Dance For Life

Dance for Life: Movement Program for People with Parkinson’s Disease

Dance For LifeDance for Life provides therapeutic and recreational movement opportunities for people with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and their significant others. It is directed by Dr. Hubert Fernandez, Co-Director of the Movement Disorders Center, and Professor Jill Sonke, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Center for the Arts in Medicine (CAM).

The program is designed to help patients improve their quality of life through enhanced overall physical well-being, social interaction, creative expression, and targeted improvements in Parkinson’s symptoms including balance, strength, and mobility. The program will be led by professional and student dancers from the University of Florida and Shands Arts in Medicine, and will combine elements of both modern dance and social dance.

The Dance for Life program is a collaboration between the UF Movement Disorders Center, the Center for Arts in Medicine, UF Health Arts in Medicine (AIM), the School of Theatre and Dance (SoTD), Movement Analysis Lab (MAL), and the Digital Worlds Institute (DW).

The Dance for Life program will be offered in 12-week sessions to Parkinson’s patients being treated by the UF Movement Disorders Center. In order to encourage inclusion of dance in their lives beyond the once per week class, each patient will be invited to bring a spouse, partner, friend or other family member to participate in the program.

The program is held at the the McGuire Theatre and Dance Pavillion (on the UF Campus) Museum Road, adjacent to the UF Welcome Center and Bookstore.

Program Goals

  • To help Parkinson’s disease patients achieve improvements in balance, mobility, coordination, range of motion, posture, quickness, and kinetic awareness;
  • To help patients reduce depression, anxiety, isolation, fatigue, pain, and constipation;
  • To enhance quality of life for patients by providing regular social interaction with other people with Parkinson’s and with friends and family members;
  • To increase motivation and self-confidence through goal-setting and periodic “performance”;
  • To encourage engagement in dance as a lifestyle change by including significant others in weekly classes; and
  • To articulate the benefits of dance for Parkinson’s patients through research.


Jill Sonke, Kristin O’Neal, and students from the Center for the Arts in Medicine (Dance in Medicine and Dance Clinical Practice courses, Prof. Jill Sonke) and UF School of Theatre and Dance (Teaching Methods course, Prof. Kelly Cawthon)