During the first six months into her intensive dance training as a freshman, Jessica Baynes suffered a traumatic brain injury. “I slipped on both feet forward, fell backward,” she said. “I underwent rehab. I went through speech therapy, I couldn’t exercise.”
Eager to dance nonetheless, Baynes discovered adaptive dance therapy through “Grey Matters: A Dance for Parkinson’s,” taught by former University of Utah dancer instructors Juan Carlos Claudio and Lennie Swenson Harris.
Her volunteering for “Grey Matters” led to a full-time teaching opportunity through “Healing in Motion,” which Baynes currently teaches at the L.S. Skaggs Patient Wellness Center at the U. “The class combines my dance experience and my experience as a physical therapist aid in a rehabilitative environment,” Baynes said. “It’s rehabilitation through dance. Participants are doing their PT exercises without knowing it.”
Baynes’s students enroll in a typical ballet barre class, adapted for their physical therapy needs. The exercises — which include physical therapy exercise through adaptive dance moves — culminate in a dance recital at the end of the program.
“One of my students said she never thought she’d get that far,” Baynes said. “I was honored to provide a platform for her to do that.”
Find this article and a lot more in the 2018 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers and entrepreneurs.