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.