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Dance for Parkinson's kicks off its fourth year with visit from Mark Morris Dance Group

Tuesday September 25, 2012

Evergreen Health

Herald online - Laughter and joy are classroom staples at a popular dance class that combines live music and dance instruction from world-class professional dancers. Dance for Parkinson's inspires those living with Parkinson's disease (PD) to explore the benefits of dance and movement with others who share some of the challenging symptoms of the disease.

Dance for Parkinson's was initiated in the Northwest by Seattle Theatre Group in partnership with EvergreenHealth and Spectrum Dance Theater, later expanding to include Northwest Parkinson's Foundation and Des Moines Senior Center. Classes are offered in Kirkland (Peter Kirk Community Center), Seattle (Garfield Community Center) and Des Moines (Des Moines Senior Center).

EvergreenHealth is one of the first healthcare organizations in the nation to provide this program, hosting a quarterly series of classes each year since 2009.

Classes are free of charge, are led by professional dancers, and engage students in dance styles such as ballet, jazz, contemporary, tap and world dance to address PD-specific concerns such as balance, flexibility, coordination, isolation and depression. No dance experience is required, and the fun, uplifting classes are a welcome respite from the stress of Parkinson's on participants and caregivers.

"The ability to help Parkinson's patients reclaim independent movement through creative dance is effective therapy not just physically, but emotionally," said Dr. Juan Aragon, Director of Medical Specialties and Medical Staff at EvergreenHealth. "Dancers leave the class glowing and truly inspired, which is beautiful to see in our patients."

A new 8-week fall season will kick-off with a special visit from David Leventhal, former principal dancer for Mark Morris Dance Group from 1997-2011 and Program Manager for Dance for PD® in New York City.

Dance for PD® was born of collaboration between Mark Morris Dance Group and Brooklyn Parkinson's Group Executive Director Olie Westheimer in 2001, with global expansion taking off in 2005. Today, classes are held across the United States and the world, including Tel Aviv and Auckland. A Seattle native, Mark Morris is the Artistic Director of the internationally renowned Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn, New York.

"Although participants from all over the world tell us they find elements of the class therapeutic, the primary goal of our program is for people to enjoy dance for dancing's sake in a group setting—and to explore the range of physical and creative possibilities that are still very much open to them," said David Leventhal.

Leventhal is visiting Seattle to host a seminar for health professionals, physical therapists, social workers, senior program professionals and any member of the public who is interested in learning more about the unique approach of this community arts and health program. The seminar will be held at Garfield Community Center on Oct. 4, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and will incorporate a live class to demonstrate the benefits of the program for participants.

"We're so pleased to see the Mark Morris Dance Group's initial partnership with Seattle Theatre Group, EvergreenHealth and Spectrum Dance Theater blossom into such a strong, high-quality program with multiple sites reaching multiple districts in the Seattle area," said Leventhal. "The success of the Seattle program shows just how effective arts and health programs can be when organizations that share an innovative vision work together collaboratively."

Participation in Kirkland is robust, with around 30 dancers per session last season. The fall program anticipates similar popularity during its 11-12:30 p.m. Saturday class beginning on Sept. 29. Classes take place in Des Moines on Mondays, 2-3:30pm, beginning Oct. 1 and in Seattle on Thursdays, 11-12:30pm beginning Oct. 4.

"It is truly breathtaking to witness a student so immersed in beautiful movement that the essence of who they are transcends the symptoms of the disease," said Shawn Roberts, Education Director for Spectrum Dance Theater and Teaching Artist Manager, Dance for Parkinson's in Seattle.

Classes are free of charge at all three sites. Space is limited, so pre-registration is required. To register for the Kirkland classes, visit EvergreenHealth online. To register for the Seattle and Des Moines classes, visit Northwest Parkinson's Foundation online. People interested in the Mark Morris Dance Group Dance for PD seminar on Oct. 4 can sign up online.