When she wasn’t riding horses or performing musical theater in her rural hometown of Glenwood, Md., you would most likely find Sara Potler LaHayne in the dance studio. The daughter of a longtime dancer, expression through movement was an integral part of LaHayne’s childhood. It was also the eventual springboard for the nonprofit Move This World, which LaHayne founded in 2008 and which helps people understand and communicate their feelings through music and dance.
Though LaHayne knew well the emotional catharsis dance can bring, it was only when she was serving as a Fulbright Scholar in Bogota, Colombia, that it hit her: why not design a curriculum for schools and companies that utilized music and dance to teach people to channel their emotions healthily? A pilot curriculum in Colombian public schools proved successful and upon her return to the U.S., LaHayne created Move This World. Its two arms—School Culture and Workplace Wellness—have partnered with nearly 150 schools and over 30 community organizations and companies on four continents to positively impact over 100,000 children and 3,500 adults.
“We offer a fleet of tools that are ritualized to build a culture of emotional well-being,” explained LaHayne. Tools include daily energizers and exercises, conflict mediation and mentorship.
Based in Soho but running a global organization, one of LaHayne’s biggest challenges is that she isn’t in the field as often as she’d like. “I love personally facilitating the curriculum and training, but I know I can best serve now in the CEO role, and that requires much more time in the office,” she explained. “I try and remain very aware of our partners’ progress, which helps me stay connected.”
A frequent traveler and constantly on the move, LaHayne welcomes Shabbat with her husband, Rob. “Since I was a child, Shabbat allows me to disconnect and reconnect,” she explained. “It’s important to have that ritualized time to take a step back from work and reflect on my relationships and the things important to me.”
And, on a broader level, LaHayne’s Judaism inspires her work, and vice versa: “Being Jewish means we have an obligation to repair the world and leave it better than we found it,” she said. “One of the ways to do that is by cultivating peaceful interactions and relationships, which is the goal of Move This World.”
Snows of Kilimanjaro: LaHayne plans to climb the tallest mountain peak on each continent, and has already conquered Kilimanjaro and Fuji.