Invertigo’s ‘Dancing Through Parkinson’s’ Moves Online During COVID-19 Pandemic

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by Mary Chapman |

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Throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Invertigo Dance Theatre will conduct its weekly Dancing Through Parkinson’s (DTP) classes online.

Starting May 7, the Los Angeles, California-based company will offer free streaming classes live on Zoom each Thursday at 1:30 p.m. PST. The sessions will be recorded and available for later viewing. There also are online video classes available at invertigodance.org/dtp.

The DTP dance curriculum is designed to meet the needs of those with Parkinson’s or other neurological conditions, regardless of disease stage. The classes are taught by professional dancers trained in methods to specifically benefit Parkinson’s patients, and designed to promote physical stability, mental clarity, and creativity.

Participants may move at their own pace, and no dance experience is required. Movement may be done while seated, standing, or with the help of a walker.

“Our dance classes invite people with Parkinson’s and those with limited mobility into movement as a source of joy, strength, and discovery,” K. Bradford, Invertigo’s community engagement manager, said in a press release.

“Our participants tell us they find healing and a sense of belonging in the DTP community, and that the classes foster a greater wellbeing in what can be an isolating time. Our teachers’ hearts are fully engaged in the classes, and we’re so glad that our online studio can transmit care, art, and community while people shelter — and dance — at home,” Bradford added.

The DTP online classes are modeled after its in-person studio classes, and are taught by Kelsey Ang, Linda Berghoff, Heidi Buehler, Jess Evans, Haylee Nichele, and Rachel Whiting.

Longtime DTP participant Jeanie McNamara said this about her first online class: “This is phenomenal. What a wonderful collaborative class, and what a gift to all of us who are working hard to continue moving without going anywhere. Thank you for all that you are doing so that we can continue to battle [Parkinson’s] while trapped at home.”

Each session starts with a seated warm-up exercise that incorporates breath work, upper body stretches, and joint mobility. While remaining seated, participants perform choreography, tap work and other routines. Then, while seated or standing, dancers engage in a modified ballet barre exercise. At the end, instead of the traditional in-person “circle of gratitude,” each participant is asked to place a hand over his or her heart.

“We believe everyone is a dancer. We just ask you to give us a chance to prove that to you,” said  Berghoff, a DTP instructor and Invertigo board member. “We still need to dance. Parkinson’s doesn’t stop just because the world does.”

A lifetime dancer, Berghoff was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2006 and thought she’d never dance again. A “Dance for PD” class in New York changed that perspective, and she began collaborating with Invertigo to create a dance class for Parkinson’s patients on the West Coast.

Established in 2011, DTP is an ongoing Invertigo Dance Theatre community program. It traditionally offers Parkinson’s patients free weekly dance classes in studios throughout southern California.

Because Parkinson’s patients usually experience motor and cognitive impairment, as well as mood changes and social isolation, dance may positively affect their quality of life, according to the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.

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