Everyone comes into science with a different background and different training, and that is the beauty of it.
I spent most of my life pursuing a professional modern dance and Pilates career, but retired from an active performance career to pursue human movement science.
In 2007, I attended a dance performance by Heidi Latsky Dance Company. This performance changed the course of my professional life in ways I never would have imagined. HLD is a physically-integrated, New York City-based modern dance company that works with professionally trained dancers and dancers with Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, missing limbs and other disabilities. This particular performance was a solo for Lisa Bufano, a bilateral below-the-knee and total finger-thumb amputee. I joined the Company in 2010 and have since been involved as a dancer, teacher, and rehearsal assistant. I am now on the board of directors of HLD. As a dancer with HLD, I was exposed to a variety of different bodies and movement impairments. In order to supplement my income as a dancer, I became a certified Pilates teacher, which helped me delve more into human movement. But, it still wasn’t enough. I kept wondering how to get my clients to move better and what I could do to enable that. I wanted answers.
When I applied to the Motor Learning program at Teachers College, Columbia University, it seemed like a perfect fit for me. I would be able to be involved in scientific inquiry and cutting-edge research. After being accepted, I boldly applied for a research assistant position in the Neurorehabilitation Research Lab, working with Dr. Lori Quinn on assessments and interventions to improve motor function in people with Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
When I started this journey into science and academia, I desperately want to prove to people that I could be a scientist. In order to do this, I felt the need to hide my dance background. I felt that if I could separate my dance work from my scientific research, no would know my secret. Nobody would know that I wasn’t cut out for science. Of course, this was my imposter syndrome speaking. During my first semester in the NRL, my advisor asked me to become involved in a project, collaborating with Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn, NY and Washington University in St. Louis, MO, examining the benefits of dance training for people with Parkinson’s. Suddenly, my dance background was an actual asset to the research team.
Everyone comes into science with a different background and different training, and that is the beauty of it. Some of us know we want to be a scientist in early childhood, whereas others, like me, discover science after a different career. While I strongly believe that being a scientist means you get to ask unknown questions and forge a new path, I also know from experience that my entire life experience helped me get to where I am today.
Gregory is an Independent Movement Scientist, Dancer & Pilates Instructor and Research & Advocacy Coordinator at Dance/NYC. He is also a Board Member of Latsky Dance Inc.