Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dancing Away the Parkinson's Shuffle

Join the Dance of  PD Neuroprotection

An inovativative program of the Brooklyn Parkinson Group and the Mark Morris Dance Center, Fort Greene, Broolyn has been bringing together professional dancers and people with Parkinson's Disease since 2001.

The first of its kind, the program was initated by Olie Westheimer, founder of the Brooklyn Parkinson Group, because she believed that dancing could improve the lives of patients treated by her husband, Dr Ivan Bodis-Wollner a medical expert on Parkinson's. He has said that "movement like dance exercise seems to be neuroprotective."

Patients wait for the class to begin in a spacious, brightly lit studio with their canes, wheelchairs and walkers. That don't look ready to dance but they are. Parkinson's patients, it turns out, can dance better than they can walk.

To see for yourself, take a look at this Mark Morris Dance Group website where you can read, see photos and watch the videos - this is good stuff:

Did you notice that there are chair exercises which involve the entire body? I was excited to see that some dancers did not have to adopt that wider standing stance for balance. They must have already integrated sighting for balance into those exercise. You can see improved coordination from the rhythmic movement.

Dance for PD is an outreach collaboration between the Brooklyn Parkinson Group, a chapter of the National Parkinson Foundation and the Morris Dance Group. Classes are provided weekly not only can people with PD attend but also their caregivers.

The classes led by professionally trained dancers teach using dance exercises which addresses not only balance, muscle stretching and strengthening but also how the dancer incorporates hearing the music with imagination, touch and sight to contol movement. What they don't have to teach is the joyful release which dancing can bring.

The Mark Morris Group has made their services available on the west coast, in Canada and the UK. Plans are underway for more PD dance training workshops.

additional resources:
From NPR: Parkinson's Patients Find Grace in Dance
Parkinson's and dance: An Unusual partnership unites
Dance for Parkinson's Disease Comes to Bay Area written after this post

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