Krannert Center Celebrates 10 Years Of Offering Dance Classes, Community For People With Parkinson’s Disease

 
Dance for people with Parkinson's class

The Dance for People with Parkinson's Disease classes at the Krannert Center in Urbana aim to help people living with Parkinson’s preserve their balance and strength through dance. This photo is from the early years of the program.

Courtesy of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Dance for People with Parkinson’s Disease is a national nonprofit collaboration led by the Mark Morris Dance Group in New York, with classes offered in more about 250 communities around the world.

This month, the program in Urbana—at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts—celebrates 10 years of supporting people with Parkinson’s and their loved ones, through dance, music and artistic expression. 

The classes aim to help people living with Parkinson’s preserve their balance and strength through dance. The disease affects the central nervous system, which can make certain movements difficult. 

Dance for People with Parkinson's is "a place where you have to set aside your worries and your thoughts... and just move together and express," said Kate Insolia, who co-teaches the classes in Urbana.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Numerous research studies have found that dance and the arts can be beneficial for both the mental and physical health of people with Parkinson’s disease. The World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe concluded in a recent report that engaging with the arts can be beneficial for both mental and physical health for people with Parkinson’s disease. 

Whitney Havice, Dance for PD class coordinator at Krannert, said the Mark Morris Dance Group began teaching dance classes for people with Parkinson’s more than a decade ago, as part of their yearly week-long residency at the Krannert Center.

“It became so popular that we thought, ‘Why don't we develop this into our own program?’” Havice said. 

Dance instructor Kate Insolia co-teaches the free monthly classes at the Krannert Center in Urbana; she’s also the founder and artistic director of the Urbana Dance Company. 

Many of the exercises are performed while seated and include coordinated movements and challenging mental exercises. The class also incorporates elements of theatre as well as choreography and movement across the floor.

“It's a place where you have to set aside your worries and your thoughts and come together, and just move together and express,” Insolia said. “To me, dance is art-making, and art-making, to me, is about deeply connecting to yourself and connecting to others as you’re moving and creating beauty together.”

Insolia said the class is open to all levels of experience, and is designed for people who live with Parkinson’s disease and their loved ones or caregivers.

“A lot of times, (people) get nervous: ‘I can’t do this, oh my gosh, I’m terrible at it.,’” she said. “And it’s just not true. They do these beautiful dances. I’m always taken away, every time… because they look so beautiful.”

Havice said the class is about much more than just the physical movement. It’s about bringing people together to enjoy artistic expression and also receive support and understanding from people who are going through similar struggles.

“The group has really become like a family,” Havice said. “We have lost some members over the years. We lost one of our original instructors, Kate Kuper. And so you know, we've kind of experienced all of those things that a family unit kind of experience together.”

Find more information about the Dance for Parkinson’s Disease program at the Krannert Center online.


Christine Herman is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter: @CTHerman

Story source: WILL