Parkinson's patients take to the dance floor

STANFORD, Calif. (KGO) -- Finding the rhythm is half the fun of dancing, but it takes a little more effort when your body is wracked by Parkinson's Disease. But in a brand new dance studio at Stanford's Neuroscience Health Center, patients are able to hit the floor with the help of professional dancer Damara Vita Ganley and a program designed to help them get in touch with their bodies.

"The idea is that the body is an expressive and deeply feeling part of our lives," Ganley explains.

And the tempo soon picks up. For patients like Audrey Inouye and her husband Mel, it's an opportunity to reawaken memories tucked away in both the mind and their muscles.

"We used to go dancing, salsa dancing, ballroom dancing when we were younger," Audrey remembers.

The program, called Dance For PD, was originally launched in New York. It ultimately caught the eyes and ears of Dr. Helen Bronte-Stewart, who directs the Stanford Movement Disorders Center. A former professional dancer herself, Bronte-Stewart says the benefits are well documented.

"There have been plenty of articles showing medical evidence that, in fact, dance really helps people with Parkinson's. It improves their motor function," says Bronte-Stewart.

Juan Bulnes was a runner growing up in Chile, but now struggles just to keep his balance.

"It keeps me more optimistic, and maybe it informs some of my steps," Bulnes believes.

When Stanford began construction on its new neuroscience health center, Bronte-Stewart convinced the architect to add in the dance studio, a space where patients now find both rhythm, and a renewed sense of freedom.

The program was designed with the help of the Mark Morris Dance Group. For more information call: Neuroscience Supportive Care Program line (650-721-8500). Classes are weekly Fridays 12:30-1:45 p.m. and Mondays starting Oct 10th 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.

Classes are free, thanks to the support of The National Parkinson's Foundation.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.
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