Dance for Parkinson’s gives patients an outlet to combat the disease

Ruth Davidson Hahn brought Dance for Parkinson’s to Lincoln in Nebraska in 2014. She operates the classes out of the Nebraska Ballet Theatre.
Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 10:18 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month and April 11 is World Parkinson’s Day, one organization in Lincoln is giving patients and caregivers dealing with Parkinson’s an outlet regain confidence and movement.

Parkinson’s Disease patients often suffer from symptoms like muscle stiffness, tremors or memory issues. One Lincoln woman helps those patients with dance and movement.

Ruth Davidson Hahn brought Dance for Parkinson’s to Lincoln in 2014 and welcome Parkinson’s patients, their caregivers or spouses to join the classes at the Nebraska Ballet Theatre. Participants start out with a seated warm-up, then they work at the ballet bar, because Parkinson’s often affects the balance, and go through different styles of dance like ballet, tap or lyrical. If dancers are feeling confident, they can go to the middle of the floor to move and work on choreography and dances. If they don’t have the balance, they can work through the moves in a chair.

“I’m thrilled with how much dedication they have, how motivated they become, how committed,” Hahn said. “All the discipline of the dancer and I say ‘I just want you to learn to dance your way through life.’”

The class’s emphasis on movement, stimulation and exercise can help with the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Hahn said after class dancers are able to rise from their chair with more ease, are more talkative and stand or sit a little more upright.

“There is awareness of body and space and connecting to the ground, connecting to the sky, just expanding ourselves,” Hahn said. “So all the training is contradictory of what the disease can have symptoms of.”

The class also works together to choreograph dances, which helps with locomotive skills like memory and balance.

The class is $50 for a 10-week session or $6 per individual class with drop-ins available. Caregivers, spouses and partners are free.