As an undergraduate student at Wake Forest University studying Health and Exercise Science and aspiring to be a future physical therapist, I was excited when I learned about a pioneering Parkinson’s Disease dance class developed by Associate Professor of Dance Christina Soriano. I am an avid, self-defined dancer who grew up with a grandmother who suffered from this debilitating disease, and the opportunity to serve as student assistant on this project seemed perfect. Little did I know it would become one of the hardest, and most rewarding, experiences I have embarked upon. This class has led to a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health that will fund a three-year clinical trial seeking to determine the mechanism for why and how this methodology is seeing improvements in gait, balance, and quality of life in people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).
Soriano has crafted a pedagogy of improvisational dance movement that aims to improve the mobility, balance, and overall health of older adults, which is now trademarked as her own IMPROVment™ method. The core of IMPROVment™ is the improvisational and spontaneous nature of the movement. At any given moment during the class, one will see each individual doing his/her own version of an auditory prompt or cue given by the instructor. Exercises are prompted in an open-ended fashion so that an infinite number of possible reactions exist. Each exercise fades effortlessly into the next without a pause, and participants are expected to react naturally in the moment by moving their body in a way that feels good to them. The class is not about reaching certain positions or mimicking another human being, but rather about finding your own body and surprising yourself with what you are capable of in a safe, nurturing environment.
Read the full article about the dance program that improves brain and body health by Kamryn King at ARTS Blog.
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