Monthly Krannert dance sessions help fight effects of Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease makes coordination and movement difficult for those suffering from it, and dance exercises have been found to improve the body balance of people with the disease. To help those community members with Parkinson’s combat the hardships of the disease, the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group organized a free dance event at the Krannert Center.

The Dance for People with Parkinson’s event will take place on the third Friday of every month in the Drama Rehearsal Room.

Marianne Jarvi, one of the instructors, talked about how she became involved with the event.

“We are used to working with the younger population of dancers and working with creative dance,” Jarvi said. “It translated really easy to adapt our teaching lessons to the people who are older with Parkinson’s to tailor their needs.”

Jarvi said the event usually took place only once a year, but Krannert decided to hold it on a monthly basis because of its popularity.

The instructors also provided music by playing a drum, the piano and singing songs.

The participants were encouraged to imagine shapes and objects to create their dance movements. Imagining those shapes encouraged the participants to think and remember. During a discussion that followed the activities, the participants said that imagining the shapes and objects was beneficial for memorizing the dance moves.

To help the people with the movements, the activities were conducted both on a partner and group basis. While participating in partner activities, the partner had to follow the moves of the leader. While in a group, the activities had people moving every part of their bodies.

Sandy Powell, a Champaign senior citizen, said the program taught her to more effectively follow instructions.

“I am very active,” Powell said. “But I have been giving instructions all my life, and now I need to receive them, which I have not since I was a student.”

Powell also said the program has been hard but the exercise has helped her feel free and open.

“For me, this is a challenge (because) when you get old, you lose balance of your body,” Powell said.

Kate Kuper, one of the instructors, said this event is more than a therapeutic dance class.

“We are creating an activity that has started a community of people that did not exist before,” Kuper said. “So it’s not just (a) dance — it is a support community. People are given the opportunity to find a place where they can express themselves.”