April is a special month at NBS as we celebrate and honour a treasured part of our school community – our Parkinson’s dancers. Parkinson’s Awareness Month offers us an opportunity to reflect on the profound impact the program has made in the four years since it began.
Research continues to prove that dance provides powerful physical, social and psychological benefits for people living with this disease - but we at NBS know the benefits are mutual. Our Parkinson’s dancers have become an integral part of the school, attending rehearsals and performances, taking in the student art projects at Jour Blanche and learning and performing the NBS Sharing Dance Day choreography.
Through them, NBS has experienced firsthand power of intergenerational communication. Earlier this year, we welcomed a class of Grade 2 students, staff and parents from Sunnybrook Public School in Toronto. The young students, who were learning about citizenship and community, participated as dancers the Parkinson’s class; marching and waltzing along with the regular participants. There was little doubt, from the smiles and laughter, that this was a joyful way to connect and share across the generations. Dance also united two students from the NBS professional ballet program (PBP) with two Parkinson’s dancers, Fran and Murray Ellis, into one incredible performance at NBS’ Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Workshop last summer.
The NBS PBP students have learned valuable lessons from their experience dancing with Fran and Murray. “I’ve already learned that the way dance makes us use our brains and bodies can help people with movement disorders, says Ryan Tomash, NBS graduate and now a member of the Royal Danish Ballet’s corps. “I learned that dancing together can help reduce feelings of isolation as we age, but more than anything, I learned that I have an important role to play as a dancer that goes far beyond perfecting my technique.”
“To share the stage with two incredibly talented young dancers means so much to me,” says Fran. “It gives me confidence - it says you CAN dance, you CAN move, you CAN be a valued part of society.”
NBS Sharing Dance with People with Parkinson's is supported by The Vukets Family Foundation and the Moving for Life Fund. All NBS Sharing Dance programming is generously supported by founding donors Joan and Jerry Lozinski.