Parkinson’s patients ease their symptoms with dance and ballet



TED SIMONS: ONE MILLION PEOPLE LIVE WITH PARKINSON'S IN THE U-S. A NEUROLOGICAL DISEASE AFFECTS MOVEMENT WITH SYMPTOMS THAT INCLUDE TREMORS, AND DIFFICULTY WITH WALKING AND TALKING. THE MOST COMMON FORM OF TREATMENT IS MEDICATION, BUT DOCTORS ARE NOW FINDING THAT DANCE CAN HELP STAVE OFF SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS. PRODUCER SHANA FISCHER TAKES US TO A DANCE FOR PARKINSON'S CLASS.

***(PKG)***

NAT POP: STEP IT THROUGH.

REPORTER: EACH STEP TAKEN BY THE DANCERS INSIDE THIS REHEARSAL ROOM IS A VICTORY. A BLOW AGAINST A DISEASE THAT HAS CAUSED THEIR BODY TO BETRAY THEM.

SOT: MY HUSBAND PASSED AWAY IN 2009. I NOTICED CHANGES AT THAT POINT. LOOKING BACK, MY FIRST INDICATOR, I COULD NOT USE THE MOUSE WITH MY RIGHT HAND ANYMORE.

REPORTER: A FEW MONTH LATER, THE RIGHT LEG WOULDN'T MOVE LIKE THE LEFT. I THOUGHT I HAD A STROKE. I WENT TO THE NEUROLOGIST WHO DID TESTS TO DIAGNOSE ME.

SOT: THE DIAGNOSIS, PARKINSON'S DISEASE. NOT ONE TO FEEL SORRY FOR HERSELF, MARLENE DOVE HEAD FIRST INTO TREATMENT. SHE WAS LOOKING FOR A TOOL TO FIGHT THE DISEASE AND LEARNED DANCE CAN EASE THE SYMPTOMS.

REPOTER: IT'S LIKE TAKING BACK THE CONTROL FROM THE PARKINSON'S.

SOT: THE CLASS THAT MEETS TWICE A WEEK GIVES MARLENE A CHANCE TO INTERACT WITH OTHER PARKINSON'S PATIENTS. FOR HIM, IT'S BITTERSWEET.

SOT: MY WIFE AND I WERE DANCERS. SHE WAS 16 YEARS OLD, AND I WAS THIS 24-YEAR-OLD, AND PART OF THE JUNIOR BALLET IN SAN DIEGO. SHE WAS ONE OF THE YOUNG LADY IN THE CHORUS. THEY ASKED THE TWO OF US TO PARTNER WITH EACH OTHER.

REPORTER: THEY WERE MARRIED 50 YEARS. SIX YEARS AGO --

SOT: I WOKE UP IN THE SPRING MORNING AND FELT A TREMBLING IN MY LEFT ARM. I SAID TO MYSELF, I THINK I HAVE PARKINSON'S.

SOT: IT TOOK TIME TO GET THE DIAGNOSIS, BUT ED, SADLY WAS CORRECT. ONE OF 60,000 DIAGNOSED EACH YEAR. HE HAS TAKEN IT DOWN. HE FEELS LET DOWN BY HIS BODY AND STRUGGLES.

SOT: I DON'T FEEL IN CONTROL. I KNOW I CAN'T DO WHAT I USED TO DO, BUT I HAVE A PASSION FOR IT. I WOULD RATHER DO IT THIS WAY AS A DANCER AND A SINGER. THOSE ARE MY TWO PASSIONS. I'M USING THOSE TO FIGHT OFF OR MANAGE THIS DISEASE. I HAVE TO ADMIT, IT'S A DISEASE.

REPORTER: DEBBIE IS A FORMER BALLERINA WHO TEACHES THE CLASS.

SOT: THEY HAVE TO KEEP MOVING. THAT'S AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF PARKINSON'S. IT'S JUST AS IMPORTANT AS THE MEDICATION, TO KEEP MOVING.

REPORTER: AFTER THE WARMUP, THEY LAUNCH INTO ROUTINES WITH ARM EXERCISES AND FOOTWORK. SOME OF IT IS DONE BEING SEATED. OTHERS AT THE BAR. ALL OF IT IS TO INCREASE FLEXIBILITY AND STRENGTH. ONE OF THE RESULTS OF PARKINSONS IS A LOSS OF MUSCLE CONTROL.

SOT: DANCE TAKES YOU IN A LOT OF DIRECTIONS AND MOVES A LOT OF MUSCLES, WHICH THEY NEED TO MOVE AS MANY AS POSSIBLE.

REPORTER: PARKINSON'S IS CAUSED BY THE LOSS OF BRAIN CELLS THAT PRODUCE DOPAMINE. AS THE DISEASE PROGRESSES, THERE IS A STRUGGLE WITH MEMORY LOSS AND COMPREHENSION.

SOT: BRAINS ARE WORKING LIKE MAD. THEY ARE PROCESSING. THEY UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING I AM ASKING THEM TO DO. THEY HAVE A LOT GOING ON. MOST OF THEM HAVE NOT TAKEN A FORMAL DANCE CLASS. THE AVERAGE AGE IS 70. THEY ARE IN A BALLET CLASS LEARNING TERMINOLOGY IN FRENCH. IT'S A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENT.

REPORTER: SHE IS PROUD OF HER STUDENTS AND HOPEFUL. SHE TAKES THEIR VICTORIES AND SET BACKS PERSONALLY. IT'S MEANINGFUL TO ME BECAUSE MY FATHER HAD PARKINSON'S FOR 20 YEARS. I'M VERY FAMILIAR WITH PARKINSON'S. A YEAR AGO HER FATHER PASSED HER AWAY. SEEING HER STUDENTS HELPS WITH THE GRIEF.

SOT: THE REWARD SEEING THESE PEOPLE COMING TO CLASS, TO ME IS ICING ON THE CASE. STUDENTS SEE THIS AS THE ONE PLACE THEY CAN FORGET THEY HAVE PARKINSON'S, AND LET GO.

SOT: IF YOU HAVE PARKINSON'S, STAND UP, PUT ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER AND MOVE FORWARD. I STILL BELIEVE THAT. YOU HAVE TO KEEP GOING AND NOT QUIT.

NAT POP: GOOD JOB TODAY. VERY NICE.

TED SIMONS: IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN DANCE FOR PARKINSON'S, HEAD TO BALLET A.Z...ORG AND CLICK ON THE SCHOOL TAB. THESE IT FOR NOW. I AM TED SIMONS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

Approximately 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year, and while the cure for the illness is yet to be found, many are finding solace in dance therapy.

In Arizona, Dance for Parkinson’s classes are offered in Phoenix, Flagstaff, Sun City and Tucson. Professionally-trained dancers instruct patients dance routines and ballet basics to keep their bodies moving.

“Dance class is great because it’s not like a gym class where you’re just working one muscle at a time,” Dance Instructor Debbie Braganza says. “Dance takes you in all different directions and moves a lot of different muscles.”

The classes also give people the opportunity to meet others who are also dealing with the disease. Some use the class because it gives them the opportunity to gain back control.

“I don’t feel like I’m in control,” Ed Coyoli, a Parkinson’s patient, says. “I know I can’t do what I used to do but I have a passion for it. I would rather do it as a dancer and a singer because those are my two passions. I’m using that to fight off the disease.”

For more information on the dance classes, go to balletaz.com.

Sponsor message:

In this segment:

Marlene Blakeney: Parkinson’s Disease Patient
Ed Coyoli: Parkinson’s Disease Patient
Debbie Braganza: Teacher, “Dance for Parkinson’s”

Sponsor message:

Sign up to receive the Arizona PBS Insider

Get up-to-the-minute information about your favorite programs and learn more about Arizona PBS news and events.

Travel to Delhi with a new Masterpiece miniseries

Former East India Company soldier John Beecham arrives in Delhi determined to reunite his family and hide the identity of his infant son. But what will these secrets cost John and those he loves?

253 food shows you can watch right now (no membership required)

If there's one thing we haven't stopped doing lately, it's eating. So we figured it was a perfect time for a list of food shows. All of these shows are available to watch right now without a membership. Just click the links and press play.

'Nova' delivers stories from the front lines of science

"Nova" explores new discoveries and how we have come this far on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Arizona PBS.