Glenna is a graduate of Hahnemann Medical University in Physical Therapy. She received her doctorate in clinical neurology in 2006, and taught in North Carolina State University state system in physical therapy for 22 years. She is Professor Emeritus at Winston-Salem State University and Research Associate Professor in Health & Exercise Science at Wake Forest University. A Fulbright Senior Specialist, Glenna completed residencies in dance science and Somatics at Trinity-Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London (2009) and the Universities of Tallinn and Tartu in Estonia (2011). She is headed for Singapore to LASALLE College of the Arts this November for her third Fulbright residency.
Movement Practice as Research
Our bodies are like paper origami. We shape and reshape our bodies all day long without giving it a second thought. Folding is how we got here – the history of our biological development and a living archive of the body’s dimensions. I currently am investigating the linkages between bodily foldi
ng and human movement and brain science, philosophy, somatic education and dance performance. Exploring folding and unfolding sheds light into the subtle mysteries of the human body – its origins, its nature and its connection to creative patterning of universal consciousness. By bringing sensory awareness to guided movement exploration, I offer movers a space to discover greater ease of being, effortlessness, expansion and creative expression. In these movement sessions, participants can explore the unfixed limits of the physical self through guided sensory awareness in meditative movement.
My teaching is inspired by trans-disciplinarity, by the interface of dance, human movement science, brain science, and a phenomenological (somatic) perspective of the lived body. More directly, my interest in bodily folding evolved from the work of philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Paraphrasing Deleuze, the smallest unit of matter is not the point, but the fold. My purpose in this class would be to create a sensory-rich, iterative, immersive environment for embodied learning and ultimately for performative intention. Exploration of macro- and micro-dynamics of folding gives rise to states of being and becoming. Human origami opens a range of fractal topologies whose nodes of commonality link movement creation with biology (protein folding and human development), biotensegrity (structural integrity), Somatics (sensory-privileged movement exploration) and embodied cognitive neuroscience (choreographic thinking).
A new website is currently underway which will showcase the various projects for Human Origami, with collaborators, dancer and multimedia artist Susan Sentler and soundscape artist Jude Casseday. Stay tuned!
Dance Improvisation & Parkinson’s
Effects of complementary (integrative), expressive, and embodied cognitive approaches to improving balance and mobility in persons with neurological disorders (stroke and Parkinson disease) and the elderly, and (2) modifying and validating the Star Excursion Balance Test as a tool for screening dancers’ balance.
Over the past four years, Glenna has been investigating the effects of improvisational dance on balance in adults with Parkinson disease. Glenna speculated that these people not only would improve their balance, but also could develop the ease to generate movement on their own by learning to take more physical risk through practicing improvisational dance structures. With a grant from the Translational Science Center at Wake Forest University, Glenna collaborated with Christina Soriano, professor of dance from Wake Forest University, on several studies in which improvisation helped participants evolve flexible strategies for improving mobility. Recent results (in preparation for publication) were statistically and clinically significant. An Initial pilot neuroplasticity study has also been conducted, correlating the scores from balance measures with neural activation through fMRI recordings. The team has applied for a grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation to carry the research forward.
My Recent Publication on Parkinson’s
I’m proud to announce that the prestigious science journal Frontiers in Neurology recently published my article on improvisational dance and Parkinson’s in their special issue — Verbal auditory cueing of improvisational dance: A proposed method for training agency in Parkinson’s disease. A pdf of the article is available for download. Also acknowledged are Christina Soriano, professor of dance at Wake Forest University, whose method is outlined here, and to co-author and consultant, neuroscientist, Dr. Christina Hugenschmidt, also of Wake Forest University.
Alexander Technique teachers are also engaging in new practice-based research with people with Parkinson’s disease. Watch a demonstration and interview on the benefits of the work. Teachers will be presenting the result of their research at the Parkinson’s World Congress in Portland this September! More news coming soon.
A brief interview on the research on Dance & Parkinson’s.
Throughout 2012, Glenna researched the effects of improvisational dance on balance and mobility in Parkinson’s disease. Working with neuroscientists Paul Laurienti and Jonathan Burdette from Wake Forest University Complex Brain Networks Center, an fMRI case study was conducted with surprising and promising results. Basically, after a 5 day intensive trial of improvisational dance, the one participant showed increased connectivity in her brain, suggesting improved communication in key areas linking to attention, cognition and action. According to Dr. Laurienti, “The data show whole brain connectivity patterns with long-range connections (global efficiency) and network communities. The brain’s basic community networks [known to be critical for inter-brain communication] show increased long-range connectivity after the treatment. A considerable portion of this change was due to greater connections between the anterior and posterior aspects of this network. The basal ganglia were in an isolated community prior to training and became highly interconnected with the premotor cortex after a week of dance class.”
To download among the sampling of articles below, please click on any one.
For additional articles, contact Glenna.
Alexander Technique Studies & Reflections
- Alexander Technique & Elderly (Batson & Barker, 2007)
Click here for the YouTube link to the before/after balance tests.
- Graviception 2004 Oxford Congress
- Neuroscience Panel 2008 Lugano Congress
- Chapter – Complementary Approaches for Physical Therapy (Elsevier)
Parkinson’s & Dance Research
- Effect of Improvisational Dance on Balance in Parkinson’s Disease – clinical fMRI case report, Journal of Physical and Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics
- Complementary Health Practice Review Feasibility Study 2010
- Research in Dance Education Soriano & Batson 2012
Complementary Physical Therapy Studies