Students in class at Mark Morris Dance Center. Prince Lang, Courtesy Mark Morris Dance Group.

Recently, I asked fellow dancers on Facebook for a one-word self-assessment of the first class they ever taught. "Chaotic," "humbling" and "copycat" were just some of their responses. I was not surprised.

For my first-ever class, intermediate ballet for my fellow college students in 2011, I was armed with little more than my own experiences as a student. I certainly wasn't prepared for all the needs competing for my attention, nor equipped with strategies to differentiate my teaching approach for each student's learning style. I must have missed that day in technique class.

There is a pervasive idea that if you are a great dancer, you are automatically qualified to teach, whether you have training or experience in education practices or not. There is also an assumption that training to be a dance educator is only valuable if you're working with children—that you don't need it when teaching anyone over the age of 16.

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2015 Ailey Extension Class on the Josie Robertson Plaza at Lincoln Center. Photo courtesy of AAADT.

Who wants free dance classes?!?

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Program director David Leventhal (right) dances with a Dance for PD participant.

It’s official—research confirms that dance is highly beneficial for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Twelve participants completed two 75-minute dance classes a week for eight weeks. None had tried dance before. By the study’s end, they showed improvement in overall movement, walking ability and tremor severity. Participants also expressed feeling more confident and positive about their quality of life.

Dance for PD participants enjoy a class at Mark Morris Dance Center.

Created by the Brooklyn Parkinson Group and Mark Morris Dance Group, Dance for Parkinson’s Disease is a program now available in more than a hundred communities worldwide. Participants have access to dance classes, regardless of the stage of their disease. Danceforparkinsons.org

Photos (from top): by Katsuyoshi Tanaka, by Eddie Marritz, both courtesy of Dance for Parkinson's Disease

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