Parkinson’s Foundation Grant Supports Free Dance-Pilates Classes

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by Mary Chapman |

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A $20,000 Parkinson’s Foundation community grant will help to keep the American Dance Festival’s (ADF) Parkinson’s Movement Initiative (PMI) going for a fifth year.

The program, founded by ADF in 2017 with NC Dance for Parkinson’s, and Poe Wellness Solutions, is free for Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients and caregivers. It offers weekly classes that focus on the mind and body connection through exercise and movement.

The award was among more than $2.2 million in community grants that will benefit efforts in 40 states. Community grants, which this cycle ranged from $5,000 to $25,000, support local health, wellness, and educational programs that address unmet needs in the Parkinson’s community.

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“We are pleased to be able to provide these community grants and to expand programs and resources throughout the Parkinson’s community,” said John L. Lehr, CEO and president of the Parkinson’s Foundation, in a press release. “Every one of these grant recipients shares our commitment to making life better for people with Parkinson’s disease.”

PMI’s weekly in-person classes at ADF’s Samuel H. Scripps studio in Durham, North Carolina, are paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But four dance and Pilates classes are available online each week on a “drop-in basis,” meaning “you are welcome to drop in anytime that works for you,” the group states on its webpage.

The classes provide an opportunity to engage with loved ones, and meet and interact outside of a clinical setting with others who live with Parkinson’s.

PMI classes include Pilates for Parkinson’s, which consists of a warm-up that focuses on body alignment, exercises that challenge strength and balance, and a cool down for stretching and relaxation. Each class explores ideas for improving strength, flexibility, and balance.

All exercises, which are explained and demonstrated, include options for beginners as well as more advanced participants. There will be time spent seated, on the floor, and standing while using the wall or a chair for support. The classes are taught by Meg Poe, a Pilates instructor, yoga teacher, and integrative health coach who is certified by Duke University.

NC Dance for Parkinson’s conveys the benefits of exercise with an emphasis on creative expression, aesthetics, and artistry. It incorporates a variety of dance styles, including ballet, modern, jazz, and cultural/folk, and offers opportunities to improvise.

A typical Dance for Parkinson’s class includes movement while seated, standing, and moving from one place to another, with adaptations offered based on individuals’ level of comfort and mobility.

Art forms such as theater games, poetry, mindfulness, and storytelling are also used to promote creative and expressive experiences.

Dance for Parkinson’s, which is modeled after the Dance for PD program, is led by Susan Saenger, a board-certified dance/movement therapist.

“ADF could not be more grateful to the Parkinson’s Foundation for its continued support of the Parkinson’s Movement Initiative,” said Jodee Nimerichter, ADF executive director.

Those interested in having PMI classes live-streamed to a particular facility or through a community group should write to the ADF at [email protected].

Established in 1934, the ADF has served the needs of dance, dancers, choreographers, and professionals in dance-related fields.

Research supports exercise by Parkinson’s patients helping to improve quality of life and easing symptoms related to balance, mobility, and depression.

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