DW pilots workshop for people living with Parkinson’s

JACKSON, WY — Dancers’ Workshop is extending the power of dance to people in the community living with Parkson’s.

DW will host a pilot workshop to people with Parkinson’s, their families, friends, and caretakers. Based on Dance for PD, a national program, the series of three classes will offer people living with Parkinson’s to experience the transformative power of dance — for free.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurogenerative disorder that gradually impairs balance and mobility. Dancing provides an excuse for people living with Parkinson’s to move their bodies in ways that are not only good for them but, perhaps more importantly, fun.

“[Dancing] is super joyful and not intimidating,” said DW School Director Eric Midgley. “With dance, you’re connecting with your physicality and sort of bypassing the analytical self-judgment.”

Midgley can’t speak to the science behind dance and Parkinson’s, and indeed most of the evidence is anecdotal, but it does exist. Midgley’s father is living proof. He has Parkinson’s, and he dances.

“For my father, part of what Parkinson’s does is it makes him move smaller,” Midgley explained. “Dance helps him expand his movement … he’s making larger movements, opening his chest, arching his spine.”

And for someone with increasingly limited mobility, any movement is better than none. “The more physical, the better.” Midgely said.

Approving the program was a no-brainer. DW Artistic Director Babs Case and local caregiver Becky Strouth have dreamed of offering such a program for a long time. When returning instructor Robin Paulson approached DW to offer the workshop, there was only one answer: absolutely.

“We like to say yes to most things anyway, but it was a big yes this time,” Midgley said.

Paulson is a certified instructor through Dance for PD, the national program. The classes are designed to be fun and encouraging for people of all experience levels and abilities. Participants need not be intimidated — each can move at their own pace and, for standing portions of the class, there is always an equally-engaging seated option. The goal is simply to have fun.

The workshop is free to people living with Parkinson’s, their caretakers, spouses, family, and friends. This is a pilot program offered in three workshops — the next three Tuesdays from 2-3:15 p.m. But if all goes well, Dancers’ Workshop hopes to make it an ongoing offering.

Participants can register in advance online. Workshops are 2-3:15 p.m. Sept. 10, 17, and 24 in Dancers’ Workshop Studio 3 (second floor of Center for the Arts). Comfortable street clothes are perfect attire and while most participants wear socks or go barefoot, shoes are welcome — just make sure the soles are clean. And most importantly, Midgley said, “bring a sense of fun and a willingness to participate.”

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