Supported by the Government of Canada, the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship program awards scholarships are valued at $50,000 per year for three years during doctoral studies. It weighs candidates on three criteria: academic excellence, research potential and leadership.
A former professional ballet dancer, Rachel Bar has combined her passions for science and the arts, driving dance programs for older and ailing adults with Canada’s National Ballet School. “NBS' Sharing Dance for People with Parkinson's Program” engages people with Parkinson’s disease in a weekly low-impact dance class, and Bar also co-developed a dance program for people with dementia at Baycrest Health Sciences, a long-term care centre.
Bar will use the scholarship to develop a research study on the benefits of dance programs for people with Parkinson’s. The dissertation will use dance itself as a method of experientially understanding/disseminating research.
“When you’re present in the class, you see people who were motionless moving and engaging,” said Bar about her work with adults with dementia. “I’ve heard support workers from long-term care facilities say, ‘I didn’t know she could move like that.’ So I’m seeing first-hand that they have dementia, but they still have the capacity to experience joy, and we will be exploring ways to capture this within a research study.”
For Bar, the scholarship acknowledges the importance of innovative, outside-the-box research. “My research is arts-based research within the health realm. To see that acknowledged and validated through this award really reinforces that there is support and interest and understanding of the great opportunities the arts bring our healthcare system. That’s exciting for me. I couldn’t have imagined a clearer statement about this type of work.”
Psychology PhD and 2017 CIHR Vanier CGS recipient