top of page

Originally from New York, I moved to Santa Cruz, California in 1983. I am an accomplished dancer, teacher and choreographer who ran my own company, Rita Rivera & Dancers from 1983-1996. I was the founder and artistic director of the Santa Cruz Dance Gallery from 1993-2000, the first independent dance performance center in Santa Cruz, offering a home to many treasured local artists.​ I have been a guest artist at Cabrillo College and theater arts faculty member at San Jose State University, University of California Santa Cruz and Sonoma State University.


My dance training began at a young age in a suburb of New York, at our local synagogue, where we ran around with instructions to feel like a butterfly. I remember telling my mother that I wasn’t a butterfly and that I didn’t know how a butterfly felt or danced. However, the scarves were fun, so I ran across the floor with everyone else wildly swinging a scarf hoping that in some small way, I resembled a butterfly.

White dress jump 3_edited_edited.jpg
Amy & Rita_edited_edited.png

My dance training progressed from the community synagogue to a small dance studio owned by a friend’s mother - and from there, into the studios of Manhattan. With so much to learn, I was devoted to the pursuit of ballet excellence, loving the discipline and demands of technique. My hard work paid off when I went to an audition for Genia Melikova, who was starting a ballet company. At the end of the audition combination, I went for a triple pirouette - on point - and she hired me for her company. My landing was not perfect but she was impressed with my determination.


I loved ballet, but after training, rehearsing and performing in pointe shoes, I just couldn’t take the pain. I wasn’t cut out for a career in classical ballet and a chance meeting with a contemporary dancer who was with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, sealed my fate.


Contemporary dance allowed my body a freedom I hadn’t know before, inviting a deeper expression to emerge. I was greatly influenced by dancer and choreographer Erick Hawkins (April 23, 1909 – November 23, 1994) and his work changed the course of my dance career. Erick, who was the first male dancer for Martha Graham, left her company to pursue his own vision. He became the master of natural and fluid movement and was an important voice in the development of contemporary dance in our country. The new technique I was leaning at the Erick Hawkins dance studio led me to study with Andre Bernard at New York University in the early 70’s with a focus on experiential anatomy. I continued my studies with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, the acclaimed founder of the School of Body Mind Centering, an embodied approach to our “body systems” and “developmental patterns”.


New worlds were opening up.


This was a very rich time in my life, I loved the immersion into the world of contemporary dance and my interest in the field of movement awareness, body/mind principles and spirituality was super charged. This led me to study the Alexander Technique, a profound approach to kinesthetic awareness of our posture and our “use” in activities. I studied the Alexander Technique in New York for many years and it was extremely useful for counteracting the muscular-skeletal stress that built up as a dancer.


Once I moved to California, I entered the teachers training program, completing my certification in 1993.

The opening of the Santa Cruz Dance Gallery was an exciting time for me, the dancers of my dance company and our dance community at large.


Opening the Dance Gallery at 418 Front Street was spear-headed my myself and the late Ronn Reinberg, who was instrumental with his support in creating an independent dance/performance studio in Santa Cruz.


Rita Rivera

Marisa Schmidt

Amy Sugar

Sara Wilbourne

Photo Shoot at the Dance Gallery before renovations


My interest and passion for dance and movement slowly opened into the field of the Healing Arts. With a desire to learn more about the body, I signed up for a retreat at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur to learn about Cranio-Sacral Therapy. Eventually this led me to the Visionary Cranio-Sacral work of Dr. Hugh Milne. A soothing and noninvasive approach, with in-depth training in the “art” and “heart” of listening, to relieve tension in the nervous system, to relieve pain and boost our health. I have completed six levels of Visionary Cranio-Sacral training through the Milne Institute with Dr. Hugh Milne.​

In 1996 I signed up for a weekend workshop in San Francisco called Chi-Lel Qigong. I’d heard about qigong but was unfamiliar with the principles and history. I practiced what I learned daily and was truly amazed at how my energy level had increased. I was so enthralled with this ancient tradition, that I wanted to go to the source. China sounded like an interesting adventure. A group of us travelled with our teacher, Luke Chan who is a master Chi-Lel Chigong practitioner to Qinhuagdao, China to the "Medicineless Hospital". This center was founded by Dr. Pang (trained in both Eastern and Western Medicine) was an extraordinary place for people dealing with very serious illness. Doctors told their patients, go home and die, or go to the Medicineless Hospital. Those that chose to go to the center spent several hours a day in the practice of qigong and there were miraculous, endless stories of people healing.


I was excited about this trip! After a long flight and a few days of cultural outings in Beijing and a visit to the Great Wall of China, we travelled to the Medicineless Hospital, about five hours outside of Beijing. The center was sparse, with absolutely no frills or amenities and hot water was only available for few hours each day. We spent a few weeks at the center and practiced along with everyone else and we were fortunate that our group also received special classes from the teachers at the center.


I received the first level certification in Chi-Lel Chigong. This practice is the foundation for my classes in "Chi-gong and Embodied Anatomy".


In 1998 after some personal, deeply painful experiences along with strong intuitive guidance, my winding road led me into the territory of shamanic practices. My investigation led to working with Alberto Villoldo and the Four Winds Society. The Four Winds Society is dedicated to preserving the Incan shamanic traditions by exploring the realms of the soul, of nature and ancient shamanic rites of passage. I have taken several trips to South America, trekking high Andean mountain passes, sat in ceremonial prayer at midnight at the magical and mysterious Machu Picchu, and visited the shores of Lake Titicaca to soak in the sacred knowledge of extraordinary medicine men and women.

I have completed certification in "Healing the Light Body" through the Four Winds Society.


The 2020’s

The right road becomes visible at the right time and there were many blessings that shown through the dark cloud of covid. My next trajectory was an unexpected leap into the field of Quantum Healing. The exploration and movement through the quantum field, its potential for healing and unifying ordinary and non-ordinary realms offers relief from the fractured… and this has captured my heart.

My life long varied pursuits in movement, body mind dynamics and life experiences of personal healing has set the stage for developing my work - both privately and in structured classes. My classes use movement and awareness to facilitate insight and transformation, paving the way for full embodiment of the Body Mind Spirit.​


This connectivity can lead us into a present state of bliss.


Bliss is an attunement - available and present in every cell… live that expression…


Infinite Love,



"I scheduled my first sessions with Rita when my oboe teacher recommended Alexander Technique to help me with tension related problems in my oboe playing.

Rita made observations, asked questions, and worked with me, with and without my instrument, to gently release unnecessary tension in my breathing, posture, and patterns of use, allowing for more freedom and expressive range.

My oboe teacher confirmed the accuracy of her observations and I could feel and hear the improvement in my playing".

Lorna K., professional musician
bottom of page