Dance class helps those with Parkinson's Disease defy their diagnosis

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - “That's the secret. If you want to keep moving, you've gotta keep moving,” explained 74-year-old, Marsha Guillaume.

Guillaume lives in Snyder. She’s a retired speech pathologist and an avid gardener, and she's also living with Parkinson's Disease. It’s a disorder of the nervous system that effects movement. “I thought of Parkinson's as a death sentence. It's not. It's a terrible inconvenience, and it means giving up things in life that were important to you before. But you find ways to deal with that,” she said.

Guillaume no longer drives. She said she’s now too weak to move a steering wheel.

But at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, she's able to gain back some of that strength and independence thanks to a dance class called “Art Moves Me.”

Reporter Ali Touhey: How does that help Parkinson's patients?

Class Instructor Cynthia Pegado: There's so much going on and this is all incredibly helpful for the Parkinsonian brain because we're creating new neural pathways in a very complex way. Their bodies betray them. And, I know the deep joy and gratitude when I'm able to use my body in these beautiful expressive ways.

That’s why Pegado said she launched the class about three years ago.

“You have to think about what you're doing. You have to react and you have to put it all together and it's not easy,” said dancer, Steven Bernstein.

But, it's worth it if you ask Marsha Guillaume. Typically--she uses a walker. But after she finishes a class, she’s able to go without. And there's something else Guillaume gets out of attending the dance class, something else money can't buy:  “We've become kind of a family. And, that has been important to me. These folks are truly like family.”

For class information, click here.

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