Pioneering dance project to help those with Parkinson's

Yorkshire Dance is involved in a pioneering project aimed at encouraging people with Parkinson's disease to join a new exercise programme. Chris Bond reports.

The Dance for Parkinsons programme aims to help people with the condition. (Sara Teresa).
The Dance for Parkinsons programme aims to help people with the condition. (Sara Teresa).

It’s a well known fact that exercise is good for us and it’s particularly beneficial if you have Parkinson’s disease.

Staying active is crucial for people who have this neurological disorder and dancing has been shown to lessen tremors and improve flexibility, plus it can also lift their spirits.

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It’s estimated that around 145,000 people will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the UK this year, with as many as 10 million people now living with the condition around the world.

Yorkshire Dance is involved in the project helping those living with Parkinson's.

To coincide with Parkinson’s Awareness Week, Yorkshire Dance, the county’s dance development organisation, is inviting people who have Parkinson’s to join them this weekend as part of a new training programme.

An Introduction to Dance for Parkinson’s runs this Saturday and Sunday and is designed for professional dance artists to learn how to structure dance classes for people living with the disease.

“We know through research and practice that dance can be extremely beneficial for people living with Parkinson’s,” says Adie Nivison, Project Manager at Yorkshire Dance.

“This course aims to assist Yorkshire dance professionals in their work and naturally we want to involve the very people that will ultimately benefit to join us for part of the course.”

Yorkshire Dance is involved in the project helping those living with Parkinson's.

Anybody with Parkinson’s can come and join the session at Yorkshire Dance’s home on Quarry Hill, in Leeds city centre, this Saturday afternoon.

Four taster sessions for people with Parkinson’s and their carers have already taken place in Leeds and Otley, and from May, Yorkshire Dance will roll out Dance For Parkinson’s - a 12-week pilot programme.

Dance For Parkinson’s will take place at Middleton Community Centre every week from May 9 and is free, thanks to funding from Leeds Let’s Get Active.

Sam Coupland, Development Officer at Active Leeds, says the aim is to make Leeds the UK’s most active city. “Projects such as Dance for Parkinson’s go a long way to ensure that we reach the people that other programmes don’t.

“It’s a great example of how working in partnership with organisations such as Yorkshire Dance and Parkinson’s UK can help overcome the barriers that stop people getting active.”

Nivison believes the programme will help. “We’re proud to be part of such a great, groundbreaking project and it’s proof that the arts can be transformative.

“It’s encouraging that people are embracing this. Sometimes as adults we don’t get to be playful and have fun, especially if you’re living with a degenerative condition, and these sessions allow that to happen,” she says.

“In my experience, people living with Parkinson’s have different symptoms, they might have a tremor or they might not be very physically able, and music and movement can have a transforming effect. The difference seeing people at the beginning of a session compared to the end is amazing.”

Jean Clayton, from Morley, near Leeds, is among those who took part in the initial dance sessions and hopes to be involved at the weekend. Jean, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2012, enjoyed the experience. “It loosens you up and it’s nice to do a bit of exercise with a group.

“It’s a shame more people don’t know about things like this because everyone was very welcoming,” she says. “When you have Parkinson’s if you’re not careful you can become isolated. But doing exercise does help, it slows the progress and it gives you a lift at the same time.”

An Introduction to Dance for Parkinson’s, takes place this Saturday in Leeds, from 2pm to 4.30pm. For more details call 0113 243 9867.