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Forest Hills Yoga Studio Hosts Dance Class for Parkinson's Patients

By Nigel Chiwaya | July 19, 2012 6:55am

FOREST HILLS — Michael Brookes was forced to give up yoga classes after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

But two years ago, the 74-year-old retired professor found an alternative in Dance for PD, a dance class specifically for patients with the debilitating ailment.

The only problem was the commute from Queens to dance classes in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

"It's such a schlep to take the E to the G," Brookes, a 30-year Forest Hills resident, said of the travel. "And that Court Square crossover is a killer for those of us with Parkinson's."

Brookes went to Dance for PD class as usual last week, but this time he didn't have to commute. That's because Dance for PD had come to Queens, setting up shop at Brooke's old yoga studio, Bamboomoves in Forest Hills.

Bamaboomoves' owner, Suzanne Scholten, decided to host Dance for PD in her studio after attending a class with Brookes in December.

"It's such a community," Scholten said of the students in the Brooklyn class. "They're so supportive of one another."

Friday's class, attended by 10 students, was a partnership between Bamboomoves and the Mark Morris Dance Group, which founded Dance for PD in 2001. 

Parkinson's, a disease of the brain, leads to difficulty walking and moving. The instructors said that the class, which teaches students improv, ballet, jazz and tap dance styles, helps patients overcome some of those difficulties.

"By coming into a dance class, folks are able to work on all of those elements without thinking about Parkinson's. But they're able to get into the mind of a dancer," said David Leventhal, Dance for PD's program manager.

"It's very fun. It's about movement, but supported movements," Scholten added.

During the class, the students progress from moving their arms and tapping their feet while seated to dancing across the floor by the end of the session if they are up to it.

Brookes said the environment the class created was just as important as the activities students performed.

"It's as much emotional as it is physical," he said. "If you watch people, everyone is very sensitive to everyone else."

Scholten said the Forest Hills class will be held monthly, and up to twice a month if the interest is high enough.

That seemed likely at the end of Friday's class, as the students in attendance danced across the floor, smiling and laughing to the beat of a drum.

Leventhal, a co-founder of Dance for PD, said that class helps student surprise themselves.

"They think it might be difficult to walk," Leventhal said, "but once they dance they get a new appreciation for what they can do."

Those who are interested in participating can call 718-263-0788 for further details. Bamboomoves is located at 107-40 Queens Blvd., Ste. 206.