Meet Sydney Bartunek
Marketing Specialist, Sanford Health
“When you are doing what you love, it isn’t hard to find the time or motivation.”
For Sydney Bartunek, founder and president of Move To Heal South Dakota, her passion for dance became a greater calling: helping people heal through the power of movement and mindfulness.
“Growing up, dance was my escape in the best way possible,” says Sydney, a South Dakota native. “I felt free and connected when dancing. Then, dance transitioned into a coping mechanism and stress reliever for me in high school when my dad got really sick.”
She continues, “He had a blood infection that attacked his heart valves, and over a ten-year period, my dad needed four open heart surgeries.”
As her father’s primary caregiver for over a decade, Sydney noticed that the most joyful moments in the hospital were filled with music and movement.
“You can imagine how isolated and lonely he felt during those years in and out of the health care system,” she says. “The power of moving our body as well as mindfulness and breathing techniques really carried us through some tough times.”
“My personal experience with my dad inspired me. I wanted to bring healing movement to diverse populations across South Dakota,” explains Sydney.
After her father passed away in 2017, Sydney continued to use dance as an outlet. Through the connections she made as a Dancing with the Sioux Falls Stars contestant, a member of the local yoga and dance community, and an EmBe Women’s Leadership Program participant, Move To Heal South Dakota was born.
Founded in December 2019, the nonprofit organization offers therapeutic dance and yoga to adults and children of all ages in health care and community settings. Trained instructors combine movement, mindfulness, music and laughter to help people heal the mind, body and spirit.
“Movement has been proven to increase well-being. Our sessions focus on trauma-informed therapeutic dance and yoga, helping turn those feelings of isolation and despair into joy and connection,” she says. “You can see the transformation on people’s faces and feel the energy rise during a class or performance.”
As a busy mom with a husband, 2-year-old son, labradoodle and another baby on the way, finding time for Move To Heal South Dakota should be a challenge, but not for Sydney or her volunteer staff.
“Our passion really keeps it alive. When you are doing what you love, it isn’t hard to find the time or motivation,” Sydney says.
In response to COVID-19, the nonprofit serves participants with outdoor performances and virtual classes.
“Starting Move To Health South Dakota right before a pandemic was not how we thought it would go,” Sydney says, “but we have adapted to continue our programming.”
In addition to running Move To Heal South Dakota, Sydney is the liturgical dance director for her church, a participant of the 2020-2021 cohort of the South Dakota Change Network and a member of the winter 2021 cohort of Leaders of Tomorrow in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She dances at LiRa Dance Theatre Company and remains active in the Sioux Falls yoga community.
“I still dance professionally,” Sydney says. “Those couple minutes when you are on stage, everything shifts. I thrive on that – the way you feel when dancing. It is a moment frozen in time. What better way to honor my father than to keep doing what I love through dance and Move To Heal South Dakota.”