Class offers chance to dance through Parkinson’s disease

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The dancers in Tammy Starr’s class at The Beat Dance Company studio are getting a step up on their struggles with Parkinson’s Disease and other related neurological diseases. Moving and exercising are widely viewed as beneficial in forestalling the onset of symptoms.  So this is serious business. It’s also fun. Starr teaches the weekly one-hour classes on Sunday. This class, offered through the Wood County Committee on Aging, runs through Dec. 9, and another starts in January. It will meet the second and fourth Sundays of the month at the Beat studio, which provides the space for free. Spouses are welcomed to participate.  Contact the Wood County Committee on Aging for details. Anyone is welcomed to stop by to get an introduction in what the classes offers. Starr is a trained dancer who has performed and taught. She’s also a physical therapist, a profession she took up after years as a dancer and choreographer. “These days I really enjoy working with that older adult population,” she said. She also works through the committee on aging with people with dementia. Starr’s philosophy was expressed by a Salt Lake City troupe she danced with:  “Dance is for everybody.” As a modern dancer, she said: “I look at every movement and see dance. … Being a dancer I have something to offer especially in group setting. I’m used to teaching a group.” When she was studying physical therapy at the University of Toledo she learned about the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment, LSVT, which was originally designed as speech therapy, before being applied to movement. When Starr read about this approach, she realized: “This sounds like dance to me.” People with Parkinson’s make small, rigid movements, and have balance issues. “In dance we work on moving big and fluidly. We certainly work on balance.” Describing the class, she said: “It’s an opportunity to move in an environment where they feel supported and safe with people who are dealing with the same things. It’s a positive experience with movement because they’re fighting that all day.” It’s fun, said Pat Smith, of Wayne, one of the participants. She also participates in the Delay the Disease sessions at the senior center.  That’s been helpful, but the Dancing with Parkinson’s is “so different. It’s much more fun.” Smith has taken dance lessons in the past and appreciates Starr’s approach. “She’s a wonderful therapist.” The classes offer a rare combination of dance and physical therapy, noted Larry Brach of Perrysburg.  He has progressive supranuclear palsy, which has many of the same symptoms as Parkinson’s.  He appreciates that Starr conducts the class in such a way that everyone can participate based on their ability. Starr said the class can be done by people with a range of mobility. “It is appropriate for people who are more comfortable just seated. If you walk with a walker, fine. Walk with a cane, fine.” Brach who cannot move his feet, said: “It keeps me active.” The camaraderie contributes to the upbeat experience. Starr said patients are encouraged  “to find your pose. Find your support. Find your community. You have that support to keep you motivated.” A dance class “seems a natural fit.” A recent session begins with dancers introducing themselves by saying their names, and accompanying that…

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