Our Parkinson’s Fitness team is excited about having Associate Professor of Dance, Christina Soriano, from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina visit with us on June 6th for an exchange of ideas regarding the connection between the arts and various neurodegenerative diseases.
Professor Soriano has extensive teaching and training backgrounds. She has served as a guest presenter at the Davis Phinney Foundation in Charlotte, North Carolina and as a panelist at the 2013 World Parkinson Congress on the subject of “Creativity and Parkinson’s Disease”. She has been a featured speaker at the Arts in Medicine Summit at the University of North Carolina Asheville, has taught workshops with arts practitioners in England, and has participated in the LEAD Conference (Leadership Exchange in Arts & Disabilities), held in Washington DC.
A symposium titled “Aging Re-Imagined” was held March 17 and 18 this year. Chaired by Professor Soriano, it brought together more than 300 faculty, staff, students and members of the Winston-Salem community to discuss the topic of aging. Leading scholars, artists, medical professionals and researchers shared insight on how people age and how society thinks and feels about aging. The event featured national speakers and highlighted research being conducted by Wake Forest faculty.
The following summarization describes Professor Soriano’s philosophy about improvisational movement:
“What does improvisational dance look like and why do I value it? The only constant in our lives is change. As we improvise, we discover who we are and what we care about. Movement habits form, and then they are disrupted. For older adults, the ability to navigate changes in routine can be more complicated. My improvisational dance strategies in class enable students to self-generate functional and expressive movement, with no worries about doing it “wrong.” Through a series of often rapidly delivered exercises that challenge cognition as much as physical function, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s patients and undergraduates alike are encouraged to create their personal movement universes. Their bodies make shapes, shift and redirect in space, exploring different speeds and levels of effort along the way. Often, a problem is presented like: “travel from point A to point B in the room but pause along the way and make a reaching gesture followed by a circular shape with your bodies.” Without fail, multiple clever and surprising versions of these prompts result. The class community is a supportive and engaging one.”
“The freedom to move easily and adapt to real life challenges is a fundamental part of the human experience. Movement freedom allows individuals to enjoy a sense of agency and thrive in an ever-changing environment. As we age, being spontaneous can get harder, especially for someone with a neurodegenerative disease.”
BRAIN: Improvisation is cognitively challenging and requires spontaneous decisions.
BODY: Dance has been shown to decrease fall risk and help with balance.
WELLNESS: Group classes encourage socialization and an overall sense of well-being.
Education, like life itself, is an ongoing, ever-changing process. In our mission to learn as much as we can from colleagues old and new, each of us who instructs or volunteers with the Parkinson’s Fitness programs will create new concepts to try as the result of Professor Soriano’s visit in June. We can hardly wait to share them!