Laurel Shastri

Available only to Schools

A lifelong love of learning, science, and dance coalesced when Laurel Shastri (MS in Geology) became a teaching artist twenty-five years ago. Her creative mission to integrate dance authentically yielded a number of unique units, including ‘The Scientific Dancer,’ ‘Meaningful Movement,’ and ‘DANCE as ACTIVism.’ Her work is featured in the college text 'Creating Meaning Through Literature and the Arts,’ by Claudia Cornett. She inspired thousands of students through Arts Council Santa Cruz County, Montalvo Arts Center and Tennessee Arts Commission arts education programs. She has led interactive, well-received workshops for educators in Tennessee, Florida, and California. She served 25 years at Ballet Tennessee as Associate Director, dancer, faculty, arts education coordinator, and grant writer. Prior to that she was project geologist and chemical technician for environmental firms at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She is currently faculty of Dancenter and performs with MoveSpeakSpin in Santa Cruz.

phone: (423) 598-6637


Laurel specializes in dance integration and tailoring lessons to the distinct needs and interests of students and teachers. Dance integration is a unique learning experience in which students learn skills and elements of dance along with core curriculum in organized and meaningful ways. Lessons are multi-disciplinary, aligned with standards, and foster opportunities for self-discovery and creativity. Through dance-integrated lessons, students:
•Practice skills and apply concepts in a safe, positive environment,
•Tap into their own creative process, and
•Deepen and demonstrate learning by embodying concepts in scaffolded movement activities
Collaborate, discuss, and reflect.

With a collaborative spirit, Laurel
•Customizes residencies for each situation
•Provides overview of residency and detailed lesson plans
•Creates new integrated lessons in collaboration with teachers. If you have an idea, let me know!

The Scientific Dancer:

In this series of units and lessons, students explore similarities between scientists & dancers and relationships between dance and science concepts.
• A Movement Experiment—Students explore scientific practices, experiment to solve movement problems,
and present their findings in a movement phrase.
• Force and Motion—Students examine the forces that act upon (their own) dancer’s body.
• Speed, Velocity, Stage Directions—Students embody speed & velocity through elements of dance.
• SPACE Out!—Students explore ‘space’ as scientists and as dancers, learn how dancers orient themselves onstage with a coordinate grid, & use movement of the sun and shadows as inspiration to create dance.
• Energy—Students embody aspects of potential and kinetic energy and explore how dancers use energy in creating and expressing ideas through movement.

Dance Rocks!

Technically, these units also fall under ‘The Scientific Dancer’ umbrella. But as a former geologist, Laurel is thrilled to connect two of her passions in this series.
• Rock Cycle—Students observe & describe rock samples, translate their descriptions into movement, and learn about Earth processes that create the rock cycle.
• Volcanoes and Dance— Students act as scientists & dancers as they examine volcanic landforms & eruptive styles through the elements of dance. As their understanding of dance & volcanoes grows, students perform choreography with intent & meaning.
• Weathering and Erosion—Students explore flow, movement, shape and other elements of dance in connection with processes of erosion to create movement phrases demonstrating these processes.
• Plate Tectonics—Improvisation brings plate tectonics concepts to the human scale. Students explore movement of plate boundaries resulting in mountains, valleys, earthquakes, erosion, and more.

Other STEM to STEAM Explorations

• Engineering a Dance—Students use the engineering design process & collaboration to create choreography.
• Exploring Body Systems— Students kinesthetically explore different body systems and examine the importance of body knowledge in dance.
• Geometry and Dance—Students embody spatial concepts of geometry using dance.
• Monterey Bay Ocean Ecosystems—Students use creative movement to explore adaptations of life in different habitats of Monterey Bay.

Meaningful Movement

In these units, students explore dance as a form of literacy / text / communication / expression.
• Dance Speaks—Students learn about African-American and minority dancers through literature and media, explore different dance forms, and create movements to express an idea about themselves.
• Dance — Write!— Developed in partnership with Kindergarten teacher Cynthia Clancy, this unit connects creative movement to writing skills (letter formation, word formation, narrative, and story-telling).
• Greetings Through Movement Workshop—Explores connections between reading, writing, & dance by creating greeting cards made of movement to express students’ ideas & feelings.
• Moving Morals—Students create dance phrases that communicate the meaning of morals of selected fables.
• Poetic Dances—Students create & perform dance phrases inspired by their own or others' poetry. Topics include rhythm, structure, descriptive or figurative language, self-expression through words & movement.
• Dance Upon A Time—Uses creative movement to introduce literacy concepts in children’s stories. Students embody characters, express vocabulary, & perform parts of the story while developing motor skills, spatial awareness & sequencing.

Socially Relevant Topics:

Participants explore social topics and the dancer as a communicator in society.
• Art (DANCE) as ACTivism—This unit empowers participants to communicate through dance and to create and perform a meaningful message of change for their community.
• Breaking down Barriers—As a universal language, dance brings diverse groups together to address topics such as bullying, disability, or English as a second language. (Also, see ‘Dance Speaks’ above.)
• Environmentally Dancing—Create & perform a dance based on Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, or real-life environmental issues, as part of an awareness campaign.
• Learning Styles—Students explore brain development and different learning styles through the lens of dance.


Designed in partnership with 5th Grade Teacher Michelle Voorhees, this engaging unit brought the joy of dance to students learning at home. With a combination of synchronous and asynchronous lessons, students examine dance from the camera’s point of view and collaboratively contribute to a collaborative dance. Through the creative process, and with support from the teaching artist and classroom teacher, they are empowered to take ownership of their class dance.

Professional Development Workshops for teachers include:

Professional development workshops for educators are interactive, engaging, and provide practical
ideas and applications for arts integration in your classroom. No prior dance experience is necessary!
• Let’s Dance the Curriculum: Sparking Students through Movement & Learning
• The Scientific Dancer: Investigating, Experimenting, & Embodying Science through Dance
• Meaningful Movements: Connecting Dance with Reading and Writing
• Giant Steps Toward Reading: Exploring Fairy Tales Through Movement
• Brain-body connections of dance
• Lesson Plan Demonstrations
Other topics may be developed upon request.