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Sep 13, 2015

My guest today is David Leventhal. David is a former dancer with the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG), one of the preeminent modern dance companies in the world. After 14 years as a professional dancer with the company, David left to run Dance for PD® (Parkinson's Disease). Dance for PD started as a single monthly class for people with Parkinson’s Disease in Brooklyn, NY, and now encompasses classes in over 100 cities around world and host of other activities.

David has a broad perspective on the learning process. He began his study of dance as a young man and we discuss what it was like to face repeated rejection before eventually becoming an apprentice with the MMDG. David tells compelling stories about repeatedly failing to meet the standards set in auditions. I'm very interested in how David fostered the mindset to deal with these very personal rejections, especially within an art form that lends itself to taking that kind of feedback very personally. Even if you have no interest in dance training, there is a great deal to be learned from our discussion about overcoming repeated failure and developing what Stanford University professor Carol Dweck has termed a growth mindset.

In our interview, David shares what he’s learned about learning from his years of teaching people with Parkinson’s around the world. Parkinson’s Disease is a particularly challenging neurological disorder that in David’s words “effects every aspects of a person’s sense of self.” By applying an unusual approach to teaching, David’s classes and the  of thousands that are now taught annually - provide people with Parkinson Disease a new identity - that of dancer, instead of just patient. We discuss why it is that so many have found Dance for PD effective and how the ideas can be applied to other disciplines, and how David is already applying these principles with his three year old son.


David is among the most compassionate men I know, understated, and has demonstrated himself repeatedly world-class, first as a professional dancer, and then as a teacher. I hope you enjoy this conversation about dance, identify, and learning with David Leventhal.