When I was training for a professional dancing career, I never dreamed that the art form I was learning and loved with such passion would give me the skills to one day be of service to people with physical and cognitive limitations. But that is exactly what happened!
After performing, I had a long career teaching adult ballet technique in colleges and private studios. When I retired from my “day job” as human resources manager for San Francisco Ballet, I was asked to teach adult ballet at the San Francisco Ballet School. Shortly after joining the faculty, Patrick Armand, then the director of the Ballet School, asked if I would be interested in teaching a dance class for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Adaptive dance for adults was a new offering and Patrick was an advocate of the program as his mother, a respected ballet teacher died with Parkinson’s.
I enthusiastically accepted the offer, and promptly made my way to receive training at the Mark Morris Dance Center where the Dance for PD program held teacher trainings. I immediately found teaching and choreographing for this population creative and rewarding. After teaching the class for a year, I met Gena Lennon, Director at the Parkinson’s Foundation who educated me about the Foundation and the many ways it supports the community (explore Parkinson’s Foundation resources and upcoming events).
With the support from a Parkinson’s Foundation Community Grant, San Francisco Ballet School offers free weekly classes, social gatherings, tickets to ballet performances, dance education and more. Our classes are based in ballet — emphasizing joyful movement, artistry and fun. A ballet school pianist accompanies our class with beautiful music, while accessible choreography propels us forward in our love of the very thing that anyone with Parkinson’s must do — and that is to MOVE!
I have been motivated to learn more about how dance can improve the lives of older adults and recently attended Canada’s National Ballet School’s Teacher Training where I worked closely with the Sharing Dance Program Faculty which brings dance to adults with dementia at residential care facilities.
We all learned through research and from clinicians that movement is medicine for people with Parkinson’s. San Francisco Ballet School invites all people affected by Parkinson’s, their family members and care partners to class in the studio or online.
Movement is a healthful and beautiful gift we can give ourselves.