New Pilot Project Gives Those With Parkinson’s an Opportunity to Move

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The studio at Elite Dance Force was full of dancers diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and their caretakers on Friday morning for the introduction of a new pilot program, called Dancing with Parkinson’s.

This program, put on by Parkinson’s Canada, in conjunction with Canada’s National Ballet School, Dancing with Parkinson’s, and Dance for PD, is an eight-week pilot project where dancers have the opportunity to get out and exercise, which Parkinson’s Canada Community Development Coordinator for Northeast Ontario Estelle Joliat says is “something that is unbelievably important for people with Parkinson’s.”

“Exercise is probably the best thing that they can do to ensure that they can live dependently and live their best life with the illness,” she explained to SaultOnline.

Joliat, who’s based in Sudbury, said this project has been in motion since last fall, and is designed to help people diagnosed with Parkinson’s deal with their motor issues – such as balance, gait, posture – and also helps with a lot of the non-motor symptoms.

“This time of year, sometimes it’s difficult to get out of the house, particularly if you’re dealing with Parkinson’s,” she explained. “So this really motivates people to come out and enjoy dance and the many benefits of the dance – with peers and listening to wonderful music – and really get active.”

For Rhea Webb, who’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease for three years, this class is a way to get out of the house during the winter months.

After hearing about it through her support group, she thought it would be a great way to obtain her goal: to stay active.

“I don’t want to be home sitting in a rocking chair waiting for the end,” she said. “I’d rather be moving around.”

Webb hopes to continue coming to these classes.

“I really am thankful to the people who have brought these women here from Toronto. I had no idea it was that widespread. It’s wonderful.”

Elite Dance Force Studio co-owners Kaitlin Pelletier and Christina Trevisan said they’re thrilled to have the opportunity to be able to offer this to the community through their studio.

“We love giving back, so this was just another way for us to give back and involve our dance studio  in the community,” Trevisan said.

Pelletier mirrored that sentiment, saying she thinks it’s important to be able to give dance to a group of people that might not have been enjoying it prior to this.

“It’s so important for us that everybody enjoys dance, from babies all the way up to adults, seniors, and this is just another way to do that,” she said.

Trevisan said they hope to continue offering this class after the pilot project is done, so her and Pelletier are attending a training session in February at Canada’s National Ballet School, where they will become fully trained so that after the eight-week pilot project is complete, they’ll be able to hold classes themselves.

Representatives from each organization were at this introductory session, however the remainder of the project will be done via live-stream video based in Toronto.

Nancy Lehan, part of the artistic facility from Canada’s National Ballet School’s outreach program, is part of the team who founded the Dancing with Parkinson’s Network that brought this pilot to the Sault.

“Being here, it was really exciting to meet all of the participants, and we can’t wait to continue to work with them as we stream the classes,” she said.

She said once this project is complete here, they hope to continue reaching remote communities, or communities that don’t have access to dance classes for those living with Parkinson’s.

These classes will be held on Thursdays from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m., starting Jan. 10  These classes are free of charge, and previous dancing experience is not required.

For more information on Dancing with Parkinson’s, click here. To register for these classes, click here.

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