Elon DPT students lead dance class for people with Parkinson’s disease

Ann Heil, third-year DPT student, and Kelly O'Daniel, second-year DPT student, came together last year to found the Dance Special Interest Group (SIG).

Fifteen doctoral graduate students in Elon’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Education program came together to form a dance special interest group (SIG) to learn about and interact with the many ways that Dance intersects with physical therapy. The Dance SIG leaders – Ann Heil and Kelly O’Daniel – have planned monthly activities such as guest speakers and attending a performance by the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh.

Last week, the Dance SIG hosted a dance class for community members with Parkinson’s disease at the Francis Center, the home for Elon’s School of Health Sciences. A large body of research evidence supports the benefits of dance for people with Parkinson’s disease. DPT students Kelly O’Daniel, Tristan Norton, Tatum Benesh, Breanna Lanouette, Amy Smelko, Katherine Jones and Harwell Beach used the evidence for movement with music and choreographed and lead six three-minute dance routines. A final Tai Chi cool down lead by Alex Japit followed.

The five attendees expressed great enthusiasm by participating in the dancing and with expressions of excitement and gratitude.

“The dance leaders were clear and helpful. I never felt lost,” said Jim Bissett, one of the attendees.

Other participants agreed that the class was fun, modifiable, and helpful with incorporating therapeutic movements.

Along with the community attendees, other DPT students and professors attended the class with smiles all around.  Fun, movement and physical therapy – nothing could be better.