Every Wednesday afternoon, BPG participants, family members and friends come to the Mark Morris Dance Center to dance. Students in the class warm up as dancers do, and they learn movement and steps from actual Mark Morris Dance Group repertory along with other dance styles – tap, ballet and jazz. In the process students learn strategies that dancers use to dance, such as controlled movement, balance, and proprioception. Everyone dances together, independently, in wheel chairs or using walkers.
The class is led by professional dancers, two of whom currently perform with the current Mark Morris company. A pianist provides live music for the class. BPG first approached Mark Morris Dance Group with the idea to develop these classes in 2001. Widespread interest in Dance for PD® led MMDG and BPG to increase the number of classes in Brooklyn and expand Dance for PD® beyond Brooklyn.
Since 2007 Mark Morris Dance Group and Brooklyn Parkinson Group, have offered Dance for PD® workshops for dancers and PD organizations interested in learning how to organize and teach Dance for PD® classes. It is now possible to attend a Dance for PD® class in more than 40 communities in the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe. More Dance for PD® classes are in development.
Scientists and neurologists have begun to evaluate the benefits of this groundbreaking class, but the participants who dance together every week do so for the sheer joy and camaraderie of dancing. One spouse in Brooklyn whose husband has PD says, “I don’t know how we managed before. Dance for PD® has become the high point of our week.”
- To read a personal reflection about Dance for PD® classes written by BPG participant Joy Esterberg, click here (pdf).
- To learn more about the Brooklyn Parkinson Group /Mark Morris Dance Group partnership, Dance for PD® classes and workshops, click here.
Why dance for PD? Five reasons are listed below. There are many more.
- Dancing is joyful. Dancing to live music is especially joyful.
- Dancing is excellent exercise. A dance class provides a complete workout. Dancing stretches, strengthens, and relaxes muscles.
- Dancing is first and foremost, a mental activity. Dancing involves using the brain as well as the body to control movement. The brain gets a complete workout too.
- Dancing makes use of the senses. Conscious use of vision, hearing and touch makes moving easier for persons with PD, just as it does for dancers.
- Dancing is a meaningful, inclusive activity. In class everyone is acknowledged. We all dance, talk and laugh together, persons recently diagnosed, persons with a walker, in a wheelchair, attendants, caregivers, friends, dancers. Sometimes we sing along too.