In a career she describes as “evolving, supported, creative, satisfying, [and] humbling,” Wendy Allen, has moved through her journey inspired by her love of dancing, creativity, and human connections. Upon graduating from Connecticut College with degrees in Dance Performance/Choreography and Philosophy, Wendy set off to New York City to pursue her dream of professional dancing. Unfulfilled by the realities of that lifestyle, Wendy found herself in a bookstore searching for magical life-directing answers. Her magic was hidden in a most unexpected place. Tucked inside “Cosmopolitan: Life After College,” was an article on Naropa University and Dance Therapy. A pivotal moment, knowing instantly she had “found [her] thing,” Wendy moved to Boulder, Colorado, studied at Naropa, and flourished in an academic setting that integrated Buddhist principles of presence and mindfulness with the teachings of Dance/Movement Therapy.
While at Naropa, Wendy applied her knowledge in internships at both state and private mental health facilities which in turn provided her invaluable experience with many diverse populations. After working as a Dance/Movement Therapist for a few years in a private mental health facility, Wendy shifted directions and co-directed Project Self-Discovery, a program for at-risk youth that was connected with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble. Wendy poignantly describes the challenges in her work as a therapist. “I have felt overwhelmed by the amount of suffering and saddened by the shortcomings of "the system" and its inability to adequately meet those who need assistance.” She acknowledges her struggle to leave work at work and the heaviness that comes from trying to meet the insurmountable need without over-extending herself. Wendy also speaks candidly of the rewards that move her through moments of difficulty. Propelled by her belief in the inherent goodness and beauty of humanity and awed by the creativity people employ to foster their own healing, Wendy finds lovely ways to reframe the suffering of the spirit. “I am inspired . . . by how a client will naturally adapt to a situation by developing some way of coping with whatever is going on . . . This creative capacity for adaptation is what enables many of my clients to survive and it becomes the very thing that enables them to find other options.”
True to her self-labeled evolution, her work with clients also evolved. Earlier in her career, Wendy balanced movement experiences and verbal processing within her sessions. Recently, she has explored simply trusting in the power and intrinsic healing properties of movement. She believes in the wisdom of the body while realizing the vulnerability and immediacy of somatic experience that can overwhelm clients who are unaware of this potential. Thus, she draws from a variety of expressive and somatic approaches (Body psychotherapy, Drama, Art, and Poetry therapy, and dance education) as less invasive in-roads if needed. Her sessions typically follow a loose Chacian format beginning with a warm-up involving check-ins, games, and movement. This ritual increases awareness, encourages presence, and provides preparation for “the work ahead.” The warm-up is also used to find a theme for the session which is explored and developed through various improvisational structures. Theme development can be done as a group, in dyads, or individually. After diving into the theme, Wendy brings her clients back together to reflect on their experiences, to set intentions, and to find ways to bring their work within the session into their daily lives. Her ability to integrate her interests guides her process. “I find that the skills I use as a therapist are the same skills I use as an artist...to develop themes in an organic and authentic way I rely on spontaneity, creativity, awareness, play, etc.”
Her career pathway shifted from therapist to teacher after she welcomed her children into the world. Wendy began teaching psychology at Naropa and, determined to keep dance a part of her life, taught children's dance classes in Denver. She later became the chair of the Somatic Psychology department at Naropa. Currently, Wendy is teaching part-time at Naropa while pursuing her Ph.D. in Expressive Therapies at Lesley University. Wendy calls her current work inspiring and finds ceaseless interest in the creative processes she uses as teacher, dancer, choreographer, and therapist. Her students are sparkling wellsprings as their curiosity encourages her own thoughtful inquiries.
From NYC to Boulder via Cosmo, Wendy Allen continues to map her course by flowing with her passions for dance, creativity, and the inherent goodness of humanity.