Lifting Mind, Body and Spirit through Dance for Parkinson's

STG - Dance for Parkinsons

 Dance for PD® participants experience their grace, brilliance, creativity and spirit, and realize that they are not the disease.

Former lawyers, artists, pilots, homemakers—these are the people who participate in Seattle's Dance for PD® classes, dance classes developed and taught by professional dancers and designed for people whose lives have been abruptly interrupted by the neurodegenerative brain disorder known as Parkinson's disease (PD)—a disease that includes symptoms of tremors, slowness of movement, rigidity, imbalance and impaired coordination. According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, PD currently affects the lives of over one million people in the U.S.

The Dance for PD® program offers classes to individuals with Parkinson's disease as well as their caregivers in Seattle, Kirkland and Des Moines. The classes combine the art form of dance, live music, and community to develop artistry and grace, while at the same time addressing such PD-specific concerns such as balance, coordination, flexibility, depression and isolation.

The classes are taught by professional dancers who are trained in the Dance for PD® method. These teaching artists empower the participants to explore the movement in ways that are enjoyable, inspiring and stimulating.


To watch a two-minute informational video about Dance for PD®, filmed by Seattle Theatre Group, click on the image above.

The Dance for PD® classes in Seattle, as well as the 150 classes that exist throughout the world, are based on the model developed by the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson's Group. The Seattle program, developed in 2009, is offered and supported by Seattle Theatre Group, Spectrum Dance Theater, Evergreen Hospital, Northwest Parkinson's Foundation, Des Moines Senior Center and Seattle Parks and Recreation.

The Dance for PD® participants range from the newly diagnosed to those moving with canes, walkers and wheelchairs. All levels of ability are embraced and the movement is modified, if needed, to support the diverse abilities of the participants.

The Dance for PD® classes are real dance classes using live accompaniment of piano, percussion, or cello. The classes meet each participant "where they're at" in their ability and challenge their mind and body both physically and artistically.

The classes begin seated in a circle, inspiring confidence in the movements, balance and stability. Two teaching artists lead the participants into movement that allows them to investigate and experience various movement qualities such as smooth, sharp, curved, straight, low and high. It allows the participants to find the rhythm and feeling that exists in each and every movement, and learn dance repertoire from both local and national, world-renown choreographers and professional dance companies.

The participants are then invited to stand at the ballet barre (or use the back of a chair) for the ballet portion of the class. For those who are unable to stand, the teaching artist gives a seated version of the same ballet exercises. The barre work taught includes plies and tendus, and builds to include basic ballet movements—all which prepare the dancers for movements in the center, while promoting balance, posture, flexibility, body awareness and strengthening of the back and abdominal muscles.

The participants then transition to the center of the room to move across the floor in styles of contemporary, jazz, tap, World dance and Broadway—all to the rhythms of live accompaniment. The class ends just as it started, in a circle, with the participants, teachers, musicians and assistants taking in the energy and connecting to those that danced this journey together.

Dance for Parkinson's is not a cure for the disease. This is a claim we are careful not to make. Dance for Parkinson's is not therapy—although participants have claimed that there are therapeutic aspects to the classes. Dance for Parkinson's is a program that allows the participants to take their focus off the disease and put it on life. For 90 minutes or more each week (depending on how many classes they take), participants get to experience their grace, their brilliance, their creativity and their spirit, and realize that they are not the disease. They get to break the isolation that sometimes occurs with Parkinson's disease and feel a sense of community in the class setting.

Dance is a stimulating mental activity that unites mind, body, and spirit. It develops flexibility, coordination, strength and balance, while instilling a sense of well-being in those who participate. The combination of the movement, rhythm, community and energy in the Dance for PD® classes brings joy to those participating, and allows for new possibilities in the lives of all involved.

Shawn Roberts is school and education director at Spectrum Dance Theater and programs manager for Dance for PD® Seattle. For more information, contact Shawn at or 206-325-4161.

Dance for PD® Classes

Summer classes are now underway. Register for fall classes in Seattle or Des Moines by calling the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation at 877-980-7500.

Seattle (Thursdays, 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.)
Garfield Community Center
2323 East Cherry Street, Seattle

Des Moines (Mondays, 2:00–3:30 p.m.)
Des Moines Senior Center
2045 South 216th Street, Des Moines

Register for fall classes in Kirkland by calling Evergreen Healthline (Evergreen Health) at 425-899-3000.

Kirkland (Saturdays, 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.)
Peter Kirk Community Center
352 Kirkland Avenue, Kirkland