Art as Action Artistic Director and Reconnect instructor Sarah Leversee was invited to write an article for the Parkinson Voice, a quarterly publication of Parkinson Association of the Rockies. Here is the article:
Dance has a reputation of being available to a select few: those blessed with a particular body type, the privilege of expensive training and the rare talent to master challenging technique. Every Wednesday afternoon, an unlikely group of dancers comes together and defies convention to revel in the healing powers of dance that are beneficial and enjoyable for every body, particularly those with Parkinson’s disease.
Reconnect with your Body classes empower participants to discover new ways to move by teaching how to think like a dancer, connect with your breath and find radical compassion for often ailing body parts. “Reconnect class allows me to forgive my body for not living up to its full potential and appreciate all the incredible abilities I possess. I become lost in the music and movement, not only my movements but those free-spirited and graceful moves of my fellow dancers. Somehow I forget what brought me to this place where I am symptom free and feel like a dancer. I sense that this is definitely one of the best hours of my week, both for my body and my spirit,” says Margie Dahlin, a Reconnect dancer with Parkinson’s.
Reconnect with your Body is a program of performing arts non-profit Art as Action (AaA) and an affiliate of the international network of Dance for PD® classes. AaA Artistic Director and lifelong dancer Sarah Leversee teaches Reconnect, which celebrates it’s 5th anniversary this Fall.
Reconnect class begins in chairs, sitting in a circle. Sarah leads a brief meditation, encouraging participants to focus on their breath and notice how their bodies feel. This moves into a dancing “sun salutation”, sitting in chairs and moving slowly to music. The music upshifts to the driving “Howlin’ for You” by The Black Keys, and the whole group starts to vibrate with excitement. After waking up everyone’s bodies in chairs, class moves to standing and dances across the floor to a diverse playlist: from Stevie Wonder to Dave Brubeck to Beyoncé. At the end of class, dancers move back into a circle to cool down. After the music ends, everyone collapse into a satisfied group hug.
As described by Reconnect co-founder and devoted participant Wayne Gilbert, “What struck me most when I first started dancing, was how it focused on what I could do – or doing things I never thought of doing – as opposed to all the things I’ve lost, can’t do or am losing. When I’m dancing, I can forget that I have Parkinson’s for a little while.”
These courageous dancers make it to class even on days when it feels impossible, and they are met with a patient, compassionate framework and a unique community that welcomes everyone just as they are. Dance is not only about nurturing the body; it is also a powerful artistic outlet for expressing emotions. Dancer Amy Dressel-Martin illuminates, “My unrelenting dance partner, PD, has interrupted my rhythm and grace. So I seek the freedom of the dance without PD leading, without PD following. I actually feel graceful here. I can move here. I can dance in circles, not squares. I can move with curves and arcs, not heaves and listings. I sometimes wobble, quiver or tremble. But here no one notices, I’m sure of it. My words: Flowing. Smooth. Gliding. Graceful. Confident. Unguarded.”