Independent Innovators (UK, USA, GERMANY)

For 2018, we've chosen to highlight some independent innovators in the Dance for Parkinson's field. Although institutions often receive more attention, these four experts are generating a body of work and knowledge that is making significant contributions to the field. We invite you to learn more about Monica Gillette, Sara Houston, Danielle Teale, and Pamela Quinn. We realize there are another of other innovators out there. If you'd like to be included, please contact us and we'll be glad to consider inclusion for 2019.


Monica Gillette is an American dancer and choreographer living in Germany, who has been active in developing unique projects that bring together professional dancers, scientists and people living with Parkinson’s for a non-hierarchical approach to researching movement.

The first of those projects was BrainDance (2014). Through the initiative of Theater Freiburg and University Freiburg’s Excellence Cluster BrainLinks-BrainTools, Monica and the Norwegian dancer and choreographer Mia Habib were invited to help create a unique research design, which placed the often silent knowledge of dancers and choreographic methods in a more visible and active role in the research of movement disorders. The project also invited the participants who have Parkinson‘s, with their experience and insight in living with the condition, to be partners rather than patients or subjects in the process.  Following the success of that project and through the support of the German Federal Cultural Foundation, grew a much larger collaboration between Germany and Israel, titled Störung/Hafra'ah (2015-16). Störung/Hafra’ah was co-developed and led on the artistic side with Israeli choreographer Yasmeen Godder and her company. The year long project brought together 10 choreographers, 16 young researchers in fields such as neuroscience, medicine, microtechnology, mathematics and philosophy and over 30 participants with Parkinson’s to dance, experiment and explore movement together. To help connect the research between countries and disciplines, shared research themes such as unison, intention, identity, interactivity and embodiment were utilized. All participants from each background brought their own research questions and equally shared and profited from the collaboration with the dance studio being the main space for research and the dancing body the main catalyst for inquiry.

From this research, Monica developed and leads teacher training workshops in Germany, mentors dance artists as they develop their classes and speaks internationally on topics of inclusion and collaborative research. Recent engagements include Tanzhaus NRW, K3/Kampnagel, Fabrik Potsdam, Frei Universität (DE), Hebrew University (IS), Skånes Dansteater (SW), IDOCDE/Impulstanz (AU), Centro per la scene Contemporaneo (IT),  and Roehampton University and People Dancing – Foundation for Community Dance (UK). Her research is driven by asking what role can knowledge that is specific to dance and its methods play in a transdisciplinary and societal context. In 2017, she and Yasmeen Godder were awarded the inaugural Shimon Peres prize by the German foreign minister for their artistic leadership in the Störung/Hafra’ah project.

Currently, Monica is working on the EU project Migrant Bodies–Moving Borders, which focuses on developing new and relevant actions for the inclusion of refugees and migrants through dance and movement based initiatives. Together with choreographer Gary Joplin, dance classes for people with Parkinson’s continue at Theater Freiburg as well as in Kenzingen, Germany. Monica and Gary have also developed a dance practice for people impacted by Cancer through the creation of “Die Krone an meiner Wand”, a performance with women from 17-74 and premiered in December 2017 at Theater Freiburg.

For further information, please contact Monica directly at


Sara is a dance academic at University of Roehampton, in London, United Kingdom and is one of the world’s leading authorities on dance for Parkinson’s. Passionate about socially engaged dance in general, she is particularly interested in exploring dance that engages people who are marginalized or excluded in society.

Her research leads the way in discussing the relationship between what is highlighted in research studies (in measurement and observation), the dancers themselves (what it feels like to dance; their relationship to Parkinson’s), and how and where they are taught. Sara has prioritized understanding the person with the condition and the dancing itself. She argues that without knowing about the people who dance, their relationships with their condition, as well as how dance is offered to them, we won’t get to the bottom of why and how dancing is important to and for many people with Parkinson’s.

Her dance for Parkinson’s research began in 2010 with an evaluation of English National Ballet’s pilot program, winning the BUPA Foundation Vitality for Life Prize in 2011. The project with English National Ballet grew into a long-term research partnership lasting until 2015 when she and her co-investigator Dr. Ashley McGill presented their findings. During this time Sara championed mixed-methods research as being important to understand more fully the experience of dancing with Parkinson’s. Her team used both biomechanical and ethnographic research methods, the latter digging deep into the quality of the experience. They were the first research team to use mixed-methods in the field of dance for Parkinson’s.

Sara’s work has inspired several other research studies, including the study for Queensland Ballet dance for Parkinson’s program in Australia, and influenced the set up of other programs, such as the one at Hamilton City Ballet in Canada. This research has also contributed to UK arts policy reports.

Alongside the core research with English National Ballet, Sara has developed relationships with many dance for Parkinson’s organizations and dance teaching artists internationally. Notably she is a founder member of Dance for Health’s Expert House in The Netherlands forging research enquiry through artistic practice, and also with the Dance for Parkinson’s Partnership’s Research Values group in the UK, exploring ethical practices in research and dance for Parkinson’s teaching. These relationships have enabled the research to go beyond the traditional study of symptom modification to explore more theoretical concerns, strategic ideas and questions of artistic practice.

Sara’s dialogue with dance teaching artists has changed the strategic trajectory and policies of dance for Parkinson’s organizations. For example, Sara has played a key role in the development of the Dance for Parkinson’s Partnership UK, a strategic organization that nurtures and develops dance for Parkinson’s practice around the UK. Through her role with the Partnership, Sara has influenced the strategic path that dance for Parkinson’s has taken in the UK in terms of the development of practice and programs, as well as quality assurance.

Because of her expertise and knowledge, Sara is in demand as a mentor. For instance, for two years she was an academic mentor for the Störung/Hafraah project run by Theatre Freiburg and University of Freiburg in Germany and Israel. This project brought together people with Parkinson’s, dance teaching artists and postgraduate scientists to move, work and discuss movement disorder together. Additionally, she has mentored two students from Brown University, USA, as intern research assistants for her English National Ballet work and continues to give guest lectures at Brown for arts and health students. She sits on Queensland Ballet’s dance for Parkinson’s advisory group in Australia and also returns regularly to Dance Well in Italy to give talks and discuss with dance teaching artists and trainees.

Sara has written the book, Dancing with Parkinson’s, on her thinking and research, which will be published with Intellect Books in 2019. It maps the first fifteen years of dance for Parkinson’s as an artistic practice and discusses aesthetic and other outcomes of dancing using themes found in her research; ones of beauty, grace, freedom, as well as agency. Sara is planning a book tour to North America, as well as around Europe.

If you have been inspired by Sara’s work, please write and tell her what impact it has made on you. She is very keen to hear that her work has been of use and she doesn’t just exist in an academic ivory tower!  You may also follow her on Twitter: @saraPMHouston

All photography by Sara Hibbert, Dancing with Parkinson's led by Danielle Teale

All photography by Sara Hibbert, Dancing with Parkinson's led by Danielle Teale


Danielle Teale is a highly experienced independent community dance artist based in London. Her work is inspired by curiosity in human nature, people and their capacity for expression and connectedness. Her values and her dance practice are founded on equality, empathy and relationality. Danielle’s work with people with Parkinson’s has spanned many years of delivery, programme design, teacher training, mentoring and research with organisations such as Mark Morris Dance Group, English National Ballet, University of Roehampton, People Dancing and Dance for Health Rotterdam. You can see more about her ongoing practice on her website:

Danielle advocates for the participant voice and embodied knowledge of the dancer. In her own words:

“We should not ignore the vital role that the dancers with Parkinson’s themselves play in the development of a robust, specialist sector by sharing their embodied experience through research and through kinaesthetic transference of knowledge to those they dance with.”

Danielle believes that when working with movement disorder, the most knowledgeable people are those experiencing it, and working with it to push the boundaries of what we know to be possible.

Danielle’s recent practice-based research which places the dancer at the forefront of the enquiry, has been developed out of an artistic collaboration with visual artists in film, photography and fine art. ‘Explorations in Collectivity and Intimacy’ is an ongoing process driven project looking at two opposing ways of approaching dance which offer different experiences to the artist, dancer and audience in all contexts. Danielle has primarily worked with visual artist Sara Hibbert and together they produced a 15-minute dual screen film installation which was originally shown at Royal College of Art Dyson Gallery as part of the Altai Residency.

This research sparked interesting dialogue around the cross overs between the neurological, perceptual, and phenomenological experience of moving collectively; and the notion of movement conformity and how the collective can suggest one way of being or moving. Collaborating with a visual artist also brought up the role of art and the moving image in presenting new ways of seeing, understanding, and deconstructing the Parkinson’s body. These broad themes have led to a fluid and evolving process of exploration in practice. The film represents a ‘chapter’ of the work in process. The project will evolve further with additional cross arts collaborations and workshops planned throughout 2018. To see more of the research and questions arising from this project, as well as the film ‘Collective Field 2017’ you can visit the project blog

This research has also impacted Danielle’s facilitation and leadership approach to classes for dancers with Parkinson’s. She is interested in contrasting ways of exploring external and internal cueing through dance. External cueing through demonstration, mirroring, touch, sound and music provide concrete initiators for movement. Whereas internal cueing gives the dancer the choice to develop their own personal movement language. This connects with Danielle’s ongoing interest in co-ownership and equality across artist and dancers, with dancers contributing to the movement research process as experts.

Danielle leads a number of classes and workshops across London and the south of England, providing weekly artistic opportunities for people with Parkinson’s, as well as mentoring, shadowing and training for dance artists and musicians.


Pamela Quinn (USA)

Pamela Quinn is a professional dancer who has had Parkinson’s disease for over 20 years.  Her personal experience of PD combined with her keen knowledge of the body gives her a unique position from which to analyze patients’ physical functioning and to imagine solutions to their challenges.  Using cuing systems, music, dance, games, imagery, and narrative, she gives people concrete tools to improve mobility. She teaches and speaks throughout the PD community, at home and abroad.

What is unique about Quinn’s work is that it has the direct application of physical therapy and occupational therapy but the experience of dance, art and community. She provides a bridge between these worlds, aiming to cultivate the independence that can result from understanding physical ways to mange PD, but also offering a context in class for PwPs to create, commune and exchange. (watch a sample of her class at PD Movement Lab).

This past year PD Movement Lab has expanded into an on-line presence. It’s aim is to replenish fundamental necessities of life that PD often takes away:  physical autonomy, and a sense of self and purpose. These issues are addressed through posts with movement demonstrations on videos that help people understand how to work their body to maintain independence and dignity; and through interviews with PD outliers that inspire by revealing how others have chosen to manage their disease. See

As a choreographer and performer before diagnosis, Quinn has returned to making art as well, but it is PD art - either reworking her PD experiences through an artistic medium, such as in Welcome to our World and With Grace or by making dances that integrate professional dancers with PD movers.

Quinn teaches regularly at Mark Morris (sponsored by Dance for PD), and at the JCC in Manhattan, supported by the Safra Foundation. Her work has been shown on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, WABC, and has been published in Neurology Now, On the Move and Dance Magazine. She is also featured in science journalist Jon Palfreman’s celebrated book on PD, Brainstorms. Quinn has presented at three World Parkinson Congresses, at Japan’s second PD Congress and Italy’s PD Plasticity and Rehabilitation Conference, and at numerous U.S. universities (Tufts, NYU, Rutgers, Brown, Univ. of Maryland, Wake Forest)and PD conferences (ACRM, Southeastern PD Conference, Houston’s HAPS, New England Biennial PD Conference, and CT’s MADCAP). With David Leventhal, she presented at Tufts University, New York Academy of Medicine and Columbia’s Narrative Medicine Program.  A PD consultant for Christopher Walken in the film A Late Quartet, she has produced a series of her own award-winning videos: Welcome to our World (Co-winner WPC video competition 2010) , With Grace, PD Movement Lab (among top 12 WPC, 2013 & 2016) and Neurodance, a rhythmic rendition of a neurology exam. Her more recent productions , The Matisse Project for MOMA, Ooh, Aah, and PD: A Percussion Discussion, made with Pat Hall, integrate professional dancers with PD movers.