Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease. Movement is normally controlled
by dopamine, a chemical that carries signals between the nerves in the brain.
When cells that normally produce dopamine die, the symptoms of Parkinson’s appear.
Parkinson Society of Canada
Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) is collaborating with researchers from Ryerson and York Universities to conduct a 12-week dance program that will study the physical and neuropsychological effects of dance on individuals with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). For the pilot project, the first series of classes runs from September to December of 2013 and is know as DwP@NBS.
Previous research has indicated that dance may have the capacity to help alleviate some of the symptoms of PD. In order to better understand the benefits of dancing for individuals with PD the project proposes to “study how dance is able to seemingly bypass the neurodegeneration occurring in the PD brain and potentially facilitate improvement in movement in those with PD”.
According to CTV News “Rachel Bar, who attended the National Ballet School and now is a graduate student in clinical psychology at Ryerson University, pitched the idea of a dance class for people with Parkinson’s. Her former school, she said, jumped at the chance to offer dance to people with Parkinson’s, bringing on board the Mark Morris Group’s Dance for PD® and Dancing with Parkinson’s to help design and implement the course”.
Dance for PD® is a New York based non-profit collaboration between the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group that offers dance classes for individuals with PD. Individuals who participate in the dance classes “are empowered to explore movement and music in ways that are refreshing, enjoyable, stimulating and creative”.
Dancing with Parkinson’s is a Toronto based dance class designed by Sarah Robichaud “where those with Parkinson’s Disease can explore the potential of their own movement through choreography and improvisation.”
Dr. Joseph DeSouza, a neuroscientist at York University, will be working with volunteer dance participants at the Sherman Health Science Research Centre. DeSouza will be performing MRI brain imaging scans to study changes in brain activity following 12 weeks of learning and practicing dance moves.
“Researchers hope the brain scans will provide hard scientific evidence of neurological and physical benefits of dance to people with Parkinson’s, a disease that affects more than 100,000 Canadians and seven million people worldwide”.
Check out this video to see Dancing with Parkinson’s @ The National Ballet School in action.