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How regular dance classes could help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s

PUBLISHED: 15:03 27 March 2014 | UPDATED: 15:03 27 March 2014

A Parkinson's Dance class - a fun and social way to keep fit and mobile

A Parkinson's Dance class - a fun and social way to keep fit and mobile

Archant

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that affects movement and coordination. However new research reveals that regular dance classes could help manage symptoms

Dennis Ross a Parkinson's Dance participant who is doing a sponsored bike ride in South AfricaDennis Ross a Parkinson's Dance participant who is doing a sponsored bike ride in South Africa

Recent figures revealed that one person in every 500 has Parkinson’s, which amounts to about 127,000 people in the UK. Although drugs and treatments are available there is currently no cure, and the condition can be very debilitating. Emerging research indicates that movement and dance can help with the management of the symptoms of Parkinson’s. As a result specialist dance classes are being established across the UK alongside an expanding network of experienced teachers, dedicated to providing a high quality dance experience to people with Parkinson’s through the Dance for Parkinson’s UK network.

Pavilion Dance South West in Bournemouth has been one of the first in the UK to run Parkinson’s Dance classes, which started back in September 2012. The weekly classes focus on socialising and overcoming the symptoms of the condition in a fun and light-hearted way, and not dwelling on the negatives.

One of the main aims of Parkinson’s Dance is to improve mobility. The class consists of a myriad of exercises and dances in different genres to a variety of toe-tapping soundtracks. Alongside the physical dance therapy, the class includes speech therapy whereby the participants join in voice exercises and have a little sing-along.

Talking to members of the class it’s clear that they are passionate about the way the Parkinson’s Dance class is changing their lives. John Wood has been taking part in the classes since they first started. “Medical science has come a long way; however there are a lot of alternative therapies that complement the medical side of treating Parkinson’s, one of which is dance,” says John who attends the weekly classes with his wife Dianne. “Parkinson’s is all about managing your condition. The more you use the muscles and limbs, the easier it is to cope with the symptoms.”

John Wood who has attended Parkinson's Dance since it first startedJohn Wood who has attended Parkinson's Dance since it first started

Both John and Dianne enjoy the classes which are taught by dance teacher Aimee Smith and dancer and physiotherapist Sophia Hulbert. “Quite apart from the physical benefits we gain from the movement, we get the pleasure of sharing time with two ‘lovely movers’ who have almost as much fun as we do,” laughs John.

Dennis Ross is another who is benefitting from Parkinson’s Dance. Since being diagnosed and joining the class, Dennis has been inspired to take up cycling. Even though he has only been training for 15 months, he is undertaking the challenge to participate in the Argus Cycle Tour, South Africa this spring, to raise funds for the Bournemouth class he attends. “Parkinson’s won’t stop me!” he says.

Parkinson’s Dance currently runs 10 classes across the country and the hope is that more will be added. At the Bournemouth class teachers Aimee and Sophia tell the students about the benefits and physiological effects of the dance movements and exercises. This, says Sophia, adds a further therapeutic element to the sessions. “There is a lot of research into trying to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, which is fantastic and we all want to promote and support that. But until that cure is found it is really important that we help people that have the condition now to improve their lifestyle physically, psychologically and socially, and dance is a fantastic way of achieving that.”

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What is Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that affects approximately one in every 500 people in the UK. The symptoms vary although a predominant sign is uncoordinated movement. For more information on the causes, symptoms and treatment of Parkinson’s, and where to find support visit parkinsons.org.uk

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Get Involved

To raise awareness for the condition, Pavilion Dance South West will celebrate World Parkinson’s Awareness Day on Saturday 12 April. The day will feature information stalls, workshops and discussion panels with local artists, health and wellbeing organisations, and representatives of the NHS and Parkinson’s UK.

Parkinson’s Dance class takes place at Pavilion Dance South West, Bournemouth, every Friday 3.15–4.45pm. The class is £3.50 per session (carers come for free) followed by a 30 minute social. For more information about Dance for Parkinson’s visit danceforparkinsonsuk.org
For more information on the class, World Parkinson’s Day, or to support Dennis’s cycle ride visit pdsw.org.uk

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