NICOLE RUSSO demonstrates her dance routine for seniors
“Slick your hair/ and wear your buckle shoes/ (Up, down!) And all that jazz…” sings Nicole Russo, DPT. Her back to the group, she turns her head to the side and raises her arms up, then down, while her audience—a roomful of sitting or wheelchair-bound senior citizens—follow suit and unanimously sing along to the rousing lyrics.
Nicole Russo graduated magna cum laude from the School of Health Sciences’ physical therapy program in 2013, winning the John R. Magel Future Clinical Researcher Award upon graduating. Now, besides working at SOAR physical therapy in Sea Girt, New Jersey, she is also the creator of "Sit, Sing & Swing"—a seated, singing, chair-dancing program for seniors and the geriatric community.
She decided she wanted to create a program that would make exercise – and physical therapy – more exciting for senior citizens, many of whom are wheelchair-bound or paralyzed from the waist down. The successful program, which combines music, singing, and simple choreography, is performed daily in independent-, assisted-, long-term care-, Alzheimer- and adult day-care facilities.
“Dance is magical,” she says. “People who don’t talk or move suddenly come alive when the music comes on.”
And the dance isn’t just fun, it’s functional. “There are elements of physical therapy exercises in my dances; they just don’t realize that they’re doing it.”
Russo decided to pursue physical therapy after a lifetime of working in the hospitality and performing arts industry. She worked as the VIP Manager at the New York City Waldorf Astoria for several years, and enjoyed a longstanding career in musical theatre. With her extensive training in ballet, tap and jazz, she’s taught music and dance everywhere from New York to Florida.
Now, she feels privileged to be able to combine her two loves – performing arts and physical therapy – in her career.
“Helping people get out of pain, and allowing them to do the things they want to do, is really important work. I take it very seriously.
“I want to be the last physical therapist my clients see,” she says.
Dance for PD® offers internationally-acclaimed, research-backed dance classes for people with Parkinson’s disease online, in New York City, and through a network of partners and associates in more than 300 other communities in 25 countries. In Dance for PD® classes, participants are empowered to explore movement and music in ways that are refreshing, enjoyable, stimulating and creative.
Dance for PD® provides comprehensive teacher training and certification, creates innovative instructional media, and nurtures relationships among other organizations so that classes based on our model are widely available. Evidence from more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific studies serves to underpin the effectiveness and benefits of the Dance for PD teaching approach. The program has been featured in such media channels as The New York Times, USA Today, NBC, CNN, NPR, and The Guardian and has received multiple awards for its groundbreaking work. Learn more.
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“Dance for PD® is a hands-down success. It’s one of the most important programs for Parkinson’s disease in the country.”
–Mary Ellen Thibodeau, RN
RI Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association