The other day I was asked to give a talk about the dance classes I teach at a Neuro Wellness Center that offers a variety of classes and resources for people with Parkinson’s. I’ve been teaching dance classes there for a few years along with classes that combine dance, theatre games, and vocal work. New members continue to join the Center and the weekly community “Coffee Talks’ provide a place to talk about the classes with new and continuing members alike.
Dance is one of the arts notoriously hard to describe — “ Talking about music is like dancing about architecture” as Martin Mull famously said, capturing three arts in one sentence. Just the term dance can be a little off-putting to some. People hear it and immediately picture tights and pirouettes and movement phrases too long to remember. It can be worrisome, the idea of stepping on a partners foot or starting on the right foot when it was supposed to be the left. Those concerns can become more pronounced when the dancers are navigating a neurological disease that impacts their movement.
People often think of dance strictly as performance on a stage, and most typically as a series of steps a dancer needs to learn. They are of course partially right, and yet….
It seems to me that dancing is kind of like sitting down to a good meal rich with benefits and delights – (lots of great dance happens while sitting) – especially the benefit of it being good for you. At its most basic, a healthy meal provides the nutrition we need; vitamins, fiber, proteins and fats. It fuels us. But a really splendid meal offers so much more. It includes all those warm smells wafting up from the table linking the present with our memory of past meals, events, and people. It includes vibrant images of color and form with tastes that are good unto themselves and delicious when combined with others. A good meal is often a shared meal and it provides sensory satisfaction as well as a coming together with others to enjoy the offerings. As does dance. At its most basic it is a series of steps – nutritious building blocks made through shape, time and effort. Yet as we dance – as the meal is made and eaten – those building blocks lead to something larger or greater. Yes, we move breath through the body, warm the muscles and consider our alignment as we move. Yes, we practice shifting our weight, finding our balance, recalling a pattern. But the dance, like the meal, is made up not only of the parts – combinations of steps and phrases – but of the whole. It fuels not only our energy but our spirit. Our cooking and our dancing, are expressions of who we are and encompass feelings of wonder, delight, passion, frustration, learning, fun, and companionship along the way. There is a deliciousness in both.
All safe movement is good for us, but it is dance movement that is an expression of who and how we are. We dance to inhabit our whole self and in doing so we enjoy the experience as we enjoy a wonderful meal. Through dance we bring color and feeling to our movement. We put elements together to create the flavor, and along the way we find some dishes or steps that we’re not that fond of, others that we love and want to have and do again and again. Dancing with others – sharing the delight, the frustration, the community of fun, is sharing the meal.
“Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.”
― Martha Graham
About Dance for PD®
Weekly Parkinson’s Dance Classes are offered at Banner Neuro Wellness Center
207 N. Gilbert Road in Gilbert, Ariz. (480) 699-0537
Wednesday: 9:30 -10:45
Friday 10:15 – 11:30
Dance for PD® ( Mark Morris Dance Group ) offers dance classes for people with Parkinson’s disease in Brooklyn, New York and, through a network of partners and associates, in more than 100 other communities around the world ( including the Phoenix area ). Participants are empowered to explore movement and music in ways that are refreshing, enjoyable, stimulating and creative. The Dance for PD® method has been presented at the International Congress for Parkinson’s Disease and Related Disorders in Berlin (2005), the World Parkinson Congress in Washington, D.C. (2006) and at Neuroscience 2008 in Washington D.C. The program was recognized as a model program at the Society for the Arts in Healthcare’s annual conference and The World Parkinson Congresses in Glasgow in 2010.
Visit www.danceforpd.org for more information. DVD’s for classes at home are available for purchase through the site.