Dance, Neuroscience, and Healing

Zina Mercil, Sono Osato Scholarship Program for Graduate Studies Recipient

My mom likes to tell the story of Zina Mercilhow I wanted to dance before I could even walk, hoisting myself up on the bars of my crib to sway to the music.  I took my first ballet class when I was 5 and from then on worked diligently to master the technique. Ultimately, when I graduated with my BA with Distinction in Neuroscience cum laude from Colorado College in 2003, I felt like I had two distinctly different paths; I chose dance.

I went on to dance professionally, doing several regional theater contracts like Cabaret, Chicago, CATS, and The Producers.  I also spent two years as assistant line captain and principle understudy in Don Arden’s Jubilee!  I felt so blessed to be dancing and making a living!

Four years ago, I moved back to Colorado because I felt a significant shift had begun.  I was not ready to let go of dancing, nor did I know what I wanted to step into.  This is when I first visited Naropa University.

In January of 2011 I began feeling ill.  After months of extensive labs, testing, and surgery, I was diagnosed with a very rare and chronic liver disease called Autoimmune Hepatitis and Cirrhosis.  I spent much of that year in bed, too exhausted to walk.

After having had no physical activity for so long, I started taking a yoga class for cancer survivors. I live in gratitude to dancing and this illness for being my greatest teachers. I want to share this knowledge of being present with our bodies, and the innate wisdom and intelligence that lie within when we listen.

All the experiences in my life are being integrated at Naropa University, where I am exploring the interface of dance and holistic healing.  I am finishing my first year of a  three-year MA program in Somatic Counseling Psychology with a dual emphasis in Dance and Movement Therapy, and Body Psychotherapy.  My plan is to complete my MA and continue onto PhD work in Clinical Health Psychology.

I feel blessed to be at Naropa, training to be a therapist, and combining my love of dance, neuroscience, and healing.  I am honored to receive the Sono Osato Scholarship so that I can continue to take my passion and training in dance and transition into a new career to serve others.


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