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Tilles Center Hosts Parkinson’s Dance Class

By Jack Georgis

Arts & Entertainment, Online & Newsletter Editor

The Arts Education Outreach program at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts started offering specialized dance courses for individuals with Parkinson’s disease, a nervous system disorder that affects a person’s movement.

Stephanie Turner, director of education and outreach at the Tilles Center, discussed how this program came to be and why it was chosen, “Several studies have been conducted about the benefits of movement, especially the mind-body connection for patients with Parkinson’s, so they do very well with activities such as yoga, dance, boxing, anything that really connects the mind with motor skills it’s all about cognitive function,” Turner said.

The inspiration and program itself was a result of the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG). “They created a model where they train dance teachers to learn how to work with patients with Parkinson’s, and also people with limited mobility so [for] anybody who might have a physical ailment that might prevent them from dancing, it is a highly specialized form of dance that these teachers are specifically trained in.” Turner said.

The model from the MMDG was brought to the attention of the Tilles Center and aligned with the mission of the Arts Education Out-reach program. Part of their mission is to “serve the underserved,” and make art accessible to everyone. “We have programs for children with autism, from low socioeconomic communities on Long Island, and programs for children with pediatric cancer,” Turner said.

Turner and others involved in the program reached out to the MMDG to connect them with people who were trained in this kind of work. “We were then lucky to acquire a sponsor, so the program is fully paid for by a non-profit Dance Party for Parkinson’s,” Turner said.

Dance Party for Parkinson’s found it important to make the program easily accessible, so there was no admission fee. “The sponsor is very committed to offering these programs for free understanding the high cost it can often be to live with these ailments,” Turner said.

The program was piloted during the 2018-19 academic year, and four classes were held during that time. The program garnered enough interest that staff plan to offer it again through the remainder of 2019 and into 2020. Classes in September take place every Friday from noon to 1:15 p.m. There is another class scheduled in February 2020 and one more over summer 2020. All remaining classes have open availability.

Each session focuses on a different style of dance. “We have more classic dance, [and] general dance which includes, zumba hip hop, tap,” Turner said.

Instructors of these classes are also trained to deal with the often differing levels of mobility each individual might face. “Due to the differing levels of mobility, they may dance at different levels, the instructors are well-trained to accommodate everyone’s differences so that the classes work out very well.” Turner said.

The Parkinson’s dance classes are not the only specialized courses that the program offers. “We are also working on a new program called sensory immersion theater. This is a new form of theater for people on the spectrum that takes place in a very small environment.” Turner said. Program staff will hold these events in the Patrons Lounge for children and adults on the autistic spectrum. This opportu-nity is slated to debut in May 2020, and will incorporate students from the theatre program on campus to interact with visitors.

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