Moves tailored for dancers with Parkinson's

Slam the door shut; pull your socks up; sweep the crumbs off the table; and knead the pizza dough.

It sounds like a busy day in a pizza shop. But in reality, the actions are some of the specially choreographed dance moves that have been created for people with Parkinson’s disease, to do while sitting in a chair.

The low-impact dance moves were part of the In Motion: Dancing with Parkinson’s workshop run by professional dancer, choreographer and 2021 University of Otago Caroline Plummer Community Dance Fellow Lucy Marinkovich yesterday.

The workshop was accompanied by live music from Dunedin Symphony Orchestra concertmaster and University of Otago violin lecturer Tessa Peterson, and aimed at helping people with Parkinson’s rebuild strength and regain control of their body.

Dunedin Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Tessa Peterson (left) plays live music for David Crooke ...
Dunedin Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Tessa Peterson (left) plays live music for David Crooke (75) and Christine Arnesen (78) to dance to, under the direction of University of Otago Caroline Plummer Community Dance Fellow Lucy Marinkovich (right). Photos: Christine O'Connor.
Ms Marinkovich said the class was similar to normal dance classes, which focused on rhythm, musicality, strength, posture, agility, flexibility and balance.

"It’s a dance class, but the way that I put the exercises together and the way that I describe movement is what’s really useful for people with Parkinson’s.

"It means that they can access their body in a different way and recapture a sense of grace.

"There is a sense that people can regain a sense of control over their body through movement and dance, because they’re moving in different pathways.

"It’s not just our everyday pedestrian activities of going to grab something from off a shelf or walking across the road or climbing a set of stairs.

"The images and movements we use in class are far more artistic and evocative."

About a dozen people with Parkinson’s attended yesterday’s weekly workshop at 50 Dundas, she said.

"They find it beneficial and they also find it fun."

Ms Marinkovich said she discovered a similar programme in New York while on a dance residency in 2019.

When she returned to New Zealand and received the University of Otago fellowship, she decided it would be a great opportunity to teach her own version of the dance classes.

"I feel very fortunate in my life that I’ve been able to have this career in dance and the arts.

"It’s the joy of my life and it’s really very special to be able to share that with other people who are finding it useful and fun."

She planned to embed the programme in Dunedin, before expanding it to other centres around the country in the future.

"Hopefully, the web of it will grow."

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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