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Dance class helps those with Parkinson's, other neurological diseases

'Dance is joy. Music is joy. It's all joy,' founder says
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Posted at 4:00 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-17 00:02:41-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Exercise in any form is good for us, especially as we age. In Palm Beach Gardens, a weekly dance class is helping participants strengthen their bodies and their brains.

Mind. Music. Movement. Three simple words that literally transform lives.

Dance for Fluidity is not your typical dance class. This one is for people with neurological disorders, like Parkinson’s disease, dementia, Alzheimer's or anyone with balance and movement issues.

Beth Elgort is the driving force behind this class and the nonprofit, "Mind, Music, Movement Foundation."

"Oh, how did this start?" Elgort said. "Ten years ago my husband Steve was diagnosed with Parkinson's and it was a shock to us. We had been married 5 years."

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A retired social worker, Elgort wasted no time becoming an advocate for her husband and others.

"He doesn't give up and you can't give up with the disease," she said. "You have to move every single day, and that's really how the beginnings of what we are doing today happened."

Beth teamed up with medical experts like neurologist Dr. Linda Poa, who said fluidity of movement is helpful for coordination.

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"Dance is fluid movement, so you need a lot of coordination and spatial awareness, so it's a wonderful exercise if you can get it because you can see yourself doing it," Elgort said. "You can feel yourself moving."

Elements of ballet are woven into the class. Shannon Murray and Libby Faber, professional dancers with Ballet Palm Beach, are specially trained to work with these students.

"It's exciting. We love to dance and do it all the time. But getting to bring it to people, different demographic and maybe have never danced and have strong idea of what dance is. 'Oh, I can't dance. (I) have two left feet and showing them that, of course, you can dance. If you have a body, you can dance. Everyone can dance."

Colleen Smith owns Ballet Palm Beach in Palm Beach Gardens, where the dance class is held.

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"Listening to music does something to our brains," Smith said. "Then moving to that music does something else, just, I know, it's transforming. I totally believe in it."

"What we're offering are programs that can help stimulate the brain keep you moving and having fun," Elgort said. "And the most important part is the socialization. Everyone leaves smiling and happy."

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Dorrie Aveni attends the class with her husband.

"I think you have an internal rhythm that gets stopped and they have to re-start it again and I think that's what Beth's helping us all do," Aveni said.

"I thought it was great," Marvin Kamensky said. "I'm not in real great shape. I have difficulty walking, but this helps."

Until a cure is found for diseases like Parkinson's, Steve Elgort said classes like this help maintain a certain quality of life.

"Everyone is using same medication they've used since 1955. The same, just more doses," Kamensky said. "I've stayed down with my dosage because I have this activity and have this support and this advocate with me. It's remarkable how much I would have regressed. I'm thrilled and love my wife like crazy."

Beth Elgort sums it up this way: "Dance is joy. Music is joy. It's all joy."

For more information on the Mind, Music, Movement Foundation and other classes and programs offered for those with neurological and neurodegenerative issues, click here.

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