Dance For Parkinson’s: More Than Just Exercise
By Sarah Leversee ~
Exercise is often the primary reason people first try a dance for Parkinson’s class. Once they experience the music, the movement, magic of dance firsthand, they fall in love with it. Then they discover it is so much more than just a great workout.
Dancers with Parkinson’s talk about experiencing an easing of symptoms during class. Margie Dahlin explains, “I always start class with a tremor, and by the time class is over, I don’t have a tremor at all. I move differently, I carry myself differently—I can sense the change. You go with the flow and become so wrapped up. It is such a mindful experience. I feel like something has been lifted off my shoulders and I feel like a new person.”
Dancing provides an arena to feel like an integrated body working as a whole instead of feeling like a patient. In dance class, we welcome both the struggling parts and thriving parts of the body, as well as the awareness of how things can change unexpectedly from day to day. Embracing and honoring your dancer body can be liberating and fortifying—it is something gained among so many things lost when dealing with Parkinson’s.
Breathing compassion into the struggling parts, breathing gratitude into the thriving parts and the ability to see all those parts as an integrated, whole body is a practice that participants can carry with them every day.
Dance class always begins with a guided meditation. The opening invitation is: “Close your eyes…and focus on your breath. Letting everything slow down…asking everything that is going on outside this room, to stay outside this room…and arrive here…in this moment…in this body…in this safe and supportive dancer community.”
The focus on the breath is brought back repeatedly throughout the class as a tool to ease pain and tension. This is also a reminder to be mindful of what is happening in your own dancer body.
In dance class, you get a gold star just for showing up. Doing it “right” is never the goal because we let go of perfection and expectation. Dancers are invited to stay curious about what is possible for their bodies today—to explore the movements but never force the movements. Listening and being responsive to your own body serves you while dancing, but is also deeply valuable beyond the walls of the class.