‘To most people, PD stands for Parkinson’s disease, but I say it stands for perseverance and determination.’
“When I learned at 37 that I had Parkinson’s disease, I was devastated. As a podiatrist and foot surgeon, I knew my medical career was going to end, and I was worried about my health. But my depression didn’t last long. I returned to dancing. I had taken lessons since I was 2 years old and resumed classes again as a form of therapy.
“Dance has been clinically proven to improve some symptoms of Parkinson’s. The beats of music help an individual have more fluid movement, decrease tremors and curtail memory loss in some cases. It helped me, but I wanted to assist others, too. I connected with the Mark Morris Dance Company in Brooklyn, which had started a Parkinson’s program years earlier. I took their training seminars and created Dance Party for Parkinson’s Inc. And off we went!
“The Tilles Center officials at C.W. Post College contacted me about starting a program on Long Island. I, of course, was enthusiastic about the idea, but I wanted people to be able to take classes free of charge. And it happened! We’ve had this dance program for five years at no cost to the participants. We meet once a month with 20-40 individuals. We offer tap to ballet to hip-hop. I am involved; I don’t teach, but I do dance. My partner is a gentleman named Steve who has been coming since we began. Steve and I love to do the ‘stroll.’ Participants have told me that our dance classes make them forget even if it’s just for an hour that they have Parkinson’s. It’s been a godsend to so many people. And the Tilles Center has been most generous: They often give our participants free or discounted tickets to their dance shows.
“It’s been 14 years since I was diagnosed. To most people, P.D. stands for Parkinson’s disease, but I say it stands for perseverance and determination. I am hopeful that research will continue to find better treatments for this disease. In the meantime, I owe my life to my friends, family and the dance teachers who continue to keep me and hundreds of others moving. We will never stop dancing until a cure is found.”
Interviewed by Saul Schachter