Nfld. & Labrador

Parkinson's patients re-learning the joy of dance

A group of people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease took part in a special workshop on Monday to get their bodies moving again.
Canada's National Ballet School was in St. John's on Monday for a very special mission: to hold workshops for people with Parkinson's, who might have thought their dancing days were over. 2:39

A group of people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease took part in a special workshop on Monday to get their bodies moving again.

Canada's National Ballet School held the workshop in St. John's for about a dozen people who likely thought their dancing days were over.
A group of people in various stages of Parkinson's took part in a workshop on Monday, that saw them dancing and getting their bodies moving again. (CBC)

All of the participants are in various stages of Parkinson's, the disease that slowly robs those it afflicts with the ease of movement.

Ray Will said he used to be enjoy long-distance running before his diagnosis.

"I got out of it once the Parkinson's disease kind of took hold. So, this might encourage me to get back into doing it again," he said.

Will said the workshop was exhausting work, but encouraged him to continue trying movement.

"It's very interesting — it's a very important part of the Parkinson's disease is keeping moving, and it's very good. These young women are very encouraging and very professional," said Will.

Remembering the feeling of movement

The participants start with simple classical ballet moves, then are instructed to use the movements to tell short little stories.

Ashley Powell, one of the two National Ballet School instructors who conducted the workshop, said participants move more confidently once they remember the feeling of movement.
Ashley Powell, with Canada's National Ballet School, says getting people with Parkinson's moving again is important for the patients to encourage more movement. (CBC)

"This is our first time here. It was a first-time session for us as teachers, a first-time session for them as dancers, so part of it is just getting to know the people in the room and creating and environment where they can feel comfortable expressing themselves and sharing through movement with each other and with us," said Powell.

"I think this class gives you a licence to move the way you want, and that movement and music together can invoke a lot of emotions — can make you feel things, can make you release things. Even just taking a deep breath in and releasing it can tap into that kind of nervous system and your emotions."

Powell said over a number of sessions, the instructors can get to know the dancers better and maybe listen and dance to music they enjoyed when they were younger.

The local chapter of the Parkinson Society is now looking to set up its own dance program.

With files from Azzo Rezori

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