In the Beginning
At the age of 5 while playing in our family’s front yard, the quiet air was suddenly electrified by the local church bells beginning their melodious song, and my heart lifted; in that moment I knew that the stirring of Spirit within me had to be expressed in dance. I twirled, spun, leapt, and bowed in an improvised welling up to the mystery all around me and within me. Thus began my lifelong passion for dance and prayer.
Now in my 60’s, the dance continues in new and ever-evolving ways. As dancer, choreographer, storyteller, author, wife, mother (of a grown son), teacher, spiritual director, pilgrimage leader, and video producer, I am passionate about living life fully and fostering creativity in all those with whom I share life and ministry. This path of sacred embodiment is one that has led me on many adventures across countries and continents, conferences and conventions, mountains and meadows, aisles and alleyways, sanctuaries and sacred spaces: each with its own gift!
Even with my creative travels, I remain rooted in the Roman Catholic tradition, and as home base, I am a member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Seattle, where I also direct the movement ministry. While I offer my artistry in a variety of ecumenical and Interfaith settings, I am deeply grateful for my home community of St. Pat’s, where our vibrant, Vatican II liturgies celebrate the gift of joyful embodiment of the Gospel of Christ and strengthen us to do the work of peace and justice in our world.
My background in dance includes early foundational studies with the Cincinnati Ballet, and high school training in ballet and jazz with Jack Louiso. During college in Washington DC, I was introduced to Modern Dance through classes with Erika Thimey at the Dance Theater Studio and Jan Van Dyke at The Dance Place. After graduating from Georgetown University, I then danced professionally with the Greg Reynolds Dance Quintet,and performed with this company for three years as principle dancer on the East Coast, including at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York City. After moving to Seattle, I continued Modern Dance studies with members of the Bill Evans Dance Company in the Seattle area. For the past thirty years, I have embraced a daily practice of yoga, with studies at the Hatha Yoga Center in Seattle.
During high school, I discovered the deep connection between dance, scripture and prayer. Participating in the theater program at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, I auditioned for a play based on scripture where I was cast in the role of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and asked to dance the death of my son. My studies in ballet had not taught me how to tap into the deep well of human emotion needed to express the powerful journey of faith, so I launched into a lifetime of discovery and exploration. Under the direction of Rev. J. Michael Sparough, SJ, our theatrical endeavors expanded to become a professional liturgical story-theater company entitled the Fountain Square Fools: Portable Theater Proclaiming Good News. I performed liturgical dance, mime and story-theater with this company for a number of years and have since produced numerous books and meditations with Fr. Michael Sparough, S.J.
My theological training includes a BA in Theology from Georgetown University, where I also helped to establish the Georgetown University Liturgical Arts Community, and directed the Liturgical Dance Ministry. Here is where I discovered the power of the arts to sustain and inspire the ongoing life of a worshipping community. I went on to earn a Masters in Ministry at Seattle University, with an emphasis in spirituality. Through my professional and educational association with the Jesuits, I have been profoundly nourished and inspired by Ignatian Spirituality, which fosters a connection to Spirit through the way of imagination.
To expand my calling to support others in healing through dance, I embarked on an in-depth training program in Movement Therapy at the Institute for Transformational Movement, where I received a certificate in Movement Therapy and then spent another seven years serving on staff and maintaining a private practice in movement therapy.
In 1988 I married my musician husband, Charlie Bommarito, and four years later, we gave birth to our son, Chaz who has since become a fabulous drummer in his own right. Our house is constantly filled with music and their Percolations Band recordings often provide a backdrop for my own creations. I am grateful for their ongoing inspiration!
Through the years I have developed an artform that consists of a combination of scripture and dance which I call “StoryDance.” I have created a full repertory of Biblical StoryDances, in which I speak and dance the scripture at the same time. For many communities these embodied sacred stories serve as the proclamation of the Word at Sunday services, a living testimony to the “Word made flesh” and dwelling among us. Click on Store to discover a handful of these StoryDances available on DVD, which provide ways to access the art of embodied spirituality in a variety of settings.
In the past twenty-five years, I have also embraced the dynamic and liberating practice of InterPlay (as well as becoming a certified Leader.) InterPlay is a philosophy and invitation to playfully unlock the wisdom of the body and build community through improvisational storytelling, movement, song and stillness. I teach a monthly class entitled SpiritPlay where we engage the forms of InterPlay for cracking open scripture stories, celebrating the liturgical seasons and exploring the gifts of dance and prayer. I also incorporate InterPlay practices in my books and video publications as simple accessible tools for anyone to explore movement and creativity as part of his or her spiritual journey.
Dancing Spiritual Direction
My private practice in Movement Therapy gradually evolved into a practice of Dancing Spiritual Direction. For the past 20 years, I have been meeting with individuals to explore the art and prayer of dance as a doorway to the soul and to a deepening encounter with God.
Abbey of the Arts
My exploration of the wedding of arts and spiritual direction led me to a blessed encounter with Christine Valters Paintner, which resulted in our first shared creation of an experiential training in the arts for spiritual directors entitled Awakening the Creative Spirit, originally offered in 2005. Not long after that, we authored a book on the subject entitled Awakening the Creative Spirit: Bringing the Arts to Spiritual Direction. This book has become a textbook in many spiritual direction training programs and has opened the doors for support for arts in spiritual direction in a multitude of contexts. (I am honored to continue to offer this five-day program yearly with colleague Kayce Hughlett.)
During our early days of collaborating together, Christine began to talk about wanting to teach classes online. With her first launching, she found an enthusiastic following, which over the past two decades has grown into a virtual monastery and global online community fostering transformative living through contemplative and expressive arts. Voilà: Abbey of the Arts! What an amazing adventure it has been to be Christine’s creative partner in bringing this community to birth and support expanding programs to reach thousands around the world each year. Christine and I have led numerous pilgrimages and overseas programs together (though those are temporarily on hold.) Meanwhile, as Christine’s right hand person, under the auspices of Abbey of the Arts, I have produced 5 CDs and 5 DVDs of song and movement prayer materials as well as Prayer Cycle Podcasts. What a joyous adventure!
Though COVID has somewhat curtailed my previous penchant for traveling, over the years I have performed and taught at numerous conferences across the country and world. I love that my offerings have been featured in small local settings as well as large, festive gatherings. Below are a few examples of my historical offerings over the years. Please visit the Abbey of the Arts page to learn about my current and recent creations and collaborations!
Past Travels and Programs
Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 2017, 2019
Pilgrimage to Germany in the Footsteps of Hildegard of Bingen, 2013, 2016, 2018
Earth Monastery Retreat, Abbey of the Arts Scotland – 2018
Retreats and Awakening Program in Australia – 2016
Pilgrimage to Shrines of France – 2015
World Parliament of Religions – 2015
LA Religious Education Congress – 2000-2021
Northwest Catholic Women’s Convocation -1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013
Spiritual Directors International Conference -2004, 2010-2012, 2014, 2015
Sacred Dance Guild Festivals & Gatherings – 1989, 2000, 2007, 2008, 2013
Palliative Care Conference (San Antonio) – 2008
Creating a Climate of Change (Episcopal Diocese of Olympia) – 2008
Social Artistry Program (Jean Houston) – 2008
Dominican High School Preaching Conference – 2007
Sacred Activism Conference Wisdom University – 2006
Music Ministry Alive – 2001, 2002, 2008
Ignatian Spirituality Conference – 2005
Seattle Archdiocesan Catholic Educators’ Conference – 2004
Wesley Institute’s Dance Therapy Training Program – 2004
East Coast Liturgical Conference – 2003
Presbyterian Emerging Worship Conference – 2003
Seattle University Summer Institute for Worship – 2003-2005
Methodist Spiritual Formation Academy – 2003
American Dance Therapy Association Conference – 2000
National Pastoral Musicians Conventions – 1981, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2000
Great Lakes Pastoral Ministry Conventions – 1981, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1995, 2000
Johannes Hoffinger Catechetical Conference – 1998
Providence Health Care Institutes – 1994-1999
Big Island Liturgical Arts Conference – 1994, 1998