Murielle Elizéon

Culture Mill (NC)

Moving Through is a three-year project that explores the nexus of art and science—specifically, what happens when professional dancers collaborate with specialists in movement disorders, physical therapy, neuroscience, somatics and people living with Parkinson’s Disease? The emergent answer: A thoughtful, provocative perspective that illustrates the complexity of what it means to be human—physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially. 

Created by Culture Mill, an arts organization based in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, the multi-partner project is seeding new perspectives in holistic approaches to improving quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s Disease. Beginning in 2019 with the ADF-commissioned collaborative performance, They Are All, which featured people living with Parkinson’s, Moving Through is guided by an interdisciplinary working group of clinicians, educators, dancers and people living with Parkinson’s Disease. A key outcome of the project will be a roadmap and a toolkit for teaching artists and multidisciplinary teams about innovative research at the intersection of artistic and scientific approaches. 

Culture Mill co-director Murielle Elizéon says it was inspiring and exciting to watch three distinct communities—scientific, artistic, and people with Parkinson’s—learn from each other. “There are many different ways of learning,” she says. “When you bring together scientific research, artistic expression and research, and people who are used to being defined by their condition—but are so much more—you start to have conversations that are not hierarchical. We are all talking at the same level, and creating a shared language.” 

At the same time, bringing together professionals and practitioners to create new ways of understanding is not something that could be accomplished quickly. “Relationship building moves at the speed of trust,” she says. “So when we talk about advocating for different ways to interact and learn, making sure we are doing that in ways that are honest and respectful is as important as the specific project goals and outcomes.”

Building that trust and developing a common language has been especially true of Moving Through, an initiative that relies on the real-life experiences of people who are so much more than the condition that had begun to define them and become their identity. “Instead of treating people with Parkinson’s disease as a group to be studied, we need to center their experiences and wisdom alongside our explorations of resilience, mindfulness, identity, loss, and our physical selves. It’s deeply integrative work that looks at the whole of an individual.”