Photo by Emma Mead

Dance for PD®

I first fell in love with Dance for PD® as a volunteer in 2014.  Since then, I have participated in nearly 200 hours of professional development & teacher training workshops, to become a fully-fledged bilingual teaching artist.  Since Spring of 2020, teaching in Spanish has been especially thrilling for me, as I have gotten to share my own (half Ecuadorian) cultural identity.  In 2019 I was honored to be one of three people representing Dance for PD® at the first annual Hispanic Outreach Leadership Conference through the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute, which has paved the way to be able to dance with folks every week from around the globe.  Check out the Dance for PD® program in Spanish here.

in class, Mark Morris Dance Center, Brooklyn, NY
photo by Amber Star Merkens

It seemed kismet to find a place dedicated to the Parkinson’s community as much as my family and I have become, especially since our fearless leader (my dad) has been living with Parkinson’s disease for almost 20 years.  He’s always a happy (and honest!) consultant with any new class material I offer him.  I have learned so much with him over the years, most especially: humor, patience, and grace.  

Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, NY
Photo by Amber Star Merkens

Dance for PD® was originally founded as a collaboration between the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group, and is now fully administered by the Mark Morris Dance Group.  I am honored to be able to share my love of dance, theatre, (and even clown!) within this intrepid inimitable company, and so glad to have found an artistic home within their community.  

Mirroring Exercise during class in Brooklyn
(photo by Amber Star Merkens)

Dance for PD®, celebrating its 20th anniversary, offers specialized dance classes to people with Parkinson’s, their families, friends and care partners in New York City and through our network of affiliates in more than 300 communities in 25 countries around the world. Dance for PD classes allow people with Parkinson’s to experience the joys and benefits of dance while creatively addressing symptom-specific concerns related to balance, cognition, motor skill, depression and physical confidence.

  • The program’s fundamental working principle is that professionally-trained dancers are movement experts whose knowledge about balance, sequencing, rhythm, and aesthetic awareness is useful to persons with Parkinson’s disease. Below, are a couple still images from my first class assisting founding teacher, Misty Owens.

West Side Dance Project

Photo by Emma Mead

As a singing actor who’s always loved physical comedy and clown, I yearned to understand the body and how it works, especially how I might use my own most efficiently.  I have been studying tap, jazz, and ballet under scholarship with West Side Dance Project since 2010.  The guidance I’ve been given, and tutelage under which I’ve been lucky enough to study has transformed my mind and body. It changed my life forever.  I am ever-grateful to John DeBlass and Maria Zannieri, and the lineage of dancers in New York City with whom they’ve studied, for now I see, study, and dance in a whole new way.