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Philein Wang, Artistic Director of  ZiRu Dance, will collaborate with One Life Counseling to hold classes, conduct research and choreograph a new body of work exploring PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and pathways to recovery from the disorder. Nearly 30% of persons suffering from a mental illness during the COVID-19 pandemic have PTSD. An estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. This collaboration aims to address this global struggle through a study of its current manifestations and the rich implications that can resonate more broadly in the PTSD community.


Our 2022 season, for which we are seeking funding, will take the results of this year’s study of Renewal and will continue our work in the community through addressing another aspect of the pandemic’s collateral damage; PTSD and the importance of mental health.


Wang will collaborate with One Life to create a series of movement classes tailored to individuals suffering from PTSD, both as a result of COVID-19 and more broadly. Over several months, these classes will involve conversations and explorations as both sides share the language of their practice. 


PTSD is a mental illness which, when triggered, evinces very strong, visceral emotional and physical reactions.  Dance can speak to us and for us on this level by connecting our mental, emotional, and physical intentions in a kinesthetic (and often cathartic) experience. Our bodies hold our history and the key to unlocking the healing mechanisms in our bodies that PTSD strives to bury. PTSD often presents as a crippling disconnect between present reality and a trauma-induced past. 


The nuanced collaboration between Wang and One Life Counseling will build a class practice that investigates how the body stores trauma and the pathways to overcome automated responses. We aim to target these blocked areas of the body and nurture release of stored trauma. We will study class interactions as templates for choreographic material. Wang will engage in conversations with community patients as well as One Life therapists and psychologists to understand dance’s impact on trauma.


This process can be successful only after a considerable period of partnership, discovery and mutual understanding. As is the case with much of Wang’s work, her choreographic focus will not merely be to present the acute anguish caught within this diagnosis, but a way through toward healing and somatic relief. 


Out of this study, choreographic movement for a new work will be generated. We will collect and synthesize the stories that haunt individual patients, the patterns that appear, and the physical pathways of trauma and release. The result will be a full evening of dance performance that blends together several narratives. Long-time ZiRu Dance collaborator, Areta Wang, will collaborate with Philein Wang on the body of work as it builds. Areta is a disabled visual artist who suffers from PTSD as a result of her debilitating physical conditions. Her artwork will contribute substantially to the set design and physical structure of the performing space. Her own story will interject another layer into the body of our performed work.


For years, our work has focused on cross-cultural collaboration, using dance as a common language when words fail. In this new work, we seek to create art at the intersection of psychotherapy and dance.  As we have done in all our prior collaborations, we will emphasize movement as a guiding principle in breaking down barriers, forging connections, exploring new ground, and healing as a global community.


The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed trauma and vulnerabilities in our community, as well as feelings of isolation and xenophobia. This collaboration will put into practice the usefulness and resourcefulness of dance in a time of great need. The collective practice will encourage healthy discourse between Wang, the dancers in the company, and One Life Couseling’s therapists and patients.  Increased awareness of this crisis comes at a time when our community is poised for change. The pandemic has prompted introspection, changes in daily habits, and shifts in patterns. There is no better time to address the marked effects of PTSD than when so many are needing - and ready - to heal.

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One Life Counseling, based in San Carlos, is a non-profit organization of skilled therapists and change agents who aim to inspire, educate and provide accessible counseling for anyone who needs it at any cost. They provide innovative counseling, training and seminars for anyone seeking to live a purposeful and inspired life. One Life also provides tailored community-based programs to reach people more directly including projects with senior citizens and the Boys and Girls Club.





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