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Dance class brings joy, confidence to people with Parkinson's

November 16, 2017 06:14 PM

COLONIE – Parkinson's disease is a progressive brain disorder that causes loss of muscle control. It affects about a million Americans.

Increasingly, those affected are turning to dance as therapy.

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About five months ago, a local dance teacher started a class for people with Parkinson's. Then, she learned about "Dance for Parkinson's," a program that got its start in 2001 in Brooklyn and has gone global.

She was invited to take the training class. Now, there's a whole lot of happy feet.

Once a week, a group of people living with Parkinson's Disease toss care to the wind and give themselves over to music and motion. It's the "Dance for Parkinson's" class at the Ciccotti Center in Colonie. 

As the disease slowly robs them of their ability to move, the dance moves work on balance and coordination, cognition and personal confidence.

"It is a very bright spot in the week. Just that dancing and having fun and throwing your arms around and stuff. So I like that a lot," explained Patricia Clock, a Parkinson's patient.

The class incorporates movement from modern, ballet, tap, folk and social dancing - along with yoga.

"My wife has been trying to get me to dance ever since we were married and I'm really a horrible dancer," admitted Jud Eson.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease five years ago. He and his wife, Nancy, learned about "Dance for Parkinson's" a few years ago when they spent time in Brooklyn where the program was born. So they were thrilled when longtime dance teacher, Rachelle Smith-Stallman, who'd started a Parkinson's dance class in June, embraced the concept, undergoing training from "Dance for Parkinson's." The training helped hone specific moves to share with her classes bringing the most benefit to participants.

"I get the whole body going. I certainly work every single muscle possible. I use a lot of rhythm," explained Smith-Stallman. "It really gives spirit. It gives joy," she noted.

That joy may be at the heart of the class. That and the sense of community, because too often, as the disease progresses, the world shrinks. Here, there are no boundaries.

"'Cause exercise is the best medicine for Parkinson's disease," pointed out Eson.

The classes are held weekly at the Ciccotti Center. They cost $5 a class. Just call to register.

Credits

Benita Zahn

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