Spotlight: Kirsten Torchalski, Move-Ex Pioneer

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1. What is your background in dance?
My training is primarily in classical ballet. I grew up dancing at a studio outside of Chicago and have continued my training in ballet classes at Indiana University and the Colorado Ballet.

2. How did you get involved with Movement Exchange?
During my sophomore year at Indiana University in 2010, I saw a facebook post on our dance co-op’s page asking for someone to lead a volunteer group at IU (Movement Exchange did not even have a name yet!). I jumped at the opportunity and pulled together IU’s first group of Movement Exchange volunteers.

3. What is your fondest memory of your exchange?
I remember returning on my second exchange, and as soon as we walked into the room at Malambo, the girls started doing choreography we had given them the year before.

4. How do you define Dance Diplomat?
A person who uses their talent and passion for dance as a means to influence positive social change in the world.

5. What has Movement Exchange taught you?
I have learned that one person can create an endless flow of impact on others’ lives without ever realizing it. This is a gift all humans have, and it should be used for good.

6. Who is your favorite choreographer?
The great George Balanchine.

7. What is the most compelling performance you have ever seen?
Of all the wonderful ballets I have had the privilege of seeing, the most compelling performance I’ve witnessed was actually seeing Cirque de Soleil live for the first time in July of 2013. The artistry was mesmerizing.

8. What’s your biggest accomplishment so far?
My most significant accomplishment to date was establishing the Indiana University chapter of Movement Exchange, which has grown beyond anything I could have predicted or imagined. I am incredibly proud of the young women and men who have worked relentlessly to grow the chapter’s influence on campus and within the greater community of Bloomington, IN.

9. Where’s the most exotic place you have been?
The San Blas islands in Panama. Staying on an island without plumbing or electricity, and embracing the simplicity and happiness of the people who live there, is an experience I cannot recommend highly enough.

10. How many languages do you speak? Which ones?
I am conversational, but not fluent, in Spanish and Italian.

11. What is one thing on your bucket list?
I would like to live outside of the United States for at least one year.

12. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
Many people don’t realize that I love public speaking.

13. If you could time travel, where and why?
I’d visit the speakeasies of the 1920s.

14. What are some of your other hobbies?
Snowboarding and graphic design.

15. If you had a tagline/motto what would it be?
“Create your own luck.”

16. What three words come to mind when you think of India?
Intriguing, colorful, cultural.

17. Do you think Movement Exchange would be valuable in India? Why?
Yes, Movement Exchange would bring value to the Indian youth and Dance Diplomats alike. When I describe the value of Movement Exchange to others, I refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. When an individual (or community) is satisfied at the Physiological and Safety levels, they seek fulfillment in Belonging, Self-Esteem, and finally Self-Actualization. The artistic enrichment and relationship-building that Movement Exchanges provides addresses these higher-level needs. I am not an expert on the Indian economy, but my impression is that many of the less developed communities might be right at this level in Maslow’s pyramid, so the youth in these areas would be quite receptive and would benefit from our work. Additionally, it would be a beautiful cultural immersion for our volunteers and would promote cultural exploration for the Indian youth as well.

18. Why do you dance?
Dance is the one thing that simultaneously challenges me and brings me peace.

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