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Utah Stroke Survivors Take Part in National Dance Day

Andrea Smardon

A group of Utah dancers was featured this week on the Fox show So You Think You Can Dance. National Dance Day is Saturday, and the group submitted a video of the routine that many are doing across the country in hopes of being featured on the program.  But these Salt Lake City dancers have a special distinction. They’re all stroke survivors.

Program managers at the University of Utah Stroke Rehabilitation Center have adapted the National Dance Day routine dance for their patients. Some are sitting, some standing. Some can extend their arms, some can only hint at the movements. Physical therapy teacher and researcher Heather Hayes says the dancing does a lot more for these patients than a typical exercise routine.

“This is meant to engage them more, physically allowing them to move, cognitively challenge them to remember the sequence, and it’s just more fun,” Hayes says. “Given a choice of dancing or doing leg presses, you’re probably going to want to dance. So, we’ve gotten more people engaged this year who are participating, and that’s what we want. They’re coming back because they enjoy the group and the fun things that we’re offering.”

“It helps me get better,” says Jason Mastranunzio who suffered a stroke almost 4 years ago. He says dancing was hard to do at first. “Now it’s easier for me, because I can move a lot better now.”

After months of rehabilitative work, Mastranunzio is featured in the out-takes of the video dancing the robot.

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