Why Dance for Parkinson’s Disease – watch the 4 minute video
“I am awed by the power of dance to transform and alleviate pain. Despite the steady advance of Parkinson’s, we show up. We move. We laugh. We share our best selves.”
—Patricia Needle, Dance for PD participant, Berkeley, CA (Hear more of Patricia’s perspective here.
“If we can share our love of dance, and we know the benefits of dance and music physically, emotionally and socially – the world becomes much more tolerable and compassionate for all those affected by PD.”
—Ingrid Hurlen, Dance for PD trainee and teacher, Seattle, WA
“In the consultation room, I often get on my soap box and give a little lecture about the important of physical activity, social interaction, mental stimulation…and Dance for PD gives all three of those.”
–Neil Mahant, MD, neurologist and neurophysiologist, Westmead Public Hospital, Westmead Private Hospital, Sydney, Australia
“Dance for Parkinson’s Disease is more than a possible therapy or treatment…it’s a dose of meaningfulness for these patients. It’s a small jewel that gets them working on something that helps them feel connected.”
–Jay Baruch, MD, Alpert Medical School, Brown University, Providence, RI
Why Dance for PD
The ten points below explain why dance is particularly beneficial for people with Parkinson’s disease.
- Dance develops flexibility and instills confidence.
- Dance is first and foremost a stimulating mental activity that connects mind to body.
- Dance breaks isolation.
- Dance invokes imagery in the service of graceful movement.
- Dance focuses attention on eyes, ears and touch as tools to assist in movement and balance.
- Dance increases awareness of where all parts of the body are in space.
- Dance tells stories.
- Dance sparks creativity.
- The basis of dance is rhythm.
- The essence of dance is joy.
Dance for PD classes allow people with Parkinson’s to experience the joys and benefits of dance while creatively addressing symptom-specific concerns related to balance, cognition, motor skill, depression and physical confidence.
The program’s fundamental working principle is that professionally-trained dancers are movement experts whose knowledge about balance, sequencing, rhythm and aesthetic awareness is useful to persons with PD. In class, teaching artists integrate movement from modern, ballet, tap, folk and social dancing, and choreographic repertory to engage participants’ minds and bodies and create an enjoyable, social environment for artistic exploration.
Dance for PD has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Dance Magazine, The Guardian and hundreds of other publications, as well as on NBS, ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS and NPR. The program has been honored by several awards, including the Parkinson Awareness Award, Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award, the Sapolin Award for Public Service from the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and the William Pearson Tolley Medal for Distinguished Leadership in Life Long Learning.
A growing body of scientific research conducted at a number of major university research centers around the world including Roehampton University, University of Florida, Queensland University of Technology, York University and the University of Freiburg points to the benefits of dance for people with Parkinson’s. A number of leading neurologists and movement disorder specialists around the world include Dance for PD classes among a shortlist of recommended activities for their patients.
The classes engage the participants’ minds and bodies, and create an enjoyable, social environment that emphasizes dancing rather than therapy. Active demonstration by professional dancers inspires participants to recapture grace, while guided improvisation fosters creativity, and experimentation with movement.
“The fundamentals of dancing and dance training—things like balance, movement sequencing, rhythm, spatial and aesthetic awareness, and dynamic coordination—seem to address many of the things people with Parkinson’s want to work on to maintain a sense of confidence and grace in their movements. Although participants from all over the world tell us they find elements of the class therapeutic, the primary goal of our program is for people to enjoy dance for dancing’s sake in a group setting—and to explore the range of physical, artistic and creative possibilities that are still very much open to them.”—David Leventhal, Dance for PD founding teacher, Brooklyn, NY