Southeast Student Bringing Joy of Dance to Those in Need

Southeast Missouri State University senior Hannah Misenheimer is spending her summer sharing her love for dance with those affected by Parkinson’s Disease.

Misenheimer, a dance major from Arlington, Tennessee, is dancing and teaching with the Mark Morris Dance Group’s Dance for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) ® in New York City. In Dance for PD® classes, participants are empowered to explore movement and music in ways that are refreshing, enjoyable, stimulating and creative.

She personally connects 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 experience the joys and benefits of dance while creatively addressing symptom-specific concerns related to balance, cognition, motor skills, depression and physical confidence.

She often has the opportunity to participate in the dance exercises and interact with participants who need a partner, Misenheimer said.

“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.”

During a class, she’ll assist the lead teachers to integrate movement from modern, ballet, tap, folk and social dancing. The goal is to engage participants’ minds and bodies and create an enjoyable, social environment for artistic exploration.

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 says 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.”

One of the greatest joys thus far has been the opportunity to meet new people and witness the positive impact the classes have on their personal lives, said Misenheimer.

“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.”