Emma George '18
A double major in Dance and Kinesiology, Emma George ‘18 is focused on the human body: when it works the way it should, and when it doesn’t. Her passion for dance started when she was just four years old. Emma is currently working with one of her professors on a dance intervention for people with Huntington’s disease. She eventually hopes to work for Cirque du Soleil and intertwine work with travel. She also wants to become a physical therapist, helping dancers and other athletes heal and recover from injuries.
Could you explain briefly what your focus in both majors is? And what you hope to pursue after graduating and how it will hopefully pertain to your experience in college thus far?
I am pursuing a dual degree in Kinesiology and Dance right now. I hope to go into Physical Therapy someday and help dancers and other athletes. My dream company to work for is Cirque du Soleil someday. I have been working with one of my dance professors on a dance intervention for people with Huntington’s disease, one of the worst neurodegenerative diseases in existence. This opportunity has really helped me with other opportunities that have aided my college career.
Could you tell me a little about your background, and what led you/inspired you to pursue your degrees?
I started dancing when I was 4 years old. I fell in love with dance when I saw my first Nutcracker. My mom and dad signed me up for dance classes shortly after. I tried soccer when I was five, but I kept dancing on the field and I didn't want anything to do with soccer. That's when my parents knew I wanted to dance. I have never stopped dancing.
When I was considering careers for college, I knew I wanted to keep dance in my life. I didn't want to be a professional dancer, but I wanted to work somewhere in the dance world. I didn't like business-related careers, so I was thinking about something medical. However, I am very afraid of needles so that limited my options! My senior year of high school I went to see Sleeping Beauty at Boston Ballet and I was looking through the program and came across the listing of everyone involved behind the scenes. I noticed that a Physical Therapist was listed, and I became intrigued.
Towards the end of my senior year in high school, I sprained my ankle pretty badly. I had to wear a boot to prom and graduation, and I had to be taken out of my last dance performance with my studio. I went to Physical Therapy and learned what the profession was really about. At that point, I knew I wanted to be a Physical Therapist and work with dancers.
Can you speak more to your dreams of working for Cirque du Soleil? What would your ideal job title be?
I want to work at Cirque du Soleil so I can work with artistic athletes like myself. They are a unique group that need exceptional care from medical professionals who really know what they do and what their bodies take on every day. I would like to be an Athletic Therapist, which is like a Physical Therapist and an Athletic Trainer combined into one. Athletic Therapists are more common in Canada where Cirque du Soleil is based out of. I also want to work with Cirque du Soleil so I can travel with the company! I would love to be able to work and travel!
What is the dance intervention you worked on called? Can you describe it in more detail?
The dance intervention that my professor, another student and I are working on right now is called M.I.N.D., which stands for Movement Intervention for Neurodegenerative Disease. This intervention is targeted towards people with Huntington's disease, which is a genetic neurodegenerative disorder. Imagine the symptoms of Parkinson's, ALS, and Alzheimer's combined starting around the age of 30. There is no cure yet. Dance has been scientifically proven to have physical, mental, emotional, and social benefits. We want this dance intervention to improve their quality of life and to help lessen the symptoms of Huntington's disease. We are in the process of setting up a study so the project is on hold right now. Hopefully, we will start it back up soon!
Given your experience in working on a dance intervention for people with Huntington’s disease, what do you hope to do after this to continue making a difference in the field?
I hope our intervention works and can help people not only with Huntington's disease, but with other neurological conditions. Because of this ongoing project, I have considered a career in both physical therapy and neurology so I can help people with neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington's disease. I either want to work with dancers or people with neurological conditions, but really I am willing to work with anyone.
Can you name a few of your favorite classes you’ve taken at UMass and how they’ve helped form your post-graduation dreams (besides the professor that you worked with on the dance intervention)?
A few of my favorite classes at UMass have to be my dance technique classes, Anatomy & Physiology I & II, and Technology for Dance. I am taking a Kinesiology class called Practicum in Sports Medicine where I get to work with some of the athletes on campus. It is a great hands-on experience for anyone who is a Kinesiology major and interested in physical therapy, athletic training, etc. I am learning so much in that class!