Southeast senior uses dance to help those with Parkinson’s Disease

Updated: Jul. 5, 2017 at 4:42 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - One Southeast Missouri State University senior is using her summer to share her passions with people affected by Parkinson's Disease.

Hannah Misenheimer is spending her summer dancing with those affected by Parkinson's Disease. She's not just dancing though she's teaching.

Misenheimer, a dance major from Arlington, Tennessee, is spending this time with the Mark Morris Dance Group's Dance for Parkinson's Disease (PD) in New York City.

During a class, she spends time assisting the lead teachers to integrate movement from different types of dance like modern, ballet, tap, folk and social dancing. Dancers in the Dance for PD classes explore movement and music in ways that are refreshing, enjoyable, stimulating and creative.

Misenheimer has a personal connection with the program's mission. Her grandfather has Parkinson's Disease.

"This is something very close to my heart," she said. "He is always looking for new ways to help out his symptoms as well as just be active.I love to see how dance inspires people of all ages and abilities, and this allows me to be a part of something impacting the community."

With seven different locations throughout New York City hosting Dance for Parkinson's Disease classes, Misenheimer travels to several studios each week.

"I make sure the classroom is set up, check in the participants, assist with class and make sure everything runs smoothly," she said.

Dance for PD classes allow people with Parkinson's to receive the benefits of dance while addressing symptom-specific concerns related to balance, cognition, motor skills, depression and physical confidence.

She often dances as a partner with participants through dance exercises.

"Usually I work hands on with someone if they need assistance standing, being stabilized or going across the floor," she said. "One particular skill that I have strengthened is really picking up on body language. Working so closely with people who have Parkinson's has made me be even more alert on awareness of body language."

While there are challenges, her art and craft is still the same, and teaching her skills to a new class of participants is similar to working with new students at the River Campus.

"I don't need to change the way I teach or show a dance move because I have always tried to explain and show how to do something in multiple ways so that it makes sense to everyone,"  Misenheimer said.

Ultimately, she said she wants to learn the professional skills necessary to run her own classes.

"I am learning how to better work with people who have Parkinson's Disease and also what goes into making these classes happen," she said. "I hope to learn the ropes with what works and how to teach classes to people with Parkinson's Disease. I want to someday be certified to do it myself."

Misenheimer said one of the best parts about her experience thus far has been the opportunity to meet new people and witness the positive impact the classes have on their personal lives.

"I have enjoyed meeting all the different people who come to take class and who are apart of the team that make the classes possible," she said. "I love seeing the joy that dance is bringing to these people."

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