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Island group brings national ‘Dance for PD’ to Vashon

Wednesday May 30, 2012


Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber Reporter - Islanders with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders will have the opportunity to dance this week when teachers from the Seattle-based Dance for PD program offer a class on Vashon.

The class, 90 minutes of movement and music designed especially for people with Parkinson’s disease, will be led by two dance instructors experienced in teaching the program and will include live music with piano, drums and rhythm instruments, according to Deborah Magallanes, one of the teachers.

First created by the Mark Morris Dance Group in New York roughly a decade ago, Dance for PD classes exist in more than 75 communities across the country, including Seattle, where they began in 2008, according to Clare Connell of the Seattle Theater Group, a partner of the program.

The classes have their roots in ballet and modern dance, and include bar work, seated movement and dance steps across the floor if people are able.

Parkinson’s disease, a common movement disorder typically affecting people 60 and older, is often marked by tremors, muscle rigidity and slowness of movement. Simple, everyday tasks can be difficult, but participating in dance brings a multitude of benefits, which some research studies have confirmed, including helping with mobility in the short term, improving balance and creating a support system. And, of course, dancing is fun.

“We laugh a lot,” Magallanes said.

Magallanes, who also teaches Dance for PD classes in Port Angeles and Anacortes, noted that some students cannot do all the movements. Seated people, for example, cannot do a plié — a move that calls for a dancer to stand and bend his or her knees. But seated people can manifest elements of the move and capture its essence.

“When I look at my students, I see dancers,” she added.

The Vashon Parkinson’s Support Group, which meets monthly, is bringing Friday’s class to Vashon, and organizers encourage all people with Parkinson’s disease to attend, as well as stroke survivors, people with multiple sclerosis, other neurological disorders and their caregivers.

Steve Steffens, a member of the group and one of those responsible for bringing the dance class to the Island, said members of the support group hope there will be sufficient interest in this week’s Dance for PD class to offer it regularly. The group would like to see an Island dancer become interested in the work and complete the Dance for PD training — available in many cities, including Seattle — and then serve as the group’s leader on an ongoing basis.

Bob Douglas, another member of the group, noted there is a yoga class for people with Parkinson’s on the Island, and he believes the dance class, too, will be helpful to people facing the challenges of Parkinson’s.

Like the support group members, Magallanes said she hopes the class will become a staple on Vashon.

“The less you move, the smaller your world gets,” she said. “Movement is life.”

Dance for PD will meet from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Friday, June 1, at the Vashon Lutheran Church. The class is free. For more information, call Steve Steffens at 567-5976.


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