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Parkinson’s Dance Project gets everyone up and moving

By Vicki Larson, Marin Independent Journal

KATE BYRNES HAS been living with Parkinson’s since 1997. But for 90 minutes last Tuesday, the former special education teacher wasn’t defined by her medical condition.

“I was a dancer instead of a person with Parkinson’s,” says Byrnes, 62, of Santa Venetia who attended her first dance class for people who have the slow, progressive degenerative neurological disease. “They treated me with dignity.”

Byrnes’ experience isn’t the main focus of the Parkinson’s Dance Project, the free drop-in class, offered every first, third and fifth Tuesday by Marin Dance Theatre in San Rafael. The class is structured to get those with Parkinson’s moving — essential to help improve balance and flexibility, strengthen muscles and boost coordination. But there is no denying that the classes bring a certain amount of levity and connection to those with the disease, as well as their caregivers, who often feel isolated.

“I see a fantastic sense of community and a safe space for them to extend themselves and take risk with movement. I see a lot of joy and enthusiasm and smiles,” says Torri Campbell, a clinical psychologist and former professional dancer who helped start the program three years ago and co-teaches with Brigid Hoag, a dance teacher with MDT. Read the rest of the article at http://www.marinij.com/healthandfitness/ci_24881827/parkinsons-dance-project-gets-everyone-up-and-moving

“People who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s often end up focusing on their symptoms, their disease, their medical appointments, and we really want to create a place where they can come and be dancers,” she says.

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