In celebration of World Parkinson’s Day on 11 April, we took a look at one of the most creative and confidence boosting programmes out there, which helps people with the disease: dance.
In the UK alone, there are around 145,000 people who have Parkinson’s, and it’s estimated that two people are diagnosed every hour.
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition, caused by a loss of nerve cells. The main symptoms include tremors, muscle stiffness and slow movement.
People living with Parkinson’s can experience fatigue and mental health issues associated with their physical symptoms.
Proven to temporarily relieve symptoms, boost emotions and help socially, too, is dance.
Fleur Derbyshire-Fox is the engagement director at ENB. She started the classes which have been running since 2010.
“When you are close to someone who has Parkinson’s, you see just how much their world is changing and the risk of social isolation and loss of confidence,” explains Fleur.
“I could see that English National Ballet could make a difference by extending our work in this way and in doing so, challenge public perceptions of Parkinson’s.”
ENB’s Dance for Parkinson’s programme runs weekly classes in London, Oxford, Ipswich, Liverpool and Cardiff, as well as monthly classes at the Royal Albert Hall, which over 1,000 people attend.
Scottish Ballet also runs their Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland programme in
Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Classes are based on ENB’s classical and contemporary repertoire, and aim to improve confidence, creativity, self-expression and physical strength.
“The classes are for people living with Parkinson’s, their carers, family and friends, which creates a supportive and inclusive environment,” continues Fleur.
“They’re structured like any other dance class, starting with a seated warm up, moving to the barre and then to the centre for creative work and ending with a cool down.
“There’s always joy and laughter filling the room and each session is followed by social time with tea and biscuits and plenty of conversation.”
Alan Ferrett joined English National Ballet’s classes after being diagnosed
with Parkinson’s in 2003.
“The class is a place where we can totally relax and be ourselves,” says
“Dancing to live music is most exhilarating in the surroundings of a
ballet company where you meet and know professional dancers. It makes one feel very special.”
Not only offering a welcoming and friendly atmosphere for participants to share their experiences and support each other, classes are also a place for
the dancers to express themselves, and provide an escape from Parkinson’s.
“Going to English National Ballet classes has changed my life,” enthuses Alan.
“The atmosphere is more like a club where everyone is upbeat and happy. I
couldn’t do without it.”