May We Have This Dance?

Photo credit: Joy Esterberg

When was the last time you danced? In recent years, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) has seen growing popularity and availability of dance programs designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease. In fact, the trend was discussed a few weeks ago in a National Public Radio segment.

Have you or a patient or a loved one tried dance classes for PD? If not, what should you know and how can you find a class?

Let’s explore the answers. And don’t miss our video, “A Celebration of Movement,” which may leave you inspired to get up and dance.

First, we already know from research that both exercise and activity are critical for helping people with PD to stay healthy and move better. While the specific benefits of dance are still being studied, many people with PD report experiencing benefit from dance classes. In fact, some people actually say they find their symptoms temporarily ‘disappear’ when they dance.

But what does the research tell us? It’s still a new area, but just a few years ago PDF funded research conducted by Gammon M. Earhart, P.T., Ph.D., into the effects of the Argentine Tango on Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Earhart studied 52 volunteers living with PD, half of whom took Tango classes for one year, and half of whom maintained their normal routines. Many of the Tango students experienced improvement in their PD symptoms and balance, were able to walk farther and faster, while in the non-Tango group, movement symptoms worsened or held steady. Like any other activity (or medicine) the benefits stopped when the dance stopped. Dr. Earhart and others continue to study various types of dance for PD to better understand its benefits.

With all of this in mind, should you try dance and how can you find a class?

  • First, try contacting the PDF HelpLine at (800) 457-6676 or, Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM ET, to find local support groups many of which host dance and exercise classes. You can also browse our online calendar here for listings.
  • Second, check out the well-known Dance for PD®, which offers specialized dance classes for people living with PD. While the program originally began with the Mark Morris Dance Company in New York, it is growing. In fact, just a few years ago, the PDF gala celebrated this program as part of its annual gala, which included remarks by the program founder David Leventhal. See a beautiful of expression of this program below.

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