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Don’t Stop Dancing
New research suggests a strong, positive correlation between dancing and short and long-term symptom improvement in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. In particular, Dr. J. Antonelle de Marcaida of Eastern Connecticut Neurology Specialists saw increases in the range of motion and improved gait, balance and rigidity in facial muscles. While any form of exercise is key in decreasing the symptoms of Parkinson’s, dancing, especially the Argentine tango, results in changes similar to those seen with pharmacological interventions. In addition to improvements in physicality, dance has also been associated with improvements in brain function. Performing movements require cognitive processing and the added factors of personal creativity and imagination also stimulate the mind. Further, because classes most often occur in group settings, dancing benefits individuals socially. In these ways, dancing hits on a lot of factors important to improving overall quality of life in typical and atypical aging.
As executive director of the Brooklyn Parkinson Group, Olie Westheimer sought to develop a program that would bring dance classes to her organization’s members. In collaboration with the Mark Morris Dance Group, “Dance for PD” was initiated in 2001. Participants begin the class in a seated position and can sit for the entire class if they wish. A live pianist provides the music in the Brooklyn studio. Since 2011, “Dance for PD” classes have been offered in various locations throughout the United States and abroad.

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