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Experience Dance for Parkinson

Dance and Movement to Enhance Health Outcomes with Leymis Bolaños Wilmott – by Lisa Richardson in collaboration with Hedda Matza-Haughton

Arts for Health Sarasota-Manatee (AFHS-M) co-chairs, Hedda Matza- Haughton, LCSW, and Lisa Richardson, LMHC, were very pleased to showcase on January 24, 2017 one of AFHS-M’s Professional Organization members, Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SDC), who actively enhances health outcomes in the integration of dance and movement in a program for people living with Parkinson’s.

The Outreach program began with Hedda, introducing Executive Director of Parkinson Place, Marilyn Tait, and Leymis Bolaños Wilmott, MFA Founder and Artistic Director of Sarasota Contemporary Dance (SDC) and creator of Parkinson Place Dance Program, both speaking about how and why the dance program was started.

Marilyn had been collecting data that spoke to the importance of the arts in healing, commenting, “It takes much more than medicine to heal.” Marilyn and Leymis have been working together 5 years to develop this dance program which nurtures the freedom of spirit and movement in a body that feels like it is becoming difficult to move. The program fosters community through meeting new people and developing friendships, working in groups, and enjoying a sense of accomplishment together.

Leymis was inspired to develop a dance program after the passing of her mother-in-law, who had Parkinson’s disease. Leymis realized the only time her mother-in-law engaged in her surroundings was when she would attend her performances. The movement and music would “engage her imagination allowing her to escape the prison of her illness.” Leymis expressed a strong belief about the importance of family and dance, and wants to help people feel love through the connection of dance and community.

Ms. Wilmott was selected by Sarasota’s Parkinson Place to be trained in the internationally recognized Dance For PD® Program through the Mark Morris Dance Group and Brooklyn Parkinson Group (danceforparkinsons.org). The training was a great experience that also reinforced what Leymis was already doing with her dance program which includes live drumming by Jahrel Thompson, and a dance assistant, Xiao-Xuan Yang Dancingers, who moves through the group offering support as participants focus their attention on the instructor.

Leymis shared how SCD enhances health outcomes, builds community, encourages creativity, and cultivates joy by sharing the art of dance with people living with Parkinson disease. Leymis identified ten benefits of the dance program: flexibility, confidence, decreased feelings of isolation, improved mind/body connection, creativity, rhythm, increased feelings of joy, balance, body awareness, and imagining graceful movement.

A participant from the Dance for Parkinson program, Peter Joy, provided a handout that expressed his feelings about the dance program. “All you have to do is keep on Trucking, Dancing, and Dreaming.” There are many characteristics of Parkinson’s Disease including tremors, freezing, masked face, and slowness of movement, that effect your life, but all hope is not lost. Leymis’s class challenges the body through stretching, balancing, provoking creativity, and movement. “Not only do we have to create and perform a choreographed number on the spot, but for most of the hour we try to keep up with these beautiful people [SCD performers] and their amazing talent and abilities…Leymis has created a program that deals with all these [Parkinson’s] issues to make your life a little simpler.”

Parkinson Place is an 11,000 square foot Comprehensive Care Center for Parkinson’s disease in Sarasota, with services to include a USF Satellite Parkinson Clinic, a full service medical clinic, a physical therapy department offering the Lee Silverman Voice Therapy (LSVT) BIG & LOUD programs, psychological services and over 80 free participation programs each month.  “Dance for Parkinson’s bi weekly classes with Leymis are extraordinary in every way.  Anyone can participate no matter what their age or physical condition.  Folks just love it.  The dance class keep your body, mind and spirit up and moving through self-expression, free movement and fun.  Those living with Parkinson’s disease are the world’s best dancers!”  Marilyn Tait, Director, Parkinson Place.

For more information on Sarasota Contemporary Dance and Parkinson Place programs and events, please go to their websites. Sarasota Contemporary Dance is www.sarasotacontemporarydance.org  and Parkinson Place is www.parkinsonplace.org

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