.

Alison has served on the Fulbright Association Board of Directors, was President of the Greater New York Chapter of the Fulbright Association, and founded the Fulbright Youth Conference in 2001, which brought together hundreds of New York City high school students for training in peaceful solutions to conflict.  She also served as a board member of the New Jersey Scholars Program (of which she is a graduate). Alison taught writing at New York University and English at The Bilingual Company, a Japanese language school in New York. In her 15 years as a journalist, she has written for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NACLA Report on the Americas, National Geographic Traveler, Associated Press and Texas Observer, among other publications. Alison's penchant for start-up experiments led her to help found a web content provider, a Brazilian culture magazine, and several multicultural newsletters.

Alison received a BA in Comparative Literature in Spanish and Russian from Yale University and a MFA in Literary Nonfiction from Columbia University School of the Arts. She lived in Mexico for several years on a Fulbright Fellowship to research social change in Mexico, and has traveled extensively in Latin America. Alison speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French and Russian, and limited Hebrew. She would love to take her family cycling around the world once they all graduate from training wheels.



Edward Henkel

Creator, MovementTalks

Edward Henkel worked for 35 years as a professional dancer, choreographer and teacher and for the past 15 years as Assistant Director of the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center until his recent promotion to Associate Director. Henkel danced in the companies of Merce Cunningham, Eliot Feld, Erick Hawkins, Jean Erdman’s Theater of the Open Eye and New York Theatre Ballet, where he was the resident choreographer. Edward Henkel's MovementTalks were imagined as an interactive experience and an ongoing narrative about the role of dance as a substantiate interfacing of mind, body and environment.



Beth Silverman-Yam

Clinical Advisor, Community Action Program of Gibney Dance

Beth Silverman-Yam, DSW, LCSW was the Director of Clinical Programs at Sanctuary for Families from 1994 – 2014 where she was responsible for crisis shelters, individual group counseling, and advocacy services for adults and children who are victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking. A social work clinician, program developer and administrator for more than 40 years, Dr. Silverman-Yam has served in leadership roles with the New York State Psychiatric Institute, labor-based social service programs and the British Govt. Dept. of Social Services in Southeast London. She was a full-time member of the faculty of Columbia University School of Social Work where she taught Advanced Generalist Practice, Advocacy and Clinical Practice in the World of Work. She is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia teaching a course on Domestic Violence. She has an MSW from Columbia and a doctorate from the City University of New York. Dr. Silverman-Yam is currently the Clinical Advisor for Gibney Dance Community Action, the first program to unite survivors of domestic violence and dancers.


Amy Miller

Associate Artistic DirectorGibney Dance

Amy Miller is an NYC-based dancer, choreographer, educator and advocate.  Interested in finding ways to foster both artistic excellence and social engagement in all of her work, Miller strives to prioritize both components in equal measure.  The associate artistic director of Gibney Dance, she also focuses the development of the organization's Community Action with domestic violence shelters both locally and abroad.  From facilitating movement workshops with survivors of trauma, to conducting trainings for artists interested in engaging in social action, Miller is devoted to raising awareness about intimate partner violence, as well as the role that movement and creativity have in both prevention and the recovery process.  A former principal dancer with the Ohio Ballet, she was a founding member and artistic associate of Cleveland-based GroundWorks DanceTheater for over a decade.  Her ongoing partnership with Oberlin Conservatory of Music professor Peter Swendsen has created numerous works for GroundWorks, as well as a recent premiere for Gibney Dance Company.  In addition to numerous university residencies throughout the US, her solo work has been seen at venues throughout NYC.  Miller holds a BFA in Dance and is also the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award for her choreography. 



Yasemin Ozumerzifon is the Manager of the Community Action Program at Gibney Dance. She shares her work and speaks about the project making dance as a mode of healing and empowerment accessible to survivors of intimate partner violence in New York State.

Amy Miller is the Associate Artistic Director at Gibney Dance. She speaks about the Community Action program making dance as a mode of healing and empowerment accessible to survivors of intimate partner violence in New York State.

Alison Gardy is the Director of International Relations at the 92nd Street Y. A supporter of using movement for social justice, Alison speaks about her work in international relations and interacting with global social entrepreneurs.

Beth Silverman-Yam is the Clinical Advisor of the Community Action Program at Gibney Dance. She speaks about her work and the program making dance as a mode of healing and empowerment accessible to survivors of intimate partner violence in New York State.

Edward Henkel is the founder of the MovementTalks series focused on dance and social action. He discusses his reasons for beginning the series.

Carrie MacLeod is the Director of the Dancing at the Crossroads conflict transformation project at the University of British Columbia. She speaks about the connections between movement, conflict resolution and the brain.


Sohini Chakraborty is the Founder Director of Kolkata Sanved. Her groundbreaking organization based in Kolkata, India, uses dance and dance therapy as psychosocial rehabilitation for survivors of human trafficking and violence.