Most of us need less medication and more movement in our lives. Christina Soriano, Director of Dance and Associate Professor of Dance at Wake Forest University, regularly teaches modern dance, improvisation and dance composition to undergraduates. She has also been involved in three scientific studies that look at the ways improvisational dance can help the mobility and balance of people living with neurodegenerative diseases and uses that knowledge to teach movement classes to older adults living with Parkinson’s and mild cognitive impairment.
The results from this work prompted Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, the National Parkinson’s Foundation, the Winston-Salem Arts Council and, most recently, the National Institutes of Health, to support the expansion of research conducted by her and Dr. Christina Hugenschmidt of the Wake Forest School of Medicine in 2017, so that more Forsyth County residents could benefit from the program, and the results could be empirically documented and replicated in other communities.
Christina’s mentor, Dr. Glenna Batson, is a renowned dance researcher, somatic expert and a gifted physical therapist. When they worked together in 2010, Glenna was faculty in the Physical Therapy Department at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU). Christina’s work with dance and neurodegenerative populations began with her invitation to join Glenna’s WSSU-funded study as the interventionist in a small pilot study looking at the benefits of dance in the Parkinson’s community.
“I learned so much from that first study and have been so fortunate to continue pushing the research further,” said Christina. “Glenna’s initial support and her tireless efforts in this space have changed my trajectory as an artist, researcher, teacher, and mother. I’m so grateful to work with neuroscientist Dr. Christina Hugenschmidt and the Sticht Center for Healthy Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention now. In our work together, we agree it is critical to have Wake Forest students involved because they are hungry for the ways their science education and dancer-identities can join. Plus, my students are going to be future leaders that will help make policy decisions about available resources for aging populations. As an artist and researcher, I want to contribute to society’s healthy aging as we live longer and live better. As an artist, I want to help be part of the solution to create more opportunities for creative aging.”
Christina Soriano and Christina Hugenschmidt are also both very involved in the annual symposium: Wake Forest’s Aging Re-Imagined, which brings together the work of artists, community members, and scientists around the topic of Healthy Aging. Next year’s symposium will be on May 3 and 4, 2018.
Interested in taking a movement class with Christina? Contact the Lifelong Learning program at Wake Forest University at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit improvment.us to inquire. If you have questions about whether or not you might be eligible to participate in the upcoming NIH-funded clinical trial, please contact Phyllis Babcock at email@example.com.