Parkinson's

Starting next week, seniors — including those with Parkinson’s Disease and their families and caregivers — will have a chance to dance at The Well. Shown, from left, are John Gerber, Midge Gerber, Christa St. John and Leslie Kraus.

Dance for Parkinson’s classes start next week.

The University of Oklahoma is collaborating with The Well to put on a dance class for people with Parkinson’s disease, as well as their family members and caregivers and any senior who is interested in moving their body.

The class starts from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Thursdays, starting Jan. 19.

Kathleen Redwine is a professor of dance at OU, and she has received training on how to teach dance to people with Parkinson’s.

“What they found through multiple research studies is that many forms of exercise, including dance, help slow down the progress of Parkinson’s,” said Redwine. “They found that dance is one of the best exercises for people with the disease.”

The program was developed about 20 years ago in New York at the Mark Morris Dance Center in conjunction with the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group, and it has trained dance instructors throughout the U.S.

Redwine and her colleague, Leslie Kraus, attended the training four years ago and have been teaching it in Norman since.

“It’s for people with Parkinson’s at any stage, their caregivers or family members, and by opening it up to anyone, it is available to any senior,” said Redwine. “It’s really wonderful exercise, and it’s dance actually, so it’s not just the formulaic movement of your arm.”

Michael Bearden, professor of dance at OU, said that the class allows locals with similar experiences to gather in a safe space.

“Our Dance for Parkinson’s classes offer people in our community living with Parkinson’s an opportunity to express themselves through movement,” he said. “They become part of building a community that is filled with dignity, respect and support for one another.”

Bearden is invested in the program because he understands the trials that those with the disease experience.

“My grandmother had Parkinson’s disease and it was hard to watch her slowly lose control of her own body. I see supporting our Dance for Parkinson’s program as a way to give back to people like my grandmother by using the art form I am passionate about,” he said.

Jessie Lynn is a senior at OU who is majoring in ballet performance and online journalism, and she will assist with dance instruction.

“I think Dance for Parkinson’s is so important to me because I have seen its impact firsthand,” said Lynn.

Her grandfather Robert L. Lynn, a University of Oklahoma alum, poet and former college president, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

“He took a Dance for Parkinson’s class in the same studios that I was dancing in as a ballet performance major at OU, and I occasionally got to take class with him, which I felt was a special and unique way to bond,” said Lynn. “My grandfather has passed away since then, but his Dance for Parkinson’s classes each week gave him a sense of community and an exercise that engaged his brain and body, which I believe was important for maintaining his mobility as his illness progressed.”

Students who attend the class will be able to learn, using props from actual dance productions.

Last year, the group learned to perform a few adapted dances from “The Nutcracker,” and this year they will take on a number of routines from George Balanchine’s “Serenade.”

“So, we are going to learn an adaptation of the very beginning of the ballet, which is one of the iconic moments in ballet,” said Redwine.

The class does not always focus on structured routines.

Students will also learn how to improvise, and routines will be adapted to an individual’s ability.

For information, visit dance.ou.edu/dance-for-pd.

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