David Leventhal on Dance for PD At Home Volume 4: PRO

Dance for PD is releasing the On Demand version of Dance for PD At Home Volume 4: PRO, an exhilarating new movement experience that brings our best-selling instructional video series to new heights. Program director and founding teacher David Leventhal shares his thoughts about this exciting new resource.

What makes Volume 4 unique?
This is the first film in our series that includes a standing and seated version of every activity, from the very start of class. For years, we’ve heard from our community how much they love our classes—but many folks don’t always want to sit for class. Three years ago, we started Dance for PD PRO here in Brooklyn, which was geared toward people who love the Dance for PD approach but who wanted to push themselves more in the dance class environment. That class has blossomed. This video is our way to share the PRO experience with our global community.

Why is it called PRO?
Great question! The idea is that our approach in this film helps you think like a dancer, which can be very useful when managing life with Parkinson’s. You do not have to be a professional dancer to enjoy this video! We’re also referencing several original meanings of the word pro—on behalf of, supporting, in favor of—to express our mission of being a resource for our community. Pro also indicates forward movement—a positive reminder that we need to keep moving to stay well.

What’s the process for making the film?
Lots of thought and planning go into each of our instructional films. This one was particularly tricky because we wanted to maintain the accessibility that is a hallmark of our other films while providing an opportunity for people to do a standing class. That’s easier to do in a live class and much harder to do on camera, but we are fortunate to have a creative team of top-notch teaching artists—Lesley and Janelle—and a wonderful filmmaker, David Bee, who expertly works through challenges with us. We started planning this film and writing the scripts in June. Filming took place at the Mark Morris Dance Center in August. The editing and review process took about six months. And now it’s ready!

There’s a lot of digital content out there now. Why do people need this video?
Two words: thoughtfulness and quality. We’re proud of the streamed classes and Zoom classes we make available for free, but they are spontaneous captures of a live moment. Our instructional videos feature meticulous activity planning and camerawork to ensure the best possible experience for the viewer. Our videos use close ups to give you the feeling of connection. Sound levels of narration and music are perfectly mixed. We have three teachers who each bring a different energy and style. Each volume, including this one, actually includes two films: a Practice Class, that provides an engaging learning experience, and a Through Class that you can do when you’re familiar with the movement and you’re ready for a continuous movement experience without the longer explanations. This unique feature means you can use the videos again and again as a daily routine.

What are you most proud of in this volume?
It’s a tough choice—there’s so much engaging material. But I love the Mark Morris repertory that Lesley teaches in Volume 4—excerpts from Words, with music by Felix Mendelssohn, and from Grand Duo, with music by Lou Harrison. Both of these pieces emphasize the expressive musicality of Mark’s work. Grand Duo is one of Mark’s most performed and beloved dances, and Lesley teaches movement from the last section of the dance—called Polka—in a way that is fresh, fun, and accessible. I loved performing this piece, so it’s a thrill to be able to share it with our Parkinson’s community. I also like the improvisational opportunities we’ve built into the film to give people a chance to explore their own movement and change that movement with each viewing.

What’s the music like?
Founding Dance for PD musician Richard X Bennett has composed new music specially for this video, and many activities feature a small ensemble of musicians. On various tracks, you’ll hear some combination of piano, drums, vibraphone, melodica and bass. Click here to listen to a sample from the video). Richard’s music for this video emphasizes a groovy fluidity and hummable, catchy melodies that represent a new approach that perfectly supports each activity.

Sounds like a great resource for people with Parkinson’s. What about teachers?
Teaching artists around the world have used Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of our series for inspiration and ideas. Volume 4 fills a particular niche for teachers who might be interested in building their practice to include more standing activities, or who are interested in offering a Dance for PD PRO-type program in their communities. It’s also a great way for them to learn and share Mark Morris repertory with their existing groups. Teachers can also purchase downloads for all music tracks included in the film and use those tracks royalty-free on YouTube and other services.

Will this video come out on DVD?
Yes! We plan to produce the DVD over the summer. Right now, we’re prioritizing the On Demand version of this film to make it as accessible and affordable as possible for our community around the world. As well, our manufacturing partner in New Jersey has devoted much of their factory to making personal protective equipment for frontline medical workers, so they’re a bit busy at the moment. But we look forward to providing additional options for people to enjoy this film. [Click here to reserve a DVD].

Dance for PD At Home Volume 4: PRO launches May 12.

Launching Dance for PD China

Mark Morris Dance Group/Dance for PD has partnered with Inspirees International B.V. to develop Dance for PD-based training opportunities and community classes throughout China over the next five years. The initiative, which has been in the incubation stage for more than a year, launched this May 5-7 with an introductory teacher training workshop, medical presentation, film screening, and community class at Zhongshan Hospital in Shanghai.

“We’re thrilled to work with Inspirees Founder Tony Zhou and his talented team to create dance-based opportunities for the Parkinson’s community in China,” said David Leventhal, Dance for PD’s Program Director. “There’s nothing like Dance for PD yet in China, and Inspirees has the expertise, contacts and sensitivity to be the ideal partner for delivering our innovative model to diverse populations.”

More than 25 trainees from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea participated in the workshop, which is the first step of a full training course that will continue with online coursework, professional development, and Dance for PD Certification. At a medical presentation on May 5, Leventhal explained the rationale behind the program to hospital staff before leading a spirited Dance for PD demonstration class for 15 members of the Shanghai Parkinson’s community.

Inspirees Institute of Creative Education (IICE) established by Inspirees International B.V., is an international training institute specializing in creative education. Based in the Netherlands and China, IICE runs various programs in different places in the world. IICE’s mission is to facilitate personal growth via integration of the human body and mind, with the goal of becoming a leading institute in the field of creative education with a world-wide reputation. Inspirees Institute of Creative Arts Therapy (IICAT), affiliated with IICE, offers the dance therapy certificate program which is in compliance with the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) alternate route training guideline.

“Dance for PD has established itself as a global leader in training qualified teachers to lead stimulating and creative classes for people with Parkinson’s disease,” said Zhou, a Certified Movement Analyst who has a PhD in Biotechnology from Delft University of Technology. “The Dance for PD training course perfectly complements the comprehensive Creative Arts Therapy programming we already offer, so that our trainees will have a practical depth of knowledge to provide the best possible movement experiences for various populations throughout China.”

In September, Dance for PD and Inspirees will be co-presenting a second introductory workshop in tandem with the International Symposium of Behavioral Medicine, which will feature presentations from experts in psychosomatic and dance movement therapy from China and abroad. The May and September training cohorts will continue their coursework in 2018 with the goal of having a team of certified teachers by the 2018-2019 season. Community classes will start in Shanghai and Beijing, with additional cities coming online as relationships develop.

For more information about Dance for PD China, please click here.

Photo: The leadership team for Dance for PD China, including David Leventhal, Ocean Lee and Tony Zhou (back row), along with community member James Wang and Inspirees staff.

Dance for PD in Toronto

Toronto 2016

Dance for PD comes to the Upper East Side

Walking across floor
Dance for PD®’s New York flagship program expands again this fall when classes launch at Ballet Academy East on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The program at Ballet Academy East represents Dance for PD’s first East Side location and provides access for an area of Manhattan previously underserved by this kind of resource.

“Ballet Academy East is honored to collaborate with Dance for PD in bringing the joy and physical benefits of dance to people with Parkinson’s disease. Our goal is for every participant to leave class feeling uplifted and inspired by their abilities,” said Julia Dubno, founder and director of Ballet Academy East.

The East Side class is the sixth Dance for PD location in the city. On-going classes are already offered at the Mark Morris Dance Center, The Juilliard School, Bronx House, BambooMoves (Forest Hills, Queens), and the College of Mount Saint Vincent (Riverdale). There is no charge for any Dance for PD classes in New York. Advance registration is required and can be completed here or by calling 718-218-3373.

Ballet Academy East, established in 1979 by director, Julia Dubno is made up of four divisions. The Pre-Professional Division for ages 7-19, led by artistic director, Darla Hoover, trains dancers for professional careers in ballet. An audition is required for admission to the Pre-Professional Division. The Enrichment Program is open to students ages 7 and older who wish to study ballet recreationally. The well-known Young Dancers Division offers creative movement, pre-ballet, tap, and modern to ages 18 months to 6 years. BAE’s Open Class Program offers adults of all levels classes in ballet, tap, Pilates, Zumba, and yoga. The Dance for PD class will be part of the Open Class Program. For more information, visit www.baenyc.com.

MMDG/Dance for PD® one of five winners of Google’s Giving through Glass contest

Dance for PD glass graphic

Project creates Glass-based visual and music cuing system to enhance the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s, expands scope of Dance for PD program.

Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) is one of the five winners of Google’s Giving through Glass challenge — an open call for U.S. nonprofits to share how they’d use Google Glass to make an impact on their mission and programming. Mark Morris Dance Group’s Moving through Glass app will create an intuitive, portable, dance-based toolkit for people living with Parkinson’s disease. The project will build on the original and internationally acclaimed Dance for PD® program jointly developed by MMDG and Brooklyn Parkinson Group. MMDG joins 3000 Miles to a Cure, Classroom Champions, The Hearing and Speech Agency, and Women’s Audio Mission in receiving the award.

MMDG’s Glassware will amplify the company’s 13-year, global initiative to improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease by leveraging technology to provide dance-based movement cuing and initiation. The project’s goal is to enable people with Parkinson’s to harness the strategies of professional dancers wherever they are, extending the model of Dance for PD’s live classes and its At Home DVD series. MMDG’s Glassware will feature a menu of visual and musical cuing systems to initiate and support dance moves and fluid, rhythmic walking. All together, these innovative initiatives help people regain a sense of control and independence as they go about their daily lives.

“We think the Moving through Glass app will be a ground-breaking and user-friendly tool that allows people with Parkinson’s to use dancers’ movement strategies in their daily lives,” said David Leventhal, Dance for PD’s Program Director and a founding teacher. “People enjoy our classes and DVDs because they learn to think and move like dancers. The Google Glass platform allows us to customize our material for each individual, extending our teaching methods beyond the studio and providing a virtual guide, coach, teacher and dance partner.”

The Moving through Glass app will include visual and musical cuing systems that help people initiate a first step and keep a steady, rhythmic walking cadence. The program will also feature a set of short dance exercises that users can practice and enjoy during free moments when traveling or when a TV or computer are not available.

Google received over 1,300 applications for the Giving through Glass program, and MMDG’s project was selected as a winner based on four key criteria: impact, innovation, feasibility and implementation. As a winner, MMDG will receive Glass, a $25,000 grant, a trip to Google for training, and access to Glass software developers to make this project a reality.

Download the press release
Visit the official Google Blog
Read the article in Crain’s New York Business
Read the article in USA Today
Read the article in The Brooklyn Paper
Read the blurb in Dance Teacher Magazine

Class Launches

Optimized-Doris+Tom Maite at Tedx
(left photo)Tomas Bünger (right) is a Bremen-based dancer, teacher and choreographer who is dedicated to integrating people from special populations into the creative process.
(right photo) Maïté Guérin from GOTRA demonstrates elements of the Dance for PD program at TEDxEutropolis in preparation for the launch of “Care to Dance?”

Dance for Parkinson’s classes launched in Bremen, Germany earlier this year at the Volkshochschule. Tomas Bünger, a graduate of the University of Music and Theatre in Hanover and former member of Tanztheater Bremen, attended two training workshops last summer in New York and is leading the pilot program. Classes also launched in Northampton, MA with instructor Fritha Pengelly, and in Lincoln, NE with Ruth Davidson Hahn, a choreographer who is also a founding member of the Mark Morris Dance Group.

Maïté Guérin from the Netherlands-based GOTRA Ballet has launched Care to Dance? in Heerlen, Netherlands and in Liège, Belgium, a program based on Dance for PD and developed through a close collaboration with Dance for PD’s Brooklyn-based staff. Guérin spent more than two years planning and cultivating relationships in communities in Heerlen and Liège, which are within within about 30 miles of each other. Her weekly classes integrate technique and movement from GOTRA’s active repertory. “Dance is such a beautiful living art that everyone can experience,” said Guérin. “That’s why I found such a huge value on teaching dance for people with PD. I’m very thankful that I find a way to serve this specific population.”

“A shining example of innovation and results”


Susan McGreevy-Nichols, Executive Director of the National Dance Education Organization, blogged about her experience participating in a Dance for PD demo class David Leventhal presented at the annual UNITY business meeting. McGreevy-Nichols calls the program “a true advancement in the field of dance education, medicine and neuroscience, and a shining example of innovation and results.” Read more. Please join us in Chicago this November at the 2014 NDEO conference, whose theme Collaborations: A Mosaic of Possibilities represents a fitting context for a Dance for PD presentation and demo class. Click here for more information.

Project Access

Project Access White Papers

Project Access aims to promote access for people with disabilities to institutions ranging from art museums to zoos. As part of the project, Art Beyond Sight and its founding partners commissioned 14 White Papers that address a wide variety of current issues around accessibility and inclusion of patrons with disability at cultural institutions. The Dance for Parkinson’s White Paper, written by David Leventhal, is available as part of the complete series here.

“People Dancing”

people dancing
Participatory dance is the focus of the People Dancing conference in Cardiff, Wales.

The Foundation for Community Dance announces People Dancing, an international event dedicated to participatory dance taking place 13-15 November 2014 in Cardiff, Wales. “We seek to programme a variety of innovative sessions to engage a delegate audience from arts and non-arts sectors in countries from all areas of the world.” Click here for more information.

1,000 words

Carol Enseki (photo by Eddie Marritz)

While shooting the film Capturing Grace, cinematographer Eddie Marritz also managed to take hundreds of stunning stills (like the iconic one to the left) that capture the story of transformation that happens in dance class. Eddie was so inspired by the people in the class and their stories that his photography project began to have legs of its own and he spent Wednesday afternoons visiting and photographing the Brooklyn class–even when there was no official Capturing Grace filming going on. The results of his project are available for viewing and purchase, with proceeds going to benefit the Dance for PD program (thank you Eddie!). These poignant, dramatic images are perfect as gifts. They also bring beauty and an inspiring message to a medical office, waiting room, or a physical therapy or dance studio. Visit the Dance for PD store for more information and pricing.