Belhaven Dance Faculty, Students Working to Help Parkinson’s Patients

Dancers are described as many things. Graceful. Beautiful. Creative. Artistic. All are certainly true, but at the heart of it, professionally trained dancers are movement experts. For the 10 million people worldwide that are living with Parkinson’s disease, dancers can provide a unique form of therapy.

A dancer’s expert knowledge about balance, sequencing, rhythm and aesthetic awareness is useful for those with Parkinson’s disease. Founded in 2001 in New York City, Dance for PD provides specialized dance classes to people with Parkinson’s, as well as their families, friends and care partners.

In 2013, trainers from the New York program came to Jackson to lead a teacher training course. Krista Bower, Chair of the Belhaven University Dance Department, was able to get involved and helped launch an affiliate class in Jackson.

“Our participants come from all over the Jackson metro area and some of them have been dancing with us since the beginning of the program,” said Bower. “Our students range from the newly diagnosed to those using canes, walkers or even wheelchairs. All dance phrases are modified by a co-instructor so that everyone can participate and fully enjoy the class.”

The classes are held on Monday evenings on the Millsaps campus. Faculty and students from Belhaven, Millsaps and the University of Mississippi Medical Center are highly involved.

“Dance is a wonderful activity for all people, and specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease because it instills grace, confidence, freedom and fluidity of movement while also building creativity and a sense of community,” added Bower.

Mariah Henry, a senior dance major at Belhaven, chose to research and participate in the Dance for Parkinson’s classes as part of her senior project. She choreographed and printed a dance work that involved Belhaven dance students as well as members of the Dance for Parkinson’s class. Junior dance major Andi Knudson filmed and edited a documentary on the program for her Choreography for the Camera coursework last spring.

“Through this program, students from Belhaven and Millsaps have had the opportunity to engage with community members and to use their gifts to serve others,” said Bower. “They learn about new ways to apply their knowledge from the fields of dance and neuroscience in service to the community.”

For more information on Dance for Parkinson’s, visit . The local program is sponsored by the Millsaps College Community Enrichment Program

Chris Culnane, Belhaven’s Director of Library Services, Honored for 20 Years of Service

Chris Culnane remembers it well. While working in the library at Reformed Theological Seminary, Belhaven’s former Director of Libraries Gretchen Cook gave him a call.

“There was an opening for a night librarian,” recalled Culnane. “RTS and Belhaven had a good relationship, and I felt like this was a good opportunity for me at the time.”

Culnane took that position as night librarian, working until 11:00 p.m. most nights for 15 years. In 2012, another opportunity was in front of him when the Director of Libraries position opened up.

“I asked the staff whether I should consider it, and whether they could work with me,” Culnane said in a recent interview.

The staff agreed and Culnane was named the Director of Libraries, a position that he still holds today. His leadership has come at a crucial time, as technology has dramatically changed the Belhaven University library.

“The library is smaller than it used to be, but offers more to our students,” said Culnane. “We have over 106,000 e-books and over 44,000 digital journals. We offer students access to nearly 100 databases. Every student on campus has the opportunity to do research in their field of study.”

Culnane, who received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana University, recalls a time when the Warren Hood Library was the central hub of student activity.

“We sometimes had trouble keeping students quiet,” joked Culnane. “When the new student center was built, most of the activity moved there.”

Culnane recalls some of his cherished memories at Belhaven, revolving around his birthday. Dr. Edwin McAliuster, a former English professor and several students set up a surprise birthday for him, complete with cupcakes that spelled out his name.
“Howard Barr had given me an envelope about 9 months before my 64th birthday,” said Culnane. “He told me not to open it until my birthday, and I obliged. When I opened it, it was a CD of the Beatles’ ‘When I’m Sixty-Four!’

Congratulations to Chris Culnane on his 20 years of service at Belhaven University and his induction into the Legacy of Learning.