The Evolution of ShaGa
ShaGa is an embodied movement practice that has developed over the course of 16 years. It is a synthesis of ShaLeigh Comerford’s lifelong movement research that first began with the discovery of Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing and her passion to create healing movement programs for special populations. Her background in social work and programming includes serving as a Therapeutic Recreation Technician, Youth Leader, In-Home Relief Counselor, and a Family Case Specialist where she researched, developed, and launched the first Early Head Start Program in Roanoke, VA. In 2003, she started Roanoke’s first integrated dance program for children with mixed abilities at the Roanoke Ballet Theatre. Her masters thesis entitled The Power of Identity through Movement created an embodiment curricula for individuals with physical disabilities and later was expanded into movement programs for individuals with mental illness, hearing and vision impairments, at-risk youth, and survivors of trauma. In 2006, she expanded her work with survivors of domestic violence while assisting the development of Gina Gibney’s Community Action Programs in New York City. That same year, she was certified in Creative Arts therapies.
In 2011, ShaLeigh met former Batsheva dancers Doron Raz Avraham and Danielle Agami while in residence at Washington and Lee University where she was invited to join a re-staging of Minus Sixteen. Following the performance, she was personally invited to train in the Gaga movement language with Ohad Naharin and the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv, Israel for their inaugural teacher training program. In addition to studying under Ohad, she was honored to also study under program leaders Doron Raz Avraham, Aya Israeli, and Idan Porges, as well as repertoire, toolbox, and methodics teachers Yaniv Avraham, Stefan Ferry, Ohad Fishof, Yaara Moses, Gili Navot, Bosmat Nossan, Michal Sayfan, Moran Zilberberg, and Noa Zuk. After returning to America, she was encouraged to continue her research. She began to deepen her passion into an application for a larger field of movement practices including training professional actors and dancers in contemporary techniques, injury prevention, and recovery. She continues to stay closely connected with her Gaga family and has since enjoyed taking intensives and masterclasses with Saar Harari, Rani Lebzelter, and Shamel Pitts. She has also been delighted to host Ohad Fishof, Maayan Sheinfeld, and Noa Zuk for workshops with her company.
Today, her movement research is augmented by philosophy, pathology, pain & trauma recovery, intrinsic movement, integral anatomy, experiential anatomy, proprioception, sensory awareness, vipassana, ideokinesis, body-mind centering, and neurophysiology. The success rate of physical recovery, expanded range of motion, and technical agility quickly expanded into offering donation-based classes at the growing request of the community. These donation classes were first available to the community in 2014 and took form as ShaGa.
Since launching her company full-time in 2015, ShaLeigh continues to channel her lifelong research into an evolving movement practice that serves as the company’s weekly movement training.
“I feel so grateful to have discovered your important work. I’ve tried traditional psychotherapy and yoga to work through c-PTSD but nothing has really felt like healing until I tried ShaGa. Thank you so much for making this accessible. You are a true gift to the community and the world. I left dancing for so many years as I struggled with substance abuse, and I will never again underestimate how important it is to me.” – anonymous
“ShaLeigh’s ShaGa class was extremely helpful to my healing process from a stress fracture injury in my foot. I was in a boot for months and became extremely frustrated that I was unable to dance. My doctors informed me that I only had a slight chance of healing in time to perform a lead role on pointe in a upcoming performance, but working with ShaLeigh made that goal happen. ShaGa not only gave me the opportunity to move without adding stress to my injury, but I found a relaxation in my body that I had never felt before. I did the entire class on the floor and still felt included within the atmosphere of the class. ShaGa gave me the opportunity to heal and perform sooner than anyone thought was possible.” – Tameika Ramseur
“Movement became a chore for me during my lengthy commitment to intensive ballet training. Over time, dancing became painful, difficult, and rigid. At a young age I found myself struggling with physical injuries and three orthopedic surgeries by the time I was 19 years old. I feel lucky that I was able to study under ShaLeigh Comerford shortly after my last knee surgery. The beginning of my work with ShaGa brought with it a freedom of movement that I had never experienced in dance. After working with ShaGa for a year I can attest to healing .” – Paloma Zabala
“I know from my personal experience that in the very beginning of this teaching, I did not listen to my body. For years I only knew to dance through my pain, ignore it, or keep going because that’s what a dancer would do. With ShaGa I could use the sensations of pain and frustration as an engine without wishing it would go away. It is the opportunity to share what we all have experienced like vulnerability, weakness, desire, and delicacy. We all experience these true moments but rarely get the opportunity to unlock them and use them to our advantage like we can through ShaGa.” – Isabelle Frame
“Now that I’m just training in ShaGa, my body is more capable. I can find a better path to do things that is less painful and more mindful. I use to wake up with a lot of pain in my hips that would stay with me most of the day. Now with the increase of taking more classes, my body is starting to change for good. I wake up with less pain and more mobility, even the amount of energy is more. I’ve found more mobility in my joints and the arthritis pain is less. This is one of the best things that has happened in my life, my career, and my continuous learning.” – Steven James
More About ShaGa
In ShaGa, we move from our body, the ultimate refuge. We allow our bodies to become our teacher and our healer.
ShaGa is a movement practice of self-discovery, healing, and awakening to our deeper resources. It opens us up to the capacity to experience movement as a source of healing and vitality. We discover that by inhabiting our bodies more fully, we are able to more fully inhabit our lives.
ShaGa is about Healing. We give ourselves permission to find deeper resources that expand our movement potential, reduce tension and atrophy in the body, and illuminate paths towards personal transformation. We take time to listen to our pain on a molecular level and discover layers of guidance. We discover the healing power of working at a very low volume of effort, so we can go places where pleasure in the movement is awakened.
ShaGa is about Permission. We take time to be curious and to listen to the body. We practice giving ourselves permission to follow our own, unique guidance rather than telling it what to do. As we encourage our innate, inner rhythms, we experience freedom inside our movement and inside our minds while connecting our bodies to our imaginations. We give ourselves a physical pathway to experience and re-experience ourselves. We welcome whatever arises as a guide. We refuse nothing and discover we can enjoy everything.
For inquiries please send us a message via our Contact page.
ShaGa: Community Classes
Community classes are for movers of all abilities. Class begins slowly and builds in intensity to continuous motion, providing enjoyable exercise for both body and soul. ShaGa allows us to actively explore our habits, expand our range, and discover the endless possibilities of healing ways of moving in a welcoming, accepting atmosphere.
Class is open to ALL and is designed for individuals who wish to open themselves to movement in new ways. Dancers, yogis, movers, and nonmovers of all kinds and abilities are welcome to join us. No prior experience is necessary. Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing and to move barefoot or in socks.
ShaGa: Movement into Creation Classes
ShaGa: Movement into Creation classes are a contemporary composition class designed for movers with some experience. Class begins slowly with a ShaGa warm up and builds in intensity, providing an enjoyable workout for both body and soul. The second half of the class offers an exploration of ShaGa concepts through composition and choreography. Movers will learn and develop movement phrases to experience the inhabitance and delicacy of form while generating embodied compositions.
2020 ShaGa ONLINE Schedule
Virtual ShaGa at Global Breath Studios: Fourth Friday of each month from 6-7pm beginning January 24th – June 26th, 2020. Register here.
Virtual ShaGa at Ninth Street Dance: Every Wednesday from 12-1pm beginning January 8th – March 11th, 2020. Register here.
Virtual ShaGa: Community Classes. Classes are entirely donation based and open to anyone. Register here.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Sundays and Wednesdays at 6PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Mondays and Thursdays at 8PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Virtual ShaGa: Movement into Creation Class. Classes are entirely donation based and open to anyone. Register here.
Saturdays at 1PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Currently, we are teaching all classes on Zoom, a free application accessible from your phone, tablet or computer. Zoom does not require participants to have individual accounts in order to join a meeting. Just simply register at the link for each class, and you will get access! Please register ahead of time. Zoom meeting links are emailed to you after you register.