Dance, Dance, Dance! Learn the Importance of Dance and PD - PMD Alliance

Mark your calendars – Saturday, September 21st is officially designated as National Dance Day.


Celebrate this day of movement with the entire Parkinson’s and movement disorder community while you learn a new skill, brush up on an old favorite move, or just spend the day laughing and enjoying each other’s company.

What better way for us, PMD Alliance, to join in on the fun than celebrate our newest full time team member and dancer extraordinaire – Shannon Elliott!

Shannon was recently named In Sync!™ Network Manager at PMD Alliance. With her extensive knowledge in dance and community engagement, she is has quickly become another valuable asset to the program and team.

Recently, I was able to sit down with Shannon and ask her a few questions pertaining to the benefits of dance and Parkinson’s. Read on to learn more!

Amy: “Can you explain the benefits of dance for someone living with a movement disorder?”

Shannon: “Dance is a wonderful way to engage both the body and the mind.  Music is profoundly important to most people, and what better way for us to express ourselves and connect with others than to move together to our favorite songs?  For people living with movement disorders, dancing is extremely beneficial for improving rigidity and increasing the magnitude of body movements.  Steady rhythms in music can help with gait patterns when walking to the beat across a room. Counting those rhythms sharpens cognitive skills.  Stretching exercises improve stiffness in the muscles and joints, and concentration on breath and flowing energy can heighten one’s mood.  It’s also just FUN to learn new steps and laugh along with your classmates!”

Amy: “What is Dance for PD”

Shannon: “Dance for PD® is a program that was started in 2001 as a collaboration between the professional dance company, Mark Morris Dance Group, and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group.  This program is specially designed for people living with Parkinson’s, their care partners and friends. Currently it’s offered in over 300 communities in 25 countries around the world.  Classes led by teaching artists integrate various dance forms such as ballet, tap, modern, and social styles like swing and tango, to create an enjoyable movement experience. It also addresses motor and non-motor concerns like coordination, flexibility, balance, social isolation and depression.”

Amy: “Are there any safety concerns that one should know about with dancing and their movement disorder?”

Shannon: “It’s always a good idea for folks to consult with their doctor about any new physical activity they plan to begin.  Dance as a form of exercise is great because each person has the ability to modify movements according to their personal needs and limitations.  It can be performed seated or standing, slow or uptempo. Teachers offer several ways to perform the same movement for different ability levels.  There are special precautions to avoid the occurrence of falls by offering chair backs or walking aids as a point of stability.  Our job as teachers is to make dance classes accessible to everyone, so we can enjoy ourselves and each other as we exercise our bodies and minds in the safest way possible!”

Amy: “How would you respond to someone who is nervous to try dancing and says ‘I’ve never danced before?’ ”

Shannon: “Dance for PD®-style classes are designed for EVERYONE! People of all abilities and backgrounds.  It is not necessary to have had any prior experience, and those using canes, walkers, and wheelchairs are welcome!  There is no wrong way to dance – we each have our unique way of moving and expressing ourselves.  Dancing is in our DNA – it is our birthright to be able to enjoy our bodies and to love moving them!”

Amy: “Why did you get involved with dance for Parkinson’s?”

Shannon: “I had been working in the dance world for over 20 years. Just this past year, I decided to transition into health and wellness and obtain my personal training certification.  My good friend told me about the Dance for PD® training program. Instinctively, I knew that it was the right direction for me to go and could utilize my skills and experience in professional dance and teaching to directly help people affected by movement disorders!  I took the Dance for PD® Introductory and Advanced Training Workshops in the spring of 2018, and began teaching a class of my own in Santa Fe, NM, that April.  Working with people living with Parkinson’s and their care partners has been a true passion of mine.  It’s very rewarding to see the immediate, positive effects that dancing has on these wonderful seniors!”

Amy: “What is your favorite music to dance to?”

Shannon: “When I come up with a new dance exercise for class, I always begin with the music. Finding a song that is particularly inspiring to me is my starting point. I begin creating movements that help me express certain imagery or emotions that interpret the lyrics or musicality of that song.  I have been very lucky to have worked with a live musician who sings and plays guitar in my classes. Dancing to his unique renditions of songs originally performed by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and John Denver is dream!  I also think that disco music is super fun – no one can sit still to the Bee Gees!”

“For people living with movement disorders, dance is extremely beneficial for improving rigidity and increasing the magnitude of body movements.”  – Shannon Elliott

Here are just a few fun events to celebrate National Dance Day and Parkinson’s:

Free Class for National Dance Day

    • 3:30 – 4:30 pm
    • Ballet Arizona
      2835 E. Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ 85034
    • Hosted by Debbie Braganza this event is sponsored by the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and Ballet Arizona.
    • For more information, please email

Dance for PD Master Class at the Kennedy Center  

    • 4:15 – 5:00 pm
    • The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts – The Reach 
      2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566 
    • Lucy Bowen McCauley will lead a free Dance for Parkinson’s Disease Master Class as part of the Kennedy Center’s Annual National Dance Day Celebration! 
    • For more information, please visit

National Dance Day returns to Segerstrom Center for the Arts

    • 12:00 – 6:00 pm
    • The Segerstrom Center for the Arts 
      600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626 
    • Join them on the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza for a celebration of all things dance. The day will feature live performances by special guest artists, fully inclusive and interactive dance lessons in a wide variety of dance styles, food for purchase, and the opportunity to learn this year’s official National Dance Day routine. 
    • For more information, please visit

Shannon Elliott, (M.A. in Dance, York University; B.S. in Dance Management, Oklahoma City University; NASM-CPT) has been working in the professional dance world for the past 20 years as a performer, teacher, choreographer, director and arts administrator. She began her performing career with the touring company, River North Dance Chicago, and other professional credits include Music Theatre of Wichita, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Inside/Out, and several independent works. Shannon was also a Rehearsal Director/Choreographer for Royal Caribbean International, where she taught choreography to dancers, singers, acrobats, and aerialists from around the world to be performed on cruise ships.

Shannon is excited to have transitioned into the field of health and wellness this past year. She earned her personal training and group fitness certifications and teaching Dance for PD® classes for seniors and those living with Parkinson’s disease.  She also works for the Parkinson and Movement Disorder Alliance as its In Sync™ Network Manager and Community Engagement Coordinator for the state of New Mexico.

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