Finding My Way Back to Dance After a Parkinson's Disease Diagnosis
“Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.” ―Martha Graham
I recently taught a jazz dance class at my community center. I was very apprehensive since I have lost so much ability due to Parkinson’s disease (PD). Where I was once fluid and graceful, I now feel inflexible, rigid and non-rhythmic.
For over 30 years of my adult life, I have been dancing — jazz, ballet, tap. Although I had a 9-5 corporate job, there was a period of about 10 years where I would take up to 15 hours of classes every week. I also performed in a local Long Island dance company for several years. Dance has always been an important part of my life.
The last time I took a dance class was shortly after I was diagnosed with PD in 2015. It was Dance for PD® at Lincoln Center in New York City. I left the class in tears, since it reinforced for me what I have lost, and I also saw my potential future in the other participants. The last time I taught a dance class was probably over 20 years ago at my gym, and before that I was a GO (employee) at the Martinique Club Med in the late 1970s, teaching jazz dance classes there for a few months.
Needless to say, I was a little rusty and also very nervous about teaching this class in my new environment. My confidence in my dance skills is virtually non-existent. Something that had once come so naturally to me has now been eroded by PD. I kept thinking to myself; “Will anyone show up?” “Will they notice my technique failings as a dancer?” ” Will the participants be bored?” “Will they like my music choices?” and on and on.
Of course, all my fears were unfounded. About 13-15 people showed up; two were men, many of the participants were in their 70s-80s and at least three were over 90. Some showed up with their walkers and some took the class seated. They were all so supportive and just happy to be there and practicing movement. Every single one of them inspired me. They were non-judgmental and eager to learn.
Dancing gave them freedom of expression, the ability to exercise, all while having fun, and we were all able to laugh at ourselves. The class ended with smiles all around and the students ended up teaching me far more than I taught them.
“The moment in between what you once were, and who you are now becoming, is where the dance of life really
takes place.” –Barbara de Angelis
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