Widening the circle

Rhode Island-based teacher Rachel Balaban leads a Dance for Parkinson’s class at Brown

In late February, Dance for PD participated in a two-day symposium at Brown University called Widening the Circle. Presented in connection with the Mark Morris Dance Group’s appearance in Providence, RI, the event explored holistic, creative approaches that benefit people with Parkinson’s disease and those on the Autism Spectrum. Panelists included Dr. Deepu Gowda, from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons; choreographer and teacher Pamela Quinn; Carolyn Adams, co-founder of the American Dance Legacy Initiative and former dancer with Paul Taylor Dance Company; and Dave Iverson, an Emmy Award-winning journalist and filmmaker. We also conducted presentations at the Institute for Human Centered Design in Boston, Syracuse University, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, and the Columbia University Program in Narrative Medicine (with Pamela Quinn as part of the program’s advanced workshop). If you’re interested in organizing a customized Dance for PD presentation for your organization or community, please visit our contact page and let us know.

Parkinson’s Unity Walk 2014


Dance for PD celebrates our on-going partnership with the Parkinson’s Unity Walk, and invites our members and friends to participate in this year’s event in New York’s Central Park on Saturday, April 26. The Unity Walk is the largest grassroots event to raise Parkinson’s awareness and funds to find a cure. Since 1994, families, friends, caregivers and representatives from the Walk’s sponsors and seven major U.S. Parkinson’s foundations have gathered once a year in unity, with 100% of donations going directly to Parkinson’s disease research. While more than 10,000 people are expected to turn out for the event, many others raise funds from home and support the Walk without ever coming to Central Park. Volunteers from the Dance for PD program will be on hand to answer questions and provide information at the Ask the Heathcare Experts booth. Click on the logo for more information, or call 866-PUW-WALK (866-789-9255)

Recent Staff Publications

Moving Ideas photo

Dance for PD program director David Leventhal writes extensively about the program in two newly-published collections. In Moving Ideas: Multimodality and Embodied Learning in Communities and Schools (Mira-Lisa Katz, ed.), David explores Dance for PD classes as a model learning environment, analyzing effective learning tools and approaches, and highlighting the class’ inclusive, non-hierarchical structure. For more information, or to order, click here. “This collection is about more than embodied learning and multimodality; it is a book about reimagination,” writes Mark Davis. “Nothing I’ve read since John Dewey has made me want to teach and learn as much as Moving Ideas.”
In Creating Dance: A Traveler’s Guide (Carol Press and Edward Warburton, eds.), David contributes a chapter that traces a more personal, interior narrative based on his experience integrating his professional dance career into his work with the Dance for PD program. For more information, or to order, click here. Both books offer a wealth of information and breadth of perspectives for teachers and dancers of all stripes.

Dance for PD Australia Update


A new website provides an internet presence for the network of Australian Dance for Parkinson’s teachers who have launched classes on the heels of two successful Dance for PD workshops in Queensland and New South Wales in May. The network, managed by Erica Rose Jeffrey, currently offers classes in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra, with additional classes planned for Hobart and Melbourne in 2014. The site contains class and contact information, among other resources.

Dance for PD launches in Riverdale

The Dance for PD program will adds its fifth location to its roster of New York City classes on February 20 when it begins a pilot series in Riverdale. The Riverdale pilot program, a collaboration among Mark Morris Dance Group, Brooklyn Parkinson Group, the Riverdale YM-YWHA, and The College of Mount Saint Vincent, features teachers trained in the Dance for PD approach and live musical accompaniment by Alan Eicher. Like all classes in the New York area, the Riverdale program is offered free of charge to people with Parkinson’s, their families, friends and care partners.

“This launch represents an opportunity for us to expand to an area of New York that we think is eager for this kind of program,” said David Leventhal, Dance for PD’s Program Director. “We have an incredibly passionate and committed team of collaborators who are working tirelessly together to create the best possible experience for Riverdale participants.”

Riverdale-based dancer Tara Sherman, a former member of New York City Ballet who later went on to pursue training and start a successful practice as a psychiatrist, will lead the class on February 20 with Leventhal.

To register, please click here or call 1-800-957-1046.

Dance for PD featured in Brown University Symposium

FirstWorks and American Dance Legacy Initiative, in collaboration with Artists and Scientists as Partners, Brown University, and Mark Morris Dance Group, present Widening the Circle: Intersections of Art, Science and Community. Widening the Circle is anchored by American Dance Legacy Initiative’s two-day Mini-Fest on February 28th – March 1st and FirstWorks’ presentation of an exhilarating evening of live music and dance with the Mark Morris Dance Group, one of the world’s leading dance companies, at The Vets on March 8th.

A symposium on holistic, creative approaches that benefit people with Parkinson’s disease and those living with Autism Spectrum Disorders, developed by Artists and Scientists as Partners and led by David Leventhal (Brown ’95), Program Director, Dance for PD® and former Mark Morris Dance Group dancer will include master classes, lecture demonstrations and seminars. A week-long Mark Morris Dance Group repertory residency for Brown students will be hosted by Brown’s Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies.

To conclude the project, the Mark Morris Dance Group joins FirstWorks for an evening of live music and dance. Mark Morris is a master choreographer of endless invention still brilliantly sculpting his legacy. Hailed as the “Mozart of modern dance”, he is committed to live music as an integral part of the dance experience. This celebration of joyous creativity is highlighted by Double from Morris’ masterpiece, Mozart Dances, set against rich visuals by British painter Howard Hodgkin and Morris, renowned as an intensely musical choreographer, conducting the Brown University Chorus to a glorious Bach motet.

Presented with leading support from the Brown University Creative Arts Council. For more information, please visit http://wideningthecircle.weebly.com

Innovative Crossroads

Juilliard jazz hands standing
Throughout the year, Grantmakers in Health (GIH) in association with the National Center for Creative Aging, Grantmakers in the Arts and Grantmakers in Aging, has been exploring the intersection of creativity, health and aging through a series of panels, forums and presentations called Innovative Crossroads. The exploration utilized Dance for PD and TimeSlips, a trail-blazing program for people with dementia designed by Anne Basting, as exemplary case studies to highlight best practices and to bring persistent challenges (research and funding) to the attention of potential funders. GIH’s Colin Pekruhn lucidly articulates the consortium’s findings in this report.

Dance for PD Advisory Member Recieves Gruber Prize


Dance for PD Advisory Board member Eve Marder has received the 2013 Gruber Neuroscience Prize. Dr. Marder, a professor of neuroscience at Brandeis University, received the $500,000 prize at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in November for her pioneering contributions to the understanding of neural circuits, in particular how the properties and dynamics of neural circuits give rise to specific behaviors. To learn more about Dr. Marder’s prize, click here. Our heartiest congratulations to Dr. Marder for this impressive achievement and well-deserved recognition.

BPG at L’Allegro

L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato 2 (Photo by Kashvili) comp

Members of Brooklyn Parkinson Group attended the dress rehearsal of the Mark Morris Dance Group in Morris’ L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato at Lincoln Center. More than 20 members of the group are learning dances from L’Allegro in preparation for a performance next year and in honor of the work’s 25th anniversary. Meanwhile, MMDG dancers Sam Black, Lesley Garrison and Rita Donahue offered Dance for PD community classes as part of MMDG tours in Hanover, NH, Albany, NY, Austin, TX and Denver, CO. David Leventhal led classes in three London locations during MMDG’s visit to Sadler’s Wells.

Dance for PD at WPC 2013

David at WPC 2013 Photo by Christian Tessier comp
Photo by Christian Tessier

Three themes ran through this year’s World Parkinson Congress in Montreal: patient empowerment, the importance of staying active, and the value of community. That thread was captured beautifully by WPC Ambassador Bob Kuhn: “Illness begins with I, Wellness begins with We.” It’s no wonder, then, that WPC delegates were so enthusiastic about the Dance for PD demo class 65 of them attended, or the two screenings of Dave Iverson’s documentary Capturing Grace, or the panel of researchers and practitioners who addressed the value of dance in living well with Parkinson’s.

Dance for PD seemed to represent the Congress’ zeitgeist–the intersection of empowerment, movement, and community that happen naturally in a dance class. We reinforced those themes through “Think Like a Dancer” table slips, short inspiring messages about integrating dance into daily life. These themes melded again during the last plenary session, when Pamela Quinn’s filmed duet with David Leventhal was screened as a vivid example of the choice to define oneself through confident action and individual expression in the face of challenge.

For an excellent summary of the WPC from the perspective of a person with Parkinson’s, read PD advocate Jon Palfreman’s Letter from Montreal.

WPC by the numbers
This year’s Congress in Montreal was the third such triennial event–and Dance for PD has had a presence at all three. In Montreal, there were 3,334 active delegates from 64 countries, including South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, Ethiopia, Argentina and beyond. Twenty-four nonprofit organizations, including Mark Morris Dance Group/Dance for PD and Brooklyn Parkinson Group, were represented. Over the course of the three days, delegates heard 188 speakers and saw nearly 600 posters.

The breakdown of the delegates at the WPC included:
* 40% Neuroscientists, Neurologists, Physicians, Geriatricians, Nurses, Rehab Specialists (PT, OT, SLP)
* 25% People with Parkinson’s
* 15% Caregivers/ Care partners/ Family Members
* 11% Nonprofit employees, Media, Guests
* 9% registered as ‘other’

The next WPC will take place September 20 – 23, 2016 in Portland, Oregon.