Grand Rapids Ballet School Boasts Benefits of its Moving with Parkinson’s Class during Parkinson’s Awareness Month

GRBS also is hosting a Moving with Parkinson’s Event on April 26

By Jessica Meldrum M.S.

In recognition of Parkinson’s Awareness month taking place throughout the month of April, Grand Rapids Ballet School (GRBS), the educational branch of Grand Rapids Ballet, is slated to host a special Moving with Parkinson’s event on Tuesday, April 26 at 11 a.m.

Moving with Parkinson’s is a dance therapy class for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) geared towards mobility that was created in the 2009-10 season when the organization established its Adaptive Dance Program, which boasts the therapeutic power of dance. GRBS offers both a Moving with Parkinson’s class and Explorer Dance, a beginner-level ballet class that emphasizes balance, coordination, and creative expression for children with disabilities.

Through a passion for helping people to enhance their everyday life experiences, Attila Mosolygo, the Grand Rapids Ballet School Director, has continued growing the program over the past decade. After receiving extensive training through the Mark Morris Dance Group’s Dance for PD Program, Mosolygo brought the curriculum back to Grand Rapids to share this powerful learning opportunity with individuals in the West Michigan community.

“Moving with Parkinson’s is immensely beneficial to the community; it’s something that needs to be out there,” said Mosolygo. “Our program offers a creative outlet. What we do in our classes is to try to change the dancers’ perceptions of what movement is and the intention behind the movement. By changing the intention behind the movement, their movement changes.”

The Moving with Parkinson’s program is based on the idea that people with PD can benefit from the insight, technique, and methods used by dancers to guide their bodies and minds. The weekly classes strive to increase coordination, balance, flexibility, and strength through music and movement.

Making Moving with Parkinson’s even more impactful, through an ongoing partnership with the Parkinson’s Association of West Michigan, GRBS is able to offer these weekly classes free of charge throughout the year at the Meijer-Royce Center for Dance in downtown Grand Rapids as well as satellite classes at Evergreen Commons in Holland.

“There’s something about music and movement that changes their perspective,” said Mosolygo. He explained that he often uses visualization to help guide his classes. “Visualize a tree moving and bending,” he described. He then asks the participants to create that movement with their bodies. “Having everyone tap into their creative side makes this class as beneficial as it is.”

Among the many physical benefits of participation in Moving with Parkinson’s, the dancers often also find solace in the comradery built during the classes. It offers people a chance to connect with others who are going through a shared experience. “The idea of isolation and dealing with Parkinson’s is eased a bit because you’re not doing it alone,” explained Mosolygo. “Our class creates a social element and it becomes a support group to keep each other motivated.”

One current student, Sharon Schuster-Craig, shared “The Moving with Parkinson’s class helps me walk with a more even gait; improves my balance; strengthens cognitive skills and provides a much-needed social outlet.” Another student, Mary Brubaken, who has been taking the class for eight years says it’s one of the most positive activities she has participated in. “It lets me slow down, forget the challenges I face each day, and enjoy being mindful of that moment,” she reflected. “Attila is a wonderful teacher and the piano music adds to the joy of being part of something freeing. It is a special part of my week.”

To cap Parkinson’s Awareness Month, GRBS is hosting a special event on Tuesday, April 26 at 11 a.m. to welcome current participants and those who are interested in joining the program. The event will include coffee and donuts and will lead into the weekly Moving with Parkinson’s class that starts at 11:45 a.m. Also happening on April 20, Mosolygo will lead a 15-minute demonstration at Evergreen Commons to share details about the program.

Enrollment for Moving with Parkinson’s is available online with classes taking place every Tuesday morning in Grand Rapids and every Wednesday afternoon in Holland. Classes take place throughout the calendar year, visit the GRB website for the current schedule.

Parkinson’s Awareness Month, aimed at inspiring people across the United States to take immediate action to impact the future of Parkinson’s disease, takes place annually in April. The founding group focuses on sharing information to help people navigate Parkinson’s or to help create a world without PD.

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