The class of 40 seniors learns the steps to an Irish jig Thursday in preparation for St. Patrick's Day. STEPHANIE CLUE FOR INQUINTE.CA

Dancing with Parkinson’s in Belleville

Bring out your dancing shoes, and join a new pilot project at the Quinte Ballet School of Canada.

Dancing with Parkinson’s is a 12-week dance class taught by dance instructor Laura Ryan. The class allows people with Parkinson’s disease a chance to get out of the house, socialize and learn a new skill.

The classes started at the beginning of March and are running until May 18 and are open to caregivers and people with other mobility problems.

One thing that makes the class great is the energy and talent of the instructor.

“She’s so lively and makes us feel more alive than we are,” said student Patricia Thompson. “We probably look a little strange sometimes.”

Thompson added that she was surprised to see the number of people who show up.

“You see all levels of Parkinson’s here,” she said. “It makes you feel like you’re normal.”

Thompson attends the classes with her husband, John, and said she can’t believe the muscles it takes to dance. She said they are a couple who exercises a lot, but have never done anything like this.

Thompson added that the class isn’t restricted to people with Parkinson’s and that seated dancing could benefit people with other mobility issues.

 “The class is made up of movement based exercises,” said facilitator Laura Ryan. “We make sure that we start off with small movements to warm up every part of the body.”

Ryan added that many of the participants had improved in the three weeks since the classes began, with some being more confident in their movements.

Other dance classes like this are available in Kingston and Toronto, and it’s difficult to travel such a distance, said Debora Cossee, general manager for the ballet school.

“There is such a need for people with Parkinson’s to have some kind of movement class,” she said. “The only other class in Belleville is at the sports centre.”

In order to run the class, Cossee said they needed at least 20 people with Parkinson’s registered. After an information session in February, the class has 40 participants.

“We got a great response from the community and we were blown away by the interest,” Cossee said. “Last week we had four new students and this week we have two. We never expected such a big turn out.”

She added that the ages of the students ranged from mid-50s to early 80s, and they have a great time dancing.

“The seniors think it’s great that they come to the ballet school,” Cossee said. “They come out of the class with a smile on their face and they are already forming friendships.”

Read More: News, Quinte



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