Intersession Course Explores Dance for Parkinson’s Patients

January 18, 2012



When Professor Robert Sherry first learned of the Dance for Parkinson’s program last year, he immediately saw how it would give him the opportunity to use his skills in service to the community. Developed by Mark Morris Dance Group as a tool for Parkinson’s patients, Dance for Parkinson’s Disease encourages dance professionals to share their knowledge of movement and rhythm in classes that address such Parkinson’s-specific concerns as balance, flexibility, coordination, isolation, and depression.

“The research is all very new about the benefits of using dance in this way,” said Sherry. “But researchers are finding some real therapeutic value to this program. The participants indicate that they feel a lot better.”

Sherry first heard of Dance for Parkinson’s Disease when he was contacted by Florida Hospital last year. “Florida Hospital had sent therapists to the Dance for Parkinson’s workshop but realized that they didn’t know enough about dance to facilitate the program effectively.”

So, Sherry traveled to Denver to participate in the training and prepare for facilitating the Dance for Parkinson’s classes scheduled for the third Friday of each month at the Florida Hospital Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Inspired to share the experience with his students, Sherry created a winter intersession course designed to provide a comprehensive and intimate look at core philosophies and methods of the Dance for Parkinson’s Disease program. Another key element of the course would be the observation of a demo class, which also served as the official unveiling of the Dance for Parkinson’s Disease program at Florida Hospital.

Fifteen students from all academic backgrounds registered for the intercession course, which took place January 10 – 12, 2012.

Having studied Parkinson’s disease in an earlier neuropsychology course, psychology major Denise Lee (‘12) was intrigued by the idea that dance could improve the lives of patients suffering from the disease. “They really emphasized this program as not a typical Parkinson's disease therapy class as you would think, but more in the aspects of a true dance class for people with Parkinson's disease; a place to socialize, express yourself in a different way, and build confidence and strength—as any other dance class would be,” Lee said. 

“I was truly moved during the demo class because you could really tell how much fun the dancers were having with the choreography, as if Parkinson's disease wasn't an issue in their lives for that hour and a half of laughter and dancing to live music. It was definitely a great class and truly embodies everything Rollins stands for.”

The community engagement component of the course was critical for Sherry, who had hoped the students would not only advance academically but would also appreciate a sense of the value of helping someone in the community.

"It was thrilling to see how actively students embraced this program,” Sherry shared.  “This experience has reaffirmed my conviction in a whole new way that dance plays a vital role in the service of the human condition."

Watch this video created by Florida Hospital. Read the Orlando Sentinel story.


By Kristen Manieri

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