Parkinson's can be an isolating and inhibiting disease, but one approach to managing PD asks people to act against those impulses and look to performance.
In September, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts brought together thought leaders for its first Global Exchange "to explore how art and culture can become even more effective in fostering healthy citizens, vibrant cities and strong communities." The event included a session on how art and creativity can overcome challenges of brian disease and a performance from the Mark Morris Dance Group's Dance for PD® program. Michael J. Fox; Dance for PD director David Leventhal; and Claire Henchcliffe, MD, DPhil, director of the Parkinson's Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, were panelists.
In our latest podcast, MJFF Contributing Editor Dave Iverson speaks to Leventhal and Dr. Henchcliffe about what dance offers people living with Parkinson's.
"One of the things we experienced early on in teaching this class is that there was a certain element of transformation that happened over the course of that hour that we were together," says Leventhal. "And the transformation had as much to do with a mindset and an identity as it did with the actual steps and skills that were being learned."
And there may be scientific reasons that dance helps people with PD move. Many of the movement challenges in Parkinson's are caused by lack of the neurotransmitter dopamine, but dance may tap into other brain areas and chemicals.
"We know in dance there's just so much more that goes into it ... There are other networks that come into play," says Dr. Henchcliffe. "As you see people with Parkinson's who might have difficulty with the more basic, automatic movements that are subject to dopamine, they're able to harness the plasticity and the activity of those other networks that are able to almost bypass the deficits."
Learn more about Dance for PD in Dave Iverson's documentary film on the program, Capturing Grace.
**Save the date for the following Capturing Grace public broadcasts:
New York/Long Island | Monday, June 26 at 10 p.m. (WLIW)
New York | Saturday, July 1 at 1 p.m. and Tuesday, July 4 at 5 a.m. (WNET)