Before the dancing began, Jill Goldman kept the tremble in her hands at bay by holding them in her pants’ pockets.
Tall and thin, Goldman, 74, has had tremors since she was in her 20s. Her mother had them too. But over the last two years, they have worsened, making it hard for her to eat, socialize and keep her balance.
“It is just hard,” said Goldman, of Raleigh.
But on Friday Goldman pulled her trembling hands from her pockets and worked her way through different sequences of dances that included ballet, salsa and contemporary moves. She stretched. She clapped. She smiled.
Goldman was one of about 20 people participating in the N.C. Dance for Parkinson’s community class held at the American Dance Festival’s Samuel Scripps Studio on Broad Street. Visitors were invited to participate as part of Parkinson’s Awareness Month.
Parkinson’s is a chronic and progressive movement disorder with symptoms that include tremors, rigidity and instability. It affects up to 1 million people in the U.S. and as many as 10 million worldwide.
The cause is unknown, and there is no cure. Medication and surgery are used to manage its symptoms.
N.C. Dance for Parkinson’s offers free dance classes for those with Parkinson’s and similar disorders throughout most of the year. The Durham offering is part of Dance for PD, a Brooklyn-based organization that has been offering specialized dance classes to people with Parkinson’s for nearly 15 years.
The local program is led by Susan Saenger and Lindsay Voorhees.
On Friday, Saenger and Voorhees started by explaining the point of dance is to express one’s creativity and self-expression.
“The beauty of dance is you can take what you are given and infuse your own flavor into it,” said Voorhees, who is about to graduate from UNC with a master’s degree in occupational therapy. Saenger is a personal health and fitness trainer, a counselor and dance/movement therapist.
The 90-minute class consisted of Voorhees and Saenger introducing moves that would later be repeated to music that ranged from classical to more upbeat numbers like “Down on the Corner” by Creedence Clearwater Revival and “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.
They danced in groups, with partners and sitting on chairs.
Participants said dancing is a fun way to exercise, relax tight muscles, and reduce stress associated with the disease’s limitations
“You let yourself go,” said Alice Remini, 77 of Efland, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2010.
It also builds self esteem and provides a social outlet.
“I can still do something, even if I am not on beat,” said Patty Meehan, 59, of Roxboro, who was diagnosed in 2005.
The class ended with everyone holding hands in big circle and passing a nod from person to person another.
That last part always gets Meehan.
“I cry every time. It is kind of spiritual,” she said. “Everybody in the circle is smiling. And that’s what it is all about.”
Goldman was initially diagnosed with essential tremor, a neurological disorder that causes involuntary shaking, but was told she had Parkinson’s Disease in February.
The classes help her to move her arms and legs, to expand her body, and concentrate on her motions. It allows her to be around people who share her challenges.
“I feel good,” she said after the class.
For more information about NC Dance for Parkinson’s contact Susan Saenger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-215-2759.