As they say in dance: one, two, three, pivot!

On Friday, May 14, and Saturday, May 15, students and faculty from the Tufts Department of Occupational Therapy and Tufts Department of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies participated in the 5th Annual Dance & Healthy Aging Parkinson’s Disease Workshop. Pivoting to offer it on a virtual platform, OT faculty Linda Tickle Degnen, Mary Barnes, and Meredith Grinnell collaborated with Director of Dance faculty, Renata Celichowska, workshop leaders and Mark Morris Dance Group and Parkinson’s community dance instructors, Pamela Quinn and David Leventhal, to create a virtual event with technical assistance provided by dancer and tech guru Natasha Frater. The workshop was generously funded by the Massachusetts chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA_MA) with support from the OT department.

Students had the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the impacts of dance for the Parkinson’s community. The first day consisted of both lecture-based and experiential learning exclusively for OT and Dance students, with Pam and David sharing their knowledge and experiences in working with individuals with PD from the perspective of thinking and moving like a dancer. Pam shared a lot of her lived experience as a professional dancer and choreographer with PD and resources from her PD Movement Lab ( David showcased his world-renowned instruction, cultivated over the years as a professional dancer and founding Director of Dance for PD® (

The second day we were joined by members of the Parkinson’s community and everyone was lead in large group dances by David and Pam, reinforcing for the OT students concepts taught the day before. For many of the community members (individuals with PD &/or their care partners), some of the dance moves and concepts were familiar as they have been active in Dance for PD® ( classes. For others, it was a first time event! Students and community members were then placed in small groups (via Zoom breakout rooms) and tasked with creating a dance and choosing music to address challenge areas the person with Parkinson’s may face in their daily lives. This collaborative process offered a unique opportunity for the OT students to apply their knowledge gathered over the years to a meaningful activity in real time! Everyone gathered back together in the main Zoom room so each small group could perform their respective dances.

Third-year EL-OTD student Kaitlyn Irwin reflected, “I was greatly appreciative of the opportunity to participate in this workshop after hearing about it over the last two years. With one of my passion areas being in dance and with some background volunteering with Rock Steady Boxing, it was really exciting to learn more about the benefits of dance for this population and to deepen my knowledge of how I can use dance in my practice. I also loved the opportunity to collaborate with members of the Parkinson’s community to create a dance to share with the larger group.”

Students, community members, and faculty alike had a worthwhile and entertaining experience! We are grateful that we were able to come together and engage in this workshop in a new way this year.

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