As dancer, choreographer, author, mother, wife, teacher and spiritual director, I am passionate about living life fully and fostering creativity in all those with whom I share life and ministry. I am rooted in the Roman Catholic tradition, and am a member of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Seattle, where I also direct the dance ministry. While my artistry is also offered 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 strengthen us to do the work of peace and justice in our world.
My background in dance includes studies with the Cincinnati Ballet as a child, high school training in ballet and jazz with Jack Louiso, and Modern Dance classes with Erika Thimey and Jan Van Dyke during college in Washington, DC. After graduating from Georgetown University, I then danced professionally in the Greg Reynolds Dance Quintet, and performed 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 fifteen 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 life-time 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 many CD 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 embody 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 years, I have also embraced the dynamic and liberating practice of InterPlay. InterPlay is a philosophy and invitation to playfully unlock the wisdom of the body and build community through improvisational story-telling, 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 have also incorporated InterPlay in my latest workshops, books and DVD publications as a wonderfully accessible form for anyone to explore movement and creativity as part of his or her spiritual journey.
My private practice in Movement Therapy has gradually evolved into a practice of Dancing Spiritual Direction, where I meet with individuals to explore the art and prayer of dance as a doorway to the soul and to a deepening encounter with God. My passion for artistry and spiritual direction has also led to ongoing collaborations with Christine Valters Paintner, including experiential trainings for spiritual directors as well as our book on Awakening the Creative Spirit.
Over the years I have performed and taught at numerous conferences across the country. I am honored to share my ministry in small local settings as well as large, festive gatherings. Below are a few examples of my offerings over the years. Please visit the Abbey of the Arts page (coming soon) to learn about my recent creations and collaborations!
World Parliament of Religions – 2015
LA Religious Education Congress – 2000 – 2016
Northwest Catholic Women’s Convocation -1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2013
Spiritual Directors International Conference -2004, 2010-2012, 2014-2015
Leadership Conference of Women Religious – 1993
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
American Dance Therapy Association Conference – 2000
East Coast Liturgical Conference – 2003
Presbyterian Emerging Worship Conference – 2003
Seattle University Summer Institute for Worship – 2003- 2005
Methodist Spiritual Formation Academy – 2003
Big Island Liturgical Arts Conference – 1994, 1998
Music Ministry Alive – 2001, 2002, 2008
Ignatian Spirituality Conference – 2005
Seattle Archdiocesan Catholic Educators’ Conference – 2004
Wesley Institute’s Dance Therapy Training Program – 2004
Sacred Dance Guild Festivals & Gatherings – 1989, 2000, 2007, 2008, 2013
Sacred Activism Conference – 2006
Dominican High School Preaching Conference –2007
Palliative Care Conference –(San Antonio) -2008
Creating a Climate of Change – (Episcopal Diocese of Olympia) -2008
Social Artistry Program (Jean Houston) – 2008
“During the workshop, Betsey told the story of the Creation using her whole body. When she got to the part about God blowing the breath of life into humanity, she used her whole body to blow the “breath of life” into us. A radically new awareness broke through for me in that moment: I began to realize that God was not a distant entity that I needed to please, but was in my every breath. As long as I was breathing, I could not separate myself from God! This was not a cognitive process; it was a knowing that came through my whole body. Betsey was teaching me about God in a way that no one had ever been able to before. Not one of the countless books that I had read in my search for God had ever been able to lead me to “know” God like I did in that moment of creation.” –Sharie Bowman