Perspectives on embodied, aesthetic knowledge from Parkinson’s dance movement therapy and academic research: Exploring learning across differences

Lisbeth Frølunde*, Mette Ørbæk

*Corresponding author

Publikation: KonferencebidragKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskningpeer review


The presentation concerns a Danish research project “Dancing with Parkinson's”funded by the VELUX Foundation (2019-2022). Participants included 43 dancers(people who have Parkinson's disease and their partners), and seven dancefacilitators (of 5 dance classes) who had a role termed bridgebuilders. Asbridge builders dance facilitators helped the university researchers establishrelationships with the dancers and collaborated in research activities.

The focusis on what dance facilitators and researchers learned through the researchprocess. Sample project documentation (a video about a symposium and aco-created graphic novel about dance) is shown and reflected upon from theperspectives of a Parkinson's dance facilitator and a university researcher.

As conclusion,we highlight the overall project results, and the challenges of learning acrossdifferent disciplines. We address the conference theme of developing the dance and movement therapy field through research collaboration as relevant for dancepractitioners, academic researchers, health professionals, etc.


The oral presentation concerns a Danish research project “Dancing with Parkinson's” funded by the VELUX Foundation (2019-2022), a collaboration between Roskilde University, Tivoli Ballet School, and the Danish Parkinson's Association. A total of 43 people who have Parkinson's and their partners participated in the project as co-researchers. Seven dance facilitators (therapists/instructors) of5 dance classes (where the 43 co-researchers were recruited) participated and had a role termed bridge builders. As bridge builders the dance facilitators helped the university researchers establish relationships with the dancers and supported the collaborative research process in the project’s steering group and advisory board.

One of the presenters is a Parkinson's dance facilitator, the other presenter is one of the three university researchers in the project. This presentation focuses on what dance facilitators and researchers learned through the research collaboration.

The facilitation of dance for people with Parkinson’s disease can be characterized as a growing social movement which has become a worldwide phenomenon, especially due to the spread of Dance for PD® (based at the Mark Morris Dance Group, New York). The use of various dance movement approaches raises questions about the meaning and importance of dance in relation to Parkinson’s, as well as to other chronic conditions and to ageing (see Christensen-Strynø 2021, Houston,2019).


The research project had two overall aims: to create research-based knowledge about andfurther develop dance as a form of collaborative, person-centered treatment of Parkinson's (and other diseases); and to provide research-based knowledge about, and develop, collaborative, participatory arts-based research, in which people outside the university and university researchers co-produce knowledge.


The"Dancing with Parkinson's" research design consisted of three phases.Phase 1 was a six-month ethnographic study (2019), where university researchers observed and danced in 5 Parkinson's dance classes. Two of the 5 dance classes were based on Parkinson Ballroom Fitness ™, one of the classes was based on the Dance for PD®, and two of the classes were inspired by Dance for PD®, among other approaches within Dance Movement Therapy.

Researchers also conducted interviews with 43 dancers (co-researchers) and 7 dance facilitators from the 5 dance classes. The interviews addressed physical,social, emotional, and aesthetic aspects related to the meaning of Parkinson's dance. At the end of phase 1, a research symposium was held where all dance facilitators and co-researchers met with researchers and other dance professionals (including David Leventhal from Dance for PD®).

In phases 2 and 3, the co-researchers participated in collaborative arts-based workshops led by the university researchers with visual artists. This culminated in a conference and a graphic novel about Parkinson’s dance experience, Mens vi bevæges (Frølunde, 2021, an English version is in review).

The qualitative research methodology ascribes value to the specific embodied experiences and narratives (in poems, interviews, dances, etc.) mainly using adialogic, narrative interpretive framework (e.g., Frank, 2012). The research emphasizes the critical importance of Parkinson’s dancers’ own narratives. Through their stories, we gain a more nuanced understanding of how Parkinson’s dance affects lives, for example, in revitalizing and sensual ways (Christensen-Strynø, 2021).

In the presentation, we offer an exchange about collaboration as a dialogue between thepresenting dance facilitator and researcher.

Selected materials (video about Parkinson’s dance documenting the research symposium, and sample pages from the graphic novel) are presented as springboard for answering questions:

- What have you learned about themeaning of dance – with focus on dance facilitation practice – through participation in this research project?

- What doyou see as challenges in collaboration across disciplines (including different dance practitioners, researchers in humanities and medicine) with reference to the symposium video?

- What are the potentials for development of the dance and movement therapy field demonstrated in this project, such as through network-building, the academic publications, and the graphic novel?

Results and Conclusions

We discuss results from the project, and what was learned across different disciplines as relevant for dance practitioners, academic researchers, health professionals, and others. We address the conference theme of developing the dance and movement therapy profession with attention to how research participation offers learning opportunities.
Publikationsdato23 sep. 2022
StatusUdgivet - 23 sep. 2022
Begivenhed4th European Dance and Movement Therapy Conference - Berlin, Tyskland
Varighed: 23 sep. 202225 sep. 2022


Konference4th European Dance and Movement Therapy Conference


  • Professional development
  • Parkinson's dance therapy
  • Collaboration
  • practice based studies: change, organizing

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