WEEKEND: Movement, fun point of class for nervous system issues
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Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News
Corrie Befort, a specially trained dance teacher from Seattle, teaches a monthly class for Parkinson's disease, stroke, arthritis and multiple sclerosis patients in Port Angeles. The next class is Saturday morning at the Sons of Norway Hall.
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Deborah Magallanes of Kirkland co-leads the dance class. The next class, also open to multiple sclerosis, stroke and acute arthritis patients, is at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News.

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Pretend you have two helium balloons just above you, with their strings attached to your collarbone. Let them lift you up so “your collarbone just floats,” Corrie Befort said.

In the circle of people seated around her, it happened. Chests opened up. Clavicles lifted. People smiled.

Befort's class, to be offered again at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Sons of Norway Hall, 131 W. Fifth St., is for Parkinson's disease, acute arthritis, multiple sclerosis and stroke patients — and their caregivers and other loved ones.

'Gentle twist'

“It's effective and useful for anyone who wants to increase their capacity for greater movement and grace,” said Befort, who drives from Seattle to teach once a month here.

Befort's teaching partner, Deborah Magallanes of Kirkland, shows her students a gentle twist: As you're seated comfortably, she instructed, slowly turn “hip, belly button, ribs, shoulder, face — smile.”

People of varying mobility come from Forks, Port Townsend, Port Hadlock and Sequim to join this group.

The fee is $10 per class, but spouses, caregivers and companions are invited to participate free.

At the February class, a man brought his granddaughter, and they danced together.

The shorthand for it is Parkinson's dance, but “dance” might scare people off, said Deb Stoltenberg, who first brought Befort and Magallanes to the Peninsula.

Stretching to music

The class is not about complicated dance steps, she said, but more about gentle stretching and exercises, with live music by pianist Linda Dowdell.

Dowdell's presence is a serendipitous thing. She is a composer, jazz pianist and music teacher who lives in Sequim, having moved here from New York City. There, she worked with David Leventhal and John Heginbotham, creators of the Dance for Parkinson's program.

They were colleagues at the Mark Morris Dance Group of Brooklyn, where the early dance-for-Parkinson's classes were first offered.

The classes are now happening all over the country; Befort teaches in Seattle and Anacortes, too.

Stoltenberg, whose husband has Parkinson's, said she fervently hopes to offer more dance classes on the North Olympic Peninsula.

These are a good way to get out of the house, she added, and have some lighthearted social time.

“I so wish we could find an instructor in Sequim or Port Angeles,” Stoltenberg said, “or at least have enough participants to make it worth Corrie and Deborah's time and expenses.”

Dowdell, for her part, believes this dance program to be inspirational — “to all of us.”

Dancing, stretching, being with people is “extremely valuable,” she added, “as we inevitably age, whether or not Parkinson's is in our lives.”

Darlene Jones, who coordinates the Parkinson's disease support group in Port Angeles, feels the same.

She comes to the dance class “not just to support it, but also because it's fun,” she said.

'It is so fun'

“People think, 'I can't dance.' But it is so fun.”

A short video showing Parkinson's dance classes at New York City's Mark Morris Dance Center is available at http://tinyurl.com/cp88dhk.

For more information about this Saturday's class in Port Angeles, phone Jones at 360-457-5352 or email djones@olypen.com.

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Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 22. 2013 1:25PM
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