Theater and Dance

Cynthia Gendrich 
Why Do People Laugh?
Awarded $24,800 for the period 6/1/10 to 12/31/11
Source: National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

This first-year seminar course asks, Why do people laugh? It examines both the potential functions of laughter—psychological, physiological, social—and what makes us laugh. Laughter has always been a gauge of societies’ rules, preoccupations, and attitudes as well as a marker of psychological and physical well-being. Theorists have speculated that we laugh because we feel superior or surprised, because we need release, because we’re weak, sacrilegious, or cruel, yet most people don’t think about why they laugh. What induces or stifles it? What are its benefits and limits? This course will examine these questions through core readings, including essays by Aristotle, Castlevetro, Bergson, and Langer, among others; plays by Aristophanes, Moliere, and Wilde; and novels by Austen and Toole, supplemented by materials from psychology, physiology, religion, the visual arts, and music. Through discussions, presentations, and writing, students will sharpen their critical faculties and look beyond disciplinary boundaries. They will begin to see the layers in a deceptively simple subject, learning to conduct and, hopefully, enjoy the detective work that all good scholarship and thinking require.

Christina Tsoules Soriano

  • Improvisational Dance Workshop for People with Parkinson’s Disease
    Awarded $2,500 for the period 7/1/14 to 6/30/15
    Source: National Parkinson Foundation

Dance has proven an effective way to manage the many symptoms associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Regular dance classes offer social benefits and a rewarding form of exercise. However, the effectiveness of improvisational dance has not been explored. Prof. Soriano has been honing an improvisational dance curriculum for PPD since 2012. Funding will allow her further develop this curriculum and to lead  improvisational dance workshops throughout North Carolina to help physical therapists, support group leaders, neuroscientists, students, and various movement practitioners and teachers implement some of her teaching methodologies in their PD communities.

  • Effect of Modern Dance on Balance and Mobility in a Group of Adults with Early-to-Middle Stage Parkinson’s Disease
    Awarded $3,700 for the period of 11/12/09 to 9/1/10
    Source: Winston-Salem State University

This pilot study is designed to measure the outcome of a 2-week intensive modern dance trial on long-term mobility, balance, and balance confidence in a group of adults with early-to-middle stage Parkinson’s disease. Dance content will include rhythmic accompaniment to movements based on everyday activities―sitting, standing, and walking. Clinical measures of balance and mobility will be taken immediately before and after the study.