People with Parkinson’s May Find Movement a Challenge, but When They Dance, Their Spirits Soar with Ease

October 8, 2014

Dance for Parkinsons“I have Parkinson’s and sometimes I have dyskinesia (involuntary movement) from the medicine. The dance teachers say every movement is a dance. So I guess I dance all the time,” says Connie Zara, with humor.

Connie has worked at Iona since 1993 and was one of the first students to join the Dance for PD® program when it started at Iona in the spring of 2013. The class follows the technique and content of the innovative Dance for PD program developed by the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group. Similar classes are taught in a variety of settings in more than 100 locations in the United States and abroad. Accomplished dancer and teacher Margot Greenlee brought the class to Iona, where it is currently offered on Thursday afternoons from 2:00-3:00.

Our sunny studio space becomes a place where people living with Parkinson’s become dancers—at least for an hour. Margot is joined by coteachers Bob Sacheli and violinist Anthony Hyatt, who accompanies the dancers beautifully, often improvising to work with the movements of the dancers. Dance for PD is based on the premise that professionally trained dancers are movement experts whose knowledge is useful to persons living with Parkinson’s, particularly about stretching, strengthening muscles, balance, and rhythm. Margot, Bob, and Anthony create an enjoyable, social environment where participants can explore movement drawn from many styles of dance in ways that are stimulating and creative.

Other than a little bit of ballet as a little girl, Connie had not studied dance until she joined the class. She says, “I like it a lot. It’s very good for balance and it keeps me going. Sometimes I go, and my meds haven’t really kicked in, and I can’t move very much, but I keep at it.” She adds, “Some of our participants use wheelchairs and walkers. They come in not knowing what to expect—and by the end they are smiling. Everyone is so nice—and you are with other people who understand what you are going through.”

Written by Susan A. Messina

Iona’s Director of Development and Communications, Susan holds three master’s degrees, including two from Bryn Mawr’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive.