Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Dancing for Joy!

Dancing is a wonderful way to let go. When we dance, we let the music take over, leaving worries behind.

You might think that dance as stress relief wouldn’t work for people with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease – that dancing might not be an option at all. 

But the participants of the NMS Dancing With Parkinson’s program would be the first to tell you that isn’t so. For them, the class is a chance to look beyond the world of their diagnosis, to socialize and to build community.

And yes, a chance to dance!

“We don’t address the disease,” says Laura Richling, who along with Rachel Balaban teaches the DWP classes. “We don’t approach it as a therapy or exercise session.”

It is, simply, “a dance class,” she says. Of course, there are certain factors to consider when teaching a class for people with Parkinson’s or other neurological diseases, as well their partners and caretakers, who are all welcome to attend. For instance, some use canes and wheelchairs throughout, and some dance while remaining seated.

What Richling means, however, is that DWP – which is offered free of charge at three locations in New Haven, Middletown and New London – isn’t focused solely on Parkinson’s. Instead, it’s about exploring movement and making new friends, or spending quality time with a partner or caregiver.

And it’s about amazing results. For some participants the class eliminates symptoms during the session, or even reduces symptoms outside of class, thanks to the emphasis on to learning new choreography and increasing mind/body awareness.

DWP is based on the Dance for PD program, founded by the Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn, N.Y. The program focuses on important factors including developing flexibility, increasing socialization, increasing body awareness and sparking creativity. Both Richling and Balaban trained with the group before becoming teachers. They have continued that relationship, conducting master classes with the Mark Morris group when they attend the annual International Arts and Ideas Festival, including a very special event in June, featuring a panel discussion and screening of the film, “Capturing Grace,” []  from director Dave Iverson.

For many, DWP is a way to forget about Parkinson’s for awhile, as one such participant so eloquently stated:

"For an hour and a half, once a week in dance class, I take on a new persona, one without the diagnosis of Parkinson’s. I leave outside the door present limits and anxieties for the future. This is a time to join with others and appreciate to the utmost the respite. Time stands still and I am enveloped in the world of movement, music and a fine tuned, joyful and funny teacher. I am conscious of the value of each movement that seems simple but is actually encouraging more fluidity and less rigidity. There are no judgments and the underlying message is to do what you are able with joy, laughter and creativity. I am delighted to focus on the abilities that come forth, the strengths that remain. I walk out the door standing taller, with more external and internal balance and a steadier gait."

DWP is currently offering summer session classes. This fall, classes will be held weekly in at the Middletown Senior Center in Middletown and at the Crozier-Williams Student Center at Connecticut College New London, and every other week at the First Presbyterian Church in New Haven. 

Visit ourNeighborhood Music schools DWP  information page or contact Laura Richling at for more information or call 203 624 5189