The IMPROVment® team is a multidisciplinary group of amazing individuals who all have come together to achieve our mission and vision. Dancers, neuroscientists, artists, choreographers, researchers, and media specialists contribute their expertise and passion to this ongoing journey. Below are some of the incredible people who make IMPROVment® a reality.
Christina Tsoules Soriano is the Associate Provost for the Arts and Interdisciplinary Initiatives at Wake Forest University and an associate professor of dance. At Wake, she regularly teaches Improvisation, Dance Composition, Modern Dance technique and a course she co-teaches with chemistry colleague Rebecca Alexander entitled Movement and the Molecular. Since 2012, Christina has regularly taught a community dance class in Winston-Salem, NC to people living with Parkinson’s Disease and their carepartners, and has been involved in three scientific studies that look at the ways improvisational dance can help the mobility and balance of people living with neurodegenerative disease. She has received funding from the National Parkinson Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, and most recently the NIH to conduct a randomized clinical trial, testing her improvisational dance method in a community of adults living with Mild Cognitive Impairment and their carepartners. Her published work has appeared in the Journal of Dance Education, Research in Dance Education, Dance Magazine, Theatre Journal, the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts, The Journal of Physical and Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics and Frontiers in Neurology. In her role as an associate provost, she is working with colleagues across the university to enhance the visibility of the arts at and beyond Wake Forest, and help forge interdisciplinary connections with many community partners. She is also very involved in an annual, interdisciplinary symposium: Wake Forest’s Aging Re-Imagined, which brings together the work of artists and scientists around the topic of Healthy Aging.
Christina received her MFA in dance from Smith College and has danced for many inspiring choreographers, including Alexandra Beller and Heidi Henderson. In addition to the new works she creates for the Wake Forest Dance Company each year, Christina’s choreography has been presented throughout New England, North Carolina, New York and in Vienna, Austria. Choreographic or teaching residencies include the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Amherst College, Trinity College (CT), Salve Regina University, Rhode Island College and Providence College. Christina has premiered a new work at the Music Carolina Festival in Winston-Salem since 2013. She often works with large, intergenerational casts of dancers, ranging in ages from 5-87.
Manager/Director of Research
Christina Hugenschmidt is an Assistant Professor in Gerontology & Geriatric Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine. She received her PhD in Neuroscience from Wake Forest University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2008 and completed her Postdoctoral Fellowship at Wake Forest's Center for Human Genomics, Diabetes Research Center. Her research interests lie in the interplay between physical health and brain function. She is currently leading several studies looking at the effects of exercise and weight loss interventions on the brain. She is also partnering with the Wake Forest School of Medicine's Laboratory for Complex Brain Networks to investigate the effects of exercise and weight loss on the architecture of complex brain networks.
Rebecca Barnstaple is a PhD candidate in Dance Studies and the Neuroscience Graduate Program at York University in Toronto. She is a graduate of the National Centre for Dance Therapy at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (2015), a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Fellow, member of the steering committee of Dance Movement Therapy Ontario, member of the Research and Practice committee of the American Dance Therapy Association, and the comité scientifique du Centre National de Danse-Therapie a Montreal. She provides dance-based programs for people with chronic pain and Parkinson’s disease through Community Health Center Ontario. She joined the IMPROVment® team in 2019 to be an interventionist for the iMOVE project and continues to engage and collaborate with the team to build our research portfolio and training programs.
Kelly is an independent consultant that works with nonprofits and innovative programs to get organized, develop and implement strategy, and build sustainable management processes, systems, and collaborations to achieve success and impact community health. She holds a BS in Biology and Dance from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a MPH from Boston University School of Public Health. She has over 14 years of project management, contract management, consulting, and strategic planning experience with leading health care research and funding organizations such as the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Drug Abuse, Environmental Protection Agency, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Department of Defense, and RegenMed Development Organization. She joined the IMPROVment® team in 2017 to support the development and growth of the initiative.
Fayth is a manager in the Campus Recreation Department at Wake Forest University and co-owns bellicon Home and bellicon Studio in Chicago, a virtual and physical studio space for rebounding workouts on a mini-trampoline. She holds a BFA from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and an MFA from Hollins University in collaboration with the American Dance Festival (Duke University), the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts (Germany), and The Forsythe Company (Germany). She joined the IMPROVment® team in 2019 to begin to develop a research study utilizing the IMPROVment® method with cancer patients.
Temple Crocker is a theater artist and teacher. For over 25 years she has created original performances that foster experimentation and collaboration. Her work bridges forms, interweaving elements of theater, dance, installation, music and storytelling. Temple has taught undergraduate and graduate classes in acting, movement and interdisciplinary performance and is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique. Her performance projects have been funded by the Zellerbach Family Fund, San Francisco CASH grant, Manhattan Community Arts Fund and the New York State Council for the Arts. In 2017 she received a Baltimore Ruby grant from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation for Come Shining. A performance developed in partnership with Springwell Senior Living Center, Come Shining explores the aging mind and spirit and the endurance of the imagination. Temple is a certified teacher of TimeSlips, an improvisational storytelling technique created specifically for people with dementia related memory loss by MacArthur genius Anne Bastings. Temple joined the IMPROVment® team in 2019 as an interventionist for the iMOVE study.
Jason Fanning is an Assistant Professor of Health and Exercise Science. He completed his undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned his PhD in Kinesiology with an emphasis on Exercise Psychology under the mentorship of Edward McAuley in 2016. He completed his doctoral training in the Sticht Center on Aging at the Wake Forest School of Medicine under Drs. W. Jack Rejeski and Barbara Nicklas. Jason Fanning joined the faculty of Wake Forest University in July 2019. His research interests center on better assessing and influencing the momentary causes and consequences of health behaviors such as diet and physical activity among older adults. He specializes in the development and implementation of technology to suit these research goals. He joined the IMPROVment® team in 2019 and leads the HomeIMPROVment App development team and research projects.
Maggie is a doctorate of occupational therapy student at Washington University in St. Louis. She received her Bachelor of Science from Creighton University, studying exercise science and dance. Maggie has been dancing since the age of 3 and is passionate about the role of dance as an intervention. She is also a company artist and dance educator with Consuming Kinetics Dance Company. She joined the IMPROVment® team in 2019 for her doctoral project, "Effects of Improvisational Dance on Cognition and Daily Function Among People with Parkinson's Disease," which is funded by a student research grant from Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) Global. She continues to support the team as we build our research portfolio and training programs.
Nicole Johnsen is a senior at Wake Forest University majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and minoring in Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise. While completing her thesis involving the optimization of viral vectors for therapeutic use in gene therapy, she is a Student Mental Health Ambassador for THRIVE at Wake Forest University, where she has been able to develop a variety of innovative mental health outreach programs for the WFU community. She is also the founder and Executive Director of Challenged Children Foundation International (CCFI), a non-profit organization based in Ghana, Africa that seeks to empower disabled children by providing them with physical therapy equipment and easy access to education. She joined the IMPROVment® team in 2019 and develop a 4-week long research study for children with Cerebral Palsy in Ghana, Africa utilizing the IMPROVment® method.
Research / Management
Leilani Johnson is a research administrator at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (WFBMC). She supports recruitment for research studies and is passionate about facilitating innovation research in aging. She received her Master’s in Health Disparities in Neuroscience-related Disorders from Wake Forest University. She has been an active volunteer for the Brain Fitness program at the WFBMC Sticht Center for aging. She joined the IMPROVment® team and provides administrative and recruitment support to the iMOVE project.
Research / Teaching
Kamryn King is a senior at Wake Forest University majoring in Health and Exercise Science and minoring in Dance. She is a member of the Wake Forest Dance Company, and serves as Head Choreographer of Momentum Hip Hop Dance Crew. She joined the IMPROVment® team in 2016 and has supported the team in every role: student assistant, research assistant, interventionist, and teacher. She is also part of the HomeIMPROVment® team trying to bring our method into the lives of home-bound older adults.
Janice Lancaster has had the pleasure of performing internationally with Shen Wei Dance Arts since 2005 and teaching through SWDA’s intensives and arts-in-education program in New York City’s public schools. She has also worked on projects with the San Francisco Symphony, Opera Omaha, Danielle Russo Performance Project, gloATL, Fx’s The Americans with Celia Rowlson Hall, as well as with Aynsley Vandenbroucke, Satoshi Haga, and Abby Chan. She has collaborated on improvisational work with Lance Gries, Ray Eliot Schwartz, and has been interviewed in Theatre Topics: “Personal Is Political, Practice as Critical: The freedom of information Performer as Site for Change and Discourse” for her participation in Miguel Gutierrez’s foi2008 project. She has recently completed Gibney Dance’s Institute for Community Action Training (ICAT) and Domestic Violence Movement Workshop, and Lincoln Center’s Summer Forum Teaching Artist Development Lab: Aesthetic Education Immersion. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from Hollins University/American Dance Festival, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of NC School of the Arts, and is a certified Hatha and Restorative yoga teacher.
Christina McGee is a junior at Wake Forest University majoring in psychology and double-minoring in chemistry and dance. Originally from Houston, Texas, Christina began dancing with Houston Ballet when she was five years old and continued there until deciding to attend Wake Forest. Having taken many science and dance classes, Christina was very excited to participate in this important interchange of science, medicine and dance. Christina is a member of the Wake Forest’s Dance Company and is involved in teaching Dancing Together, a dance class for those with special needs.
Steve Morrison is a visual storyteller dedicated to the arts at Wake Forest University. He uses social media, design, and visual ingenuity to showcase the great performances, artworks, and events on and off campus. Morrison received his BFA (Illustration) in 2006, and his MFA (Painting) in 2015. He was a 2018 MINT Leap Year Residency Artist, and a Hambidge Residency Fellow in the same year. He received a grant from Idea Capital in 2017, and was awarded a Walthall Fellowship by WonderRoot in 2016-2017 (curated by Sarah Higgins of the Zuckerman Museum of Art). In 2015, he was a finalist for the Working Artist Project (MOCA-GA), curated by Siri Engberg of the Walker Art Center, and he has received several grants from the Center For Puppetry Arts. He joined the IMPROVment® team in 2019 to support the development and growth of the initiative.
Donna Moseley is a senior at Wake Forest University majoring in psychology and minoring in neuroscience and dance. Donna is a member of the Dance Company, a Delta Zeta and Sigma Pi, a Student Research Assistant with the psychology department, and a student manager at the Wake Forest Wellbeing center. Donna joined the IMPROVment® team in 2017 as a teacher for IMPROVment® based classes at the Industry for the Blind, Elizabeth and Tad Williams Adult Day Center and the community classes at the Academy of Dance Arts. As well as teaching, Donna is a student researcher and interventionist for the iMOVE study.
Justin Reich is a NC-based producer, director, and cinematographer known for his music video work which has since diversified into other areas of interest such as feature films, documentaries, and commercials. Justin joined the IMPROVment® team in 2017 and collaborates on the development of audio and video files for all IMPROVment® projects.
Jessie Laurita-Spanglet is an active teacher-artist-scholar and a Research Associate in Dance with the Department of Theater and Dance at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME. She holds a BFA from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and an MFA from University of Maryland College Park. For the past four years, Jessie has worked as a Teaching Fellow and Research Assistant Professor at Wake Forest University. She joined the IMPROVment® team in 2017 as an interventionist on the iMOVE study and community class teacher. She currently leads the development and implementation of the teaching and training programs and is the lead IMPROVment® trainer.