At the Young Onset Parkinson’s Northeast Conference, I did something I hadn’t done in a long time. Years. Decades.
After my childhood stroke, with literally half a leg to stand on, I crossed Dancer off my list of possible careers, hobbies and even casual past-times.
But that didn’t keep me off stage in high school. Tall and not-so-graceful, the musical director cast me as an Amazon in “The King & I.” In my role, I stood cross-armed and at attention, guarding the entryway in each scene involving the king. Though I appeared more often than the wives — perhaps more often than Anna — in my role, I spoke no lines and certainly did not dance.
I ventured onto the dance floor in college and at weddings. Two-stepping, waltzing, or lining up to do the Macarena called for so much concentration to get the footing right, to stay remotely balanced that I’m sure a grimace joined me out there. That changed in Rachel Balaban’s “Dance with PD” session at the Conference.
I danced and smiled.
Rachel led us, thirty-some not-so-graceful people with PD, through a series
of flowing, fanciful, fun moves. For the first time, I floated across the floor, not grimacing but laughing. Dance, Rachel said, not only gets us moving, it lets music’s rhythm help us move. And it does it in a community setting, creating connections while also being creative.
If yoga is a meditation in motion, dance is expression in motion.
I marched to show tunes, jigged to an Irish ditty, reached out and let the harmonies, the laughter, the personal expression seep in.
The next time PD makes me feel stiff, masked, on guard like that Amazon role, I shall swing my arms. Laugh. Cry. I shall dance.
Thank you, Rachel. (Thank you, too, Alex.) For more on Rachel, who is the Connecticut Coordinator for the Mark Morris “Dance for PD” program, visit