Innovative ballet program benefits those who suffer from the disease
By Debra Downey, Senior Editor
For 68-year-old Terry McCartney, the social aspect of Dance for PD is almost as important as the physical benefits.
McCartney was one of the first people to sign up last April for the innovative dance therapy program at Hamilton City Ballet in Dundas.
“It makes you feel a little more limber. You have a little less problem walking, and socially connecting with people, that helps too,” said McCartney.
The Hamilton resident was diagnosed 12 years ago with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative neurological disorder for which there is no cure.
McCartney said when he was first diagnosed, doctors recommended exercise to improve mobility, increase range of motion and reduce stiffness.
“I tried going to the gym, but I found it a bit boring,” said McCartney. “You’re on your own, with nobody to give you direction.”
Dance for PD was developed in 2001 in collaboration with the Mark Morris Dance Group, based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Hamilton City Ballet founders Max Ratevosian and Melania Pawliw and program manager Jody White all received training in the program before bringing it to Canada.
White, a health-care professional for more than 14 years, said Dance for PD classes are based on a full-length ballet, with choreography and live classical music reflecting the story-line.
“By teaching the storylines, introducing the characters, incorporating pantomime and movement, participants use both physical activity and imagination to enhance their therapy,” she said.
Live music by Mate Szigeti on the flute and violinist Anita Hiripi completes the experience.
As an instructor, White sees an almost immediate change in the students participating in the program.
“You can see their joy, the movement and the effort they put into it,” she said. “Their confidence grows, from the time they walk into the class to the time they leave.”
For participant McCartney there is nothing quite as exhilarating as the ballet classes, and he tries not to miss a single session.
“It improves your balance and mobility, and with the social aspect, your well-being. The classes also instill confidence, and you have to think about doing the exercises, so it improves your mental acuity as well.”
After each class, volunteers, students and staff are welcome to enjoy a cupcake and friendship time, with treats provided by Beyond the Batter Cupcakes. For the 17 people who were enrolled in the spring session, classes were also offered free, thanks to a grant from global biopharmaceutical giant UCB Canada Inc.
Classes take place at St. Paul’s United Church, 29 Park St. W., Dundas. For more information or to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.