Canadaâ€™s National Ballet School is offering a dance class thatâ€™s giving the joy of movement back to people living with Parkinsonâ€™s disease.
Dancing With Parkinsonâ€™s invites participants to attend a class and work on their co-ordination, balance and stamina â€” physical abilities often affected by the disease.
The classes, offered in Toronto and the surrounding area, are an accessible way for participants to enjoy movement, giving them a momentary break from the realities of their condition.
â€śYou realize at the end that youâ€™ve moved without really thinking about it.â€ť
â€śYou realize at the end that youâ€™ve moved without really thinking about it,â€ť said participant Hugh Crosthwait.
He explained people with Parkinsonâ€™s are always conscious of movement. They're concerned about falling or knocking things over so the dance creates what he calls a â€śflow.â€ť It allows them to forget about how they are moving and just have fun.
The class has fostered a community of support, and encourages participants to leave behind any self-consciousness they may feel because of their condition.
Part dance class, part study
Researchers are using the class to monitor how Parkinsonâ€™s impacts the body, and whether dance affects the brains of people with the disease.
A study published last year in the Journal of Neural Transmission suggested that participants experienced improvements in overall movement, as well as feelings of empowerment and a sense of community after taking the class.
Dancing With Parkinson's was designed by Sarah Robichaud, a classically trained dancer who took an interest in the disease when a client asked for her help to manage their symptoms through exercise.
After that, she attended a workshop in New York for Parkinsonâ€™s disease dancing and brought the methods she learned back to Canada.
Parkinsonâ€™s disease affects approximately 1 in 500 Canadians.