Dance workshop to bring joy for people with Parkinson’s disease

The Honors College provides interactive workshop to help those living with Parkinson’s disease through dance

The Honors College has set out to use dance to bring joy to those with Parkinson’s disease.

The third Annual Murphy Creative Intersection Event will be led by assistant professor of dance, Ali Woerner. She will be instructing a Parkinson’s disease dance workshop on from 4-5 p.m and 6-8 p.m. on March 13. in 208 Oak View Hall.

Woerner’s workshop will be open for Honors College students and alumni, as well as any others who are interested.

She will be teaching with her assistant, Becky Kowalski, a sophomore dance major.

The workshop will include original dance exercises that Woerner teaches in her classes. After each exercise, she will explain the importance and reason for each. Woerner hopes the workshop will be “extremely upbeat.”

Her goal is to spread knowledge about Parkinson’s; Woerner wants to reach as many people as she can.

“There is always at least one person in the group who knows someone or is related to someone living with PD,” she said. “This is why these sessions and the workshops are so important. Knowledge is power, and the more people know about what is happening within PD, the more people we can reach and get moving and feeling joyful.”

Woerner wants to show that there is more to individuals than just their disease.

“No one ever thinks PD and dance should be in the same sentence, but those living with PD are so much more than their disease,” she said. “They are parents, grandparents, they were track stars in college or painters, they love to read or go to plays. They are people.”

She said the workshop gives hope and brings joy to those battling PD.

“The disease tries to take all of that [joy] from them, but the dancing brings them joy and a reconnection with themselves and their spouse,” she said.

Faculty fellow of the Honors College, Dr. Roberta Michel, said she thinks what Woerner is doing is important.

“I had heard about [Woerner’s] work, and I did not know a lot about her, but I thought this was great she was introducing dance to Parkinson patients,” she said.

A couple years ago, Michel read an article on OU’s website about Woerner’s teaching through the National Parkinson Foundation. Michel’s mother had passed away from Parkinson’s disease, and she became fascinated with Woerney’s work.

“This is her way of offering service into the community,” Michel said. “I am passionate about what we are communicating and supporting. I think her work is interesting, and it’s set really well with this idea of showcasing something new for the Murphy Event.”

Michel wanted Woerner to be the guest of this year’s Murphy Event. She said Parkinson’s is a debilitating disease, and Woerner’s past and present physical therapy has been an alternative therapy in the medical community.

“If you’re [people with Parkinson’s disease] giving up your sense of movement and all the things you had enjoyed about life, it [joy] gets slowly taken away,” Michel said. “The idea that you can even go to this dance program, the joy comes back and [is] reinfused.”

Michel thinks Woerner communicating to “another portion” of the OU community about her therapy is important because “we are all in position to encourage others to seek programs like this.”