Dance class offers Parkinson’s patients meaningful connections

Dance centers on movement and expression. And, more importantly, for many struggling with a debilitating and progressive disorder, it’s about making powerful human connections.

The camaraderie comes easy for this class.  It’s movement that’s a challenge.

The class that grew from the heart of Sarah Cullen Fuller, who moves with the grace of a professional dancer. That’s because she was one for nearly 10 years right here at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

“I think the biggest thing you’ll notice is the sense of community within our group,” she said. “I found modern and contemporary dance, and that became my true love.”

And along the way, so did teaching.

“To think about the aging population, people with physical disabilities, and to think about how we could use Hubbard Street as a hub to invite everybody to dance,” Fuller said.

Ten years ago, she invited patients with Parkinson’s disease  and their caregivers  to join her in the studio.

“We started in a room a quarter of this size with probably eight dancers. And here we are two classes a week, 36 weeks out of the year,” she said.

Bill Grimes is a Parkinson’s patient. “They’re helping us get every part of our body moving, arms, legs, torso,” he said.

“We move into a series of movement patterns rooted in classical ballet, classic modern vernacular,” Fuller said.

But the social connections are just as beneficial.

Stephen Silverman is also a Parkinson’s patient and said, “It’s been a fantastic support group besides just the time we spend dancing. We’re all trying to find out ways of fighting back.”

Grimes has been taking the class for about a year. he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009.

“Movement and exercise and all the ballet stuff, I never thought I’d be doing ballet,” he said.

Janet Leder is a dance class participant and said, “One of the things that happens with the class, Sarah says, ‘Ok dancers!’ And we all think, dancers? Who is she talking to? But we are dancers.”

“And we always end in a circle, always, because it’s important to feel connected. It’s an acknowledgment of the time we’ve spent together,” Fuller said.

The Parkinson’s dance class will be back in session in March and all patients and their caregivers are welcome. To learn more, visit their website.

 

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