Ballet Boyz lead

Bal­le­ri­nas buoy the moods of 50 peop­le with Parkinson’s each week at spe­cia­li­sed dance clas­ses in Lon­don. Here, wri­ter Fio­na King­s­ton takes part in a class and learns how move­ment the­ra­py impro­ves both the self-este­em and agi­li­ty of par­ti­ci­pants

In a quiet street in King­s­ton, Lon­don, UK, live music and ani­ma­ted con­ver­sa­ti­on flood out of a sty­lish dance stu­dio. The stu­dio is home to the award-win­ning Bal­let­Boyz CAN Dance Pro­gram­me, whe­re ex-Roy­al Bal­let dan­cers bring hap­pi­ness, mobi­li­ty and pur­po­se to peop­le living with Parkinson’s.

Mar­tin Buck­ley has lived with the con­di­ti­on for nine years and finds that its unpre­dic­ta­ble natu­re limits what he does. Befo­re Parkinson’s, he and his wife enjoy­ed jive and won a medal for ball­room dan­cing.

Mar­tin said: “With this class, I feel much hap­pier. Parkinson’s is very iso­la­ting. If the dan­cing goes well it’s phe­no­me­nal – you remem­ber how sma­shing dance is.”

Bal­le­ri­nas Rebec­ca Tre­vitt and Annie Bre­ckell laun­ched the pro­gram­me in 2015, inte­gra­ting live music and vocals with bal­let.

Parkinson's CAN Dance ii

Rebec­ca exp­lains the programme’s aims: “We pro­vi­de the tools to impro­ve pos­tu­re, gait, move­ment and speech. Their expe­ri­en­ces can often cent­re on losing skills and mobi­li­ty. We’re rai­sing their self-este­em. The­re is still some­thing to learn. We are sho­wing them what they can do.

“We focus on fun, not the­ra­py. Parkinson’s is left out­si­de the door, they come here to dance. Occa­sio­nal­ly, they lea­ve their wal­king sticks and frames behind. The­re couldn’t be a big­ger com­pli­ment than that.”

Noel­le Dwy­er, who stop­ped working for a gar­den design com­pa­ny soon after she found it dif­fi­cult to climb step-lad­ders at London’s Chel­sea Flower Show, said: “The clas­ses help me on so many levels. I can for­get about the day-to-day dif­fi­cul­ties in living with Parkinson’s and just enjoy the live music and move­ment.

“At the begin­ning of the class, I feel very shaky, bent for­ward and shuf­fling. At the end of the class, I feel ener­gi­sed, wal­king out with a spring in my step. I also expe­ri­ence grea­ter mobi­li­ty and a sen­se of well-being through the fri­endship and com­pa­n­ions­hip of the group.”

Dr Sara Hous­ton, who was lead rese­ar­cher on the Eng­lish Natio­nal Ballet’s Dance for Parkinson’s Pro­gram­me, Uni­ver­si­ty of Roehamp­ton, from 2010 to 2015, reports that her fin­dings mir­ror tho­se expe­ri­en­ced by the peop­le atten­ding the clas­ses in King­s­ton.