Program Spotlight: Dance for Life

Life balance sometimes requires dancing.

At the University of Florida’s McGuire Theatre and Dance Pavilion, the hallways are a cacophony of music, monologues, laughter, and the bustling of  bodies in motion. However, the students are not all typical young college kids. On Monday afternoons, the halls are also filled with “Dance for Lifers,” people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) who come to participate in the “Dance for Life” program.
Dance for Life is a free weekly dance class for PD patients, inspired by research that demonstrates the potential for dance to reduce the symptoms of PD, including reduced range of motion and balance, social isolation, and depression.
Dance for Life is instructed by AIM Dancer in Residence Whitney Wilson, who says about the class, “The community surrounding this class is tight knit, welcoming, supportive, and eager to try new activities. In this class we work on mastering certain skills that help with balance, alignment, mobility, and strength, and we use these skills to experience profound, creative expression. The benefits of this work are endless. I am honored and grateful to help cultivate the joy and freedom found in creative expression!”
John Schmidt, a long time Dance for Lifer, believes that people with PD need the techniques used by professional dancers to keep their muscles flexible, strong, and functional. “We need association with intelligent young college students for their exuberant love of life, belief in the possible, and hope for the future,” says John. Katherine Castle, another regular, describes the class as “a weekly gift of love…Dance for Life stretches my spirit along with my body.”

AIM Facts:

  • Studies show that the arts can positively impact patients outcomes, the healthcare environment and healthcare costs.
  • AIM partners with the UF Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, Shands Nursing Education, The Parkinson’s Research Foundation, and UF Digital Worlds Institute to conduct research in the arts in healthcare.
  • Recent AIM studies include investigations into the effect of the arts on nursing stress, Parkinson’s disease, and in rural communities