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Indiana Parkinson’s disease patients learning to push back against symptoms by dancing


BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — Not even the bitterest cold of the year could keep members of one of Bloomington’s newest and warmest groups away from class.

The small but committed band of regulars for Dance for Parkinson’s, all affected either directly or indirectly by the disease, converged on their classroom — the dance studio for Windfall Dancers — to push back against the ailment’s creeping physical effects through improvised song and dance.

The original “regular,” Mary-Louise “Weezie” Smith, ascends Windfall’s short staircase and collects herself at the top, beaming. Her energy is infectious.

That energy is a principal reason the group exists, The Herald-Times reported (http://bit.ly/WMpyzm ).

Smith, diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2003, has spearheaded the effort to bring the burgeoning alternative dance class to Bloomington, first learning about it via a 2010 feature on PBS’s NewsHour.

Refusing to be stopped by the degenerative condition, Smith contacted program manager and founding teacher David Leventhal at his Brooklyn headquarters, where the program had begun in 2001.

Leventhal not only encouraged her to establish a local chapter in Bloomington, but advised her on how to go about it.

One of her first moves was to contact Elizabeth Shea, head of the Contemporary Dance program at Indiana University and a professor in the department of kinesiology.

Shea already had heard of Dance for Parkinson’s from a number of dance and social media outlets.

“I knew the program sounded fantastic and had also heard it featured on one of the morning shows on television,” Shea said. “Then I received a call last spring from Weezie, who is a Professor Emeritus at the (Jacobs) School of Music. She said she had Parkinson’s, had read about this wonderful program, and wanted to know if the IU department of kinesiology would offer a class like that here.” Read the rest of the article here.

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