Parkinson’s, MS dance class topic of support group

PORT ANGELES — The possibility of a new dance class for people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions is the topic of this week’s meeting of a Parkinson’s support group.

Patients and their loved ones are encouraged to attend the free meeting upstairs at the Port Angeles Senior Center, 328 E. Seventh St., at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Corrie Befort, a professional dance teacher with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Seattle’s Cornish College, and fellow teacher Deborah Magallanes will talk about the classes they offer for Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis patients in Kirkland and Seattle.

Deborah Stoltenberg, a Port Angeles artist whose husband suffers from Parkinson’s disease, is bringing the dance instructors to town in hopes of gathering participants for what would be the first such classes.

Befort, for her part, emphasizes that her classes, which are based on internationally renowned choreographer Mark Morris’ Dance for PD Program, are not just physical therapy.

“First and foremost, this class is a dance class,” she said.

“We work seated and standing, within a wide range of dance styles” and often have a live musician playing throughout.

“I hear from my students that the battle with Parkinson’s can feel like a battle against one’s own body,” Befort said.

“The disease detracts not only from a person’s sense of control over the body, but also from their sense of pleasure,” she noted.

When one can’t feel pleasure, depression and a feeling of isolation can grow — yet relief can come through moving to music.

“As a dancer, I know that dancing to live music with other people generates real, physical joy,” Befort said.

In her classes, she sees people open up, laugh — and really dance.

“I see joy rise up in their bodies. I may lead the class, but they are creating the pleasure they feel,” Befort said.

“I don’t know with any authority what dance can repair or reverse in this disease on a medical level, but I believe that pleasure is powerful ­— in this instance especially.

“Some days, the most a participant can do is sit and sway to the live music,” she added.

“But they are still moving, together with other people, and they tell me that this feels good.”

Before classes are scheduled in the area, Stoltenberg and Befort want to connect with as many MS, Parkinson’s and stroke patients as possible.

“Being on the Peninsula, I guess you could say we are isolated from opportunities that they have in the bigger cities as Seattle, Olympia and Portland [Ore.]. So to me, this is a big step in the right direction,” she said.

“I am so excited to be a part of this.”

For details, phone 360-477-4730 or email Stoltenberg at oystersbydeb@

Information about Morris’ program is available at

For information about the Port Angeles Parkinson’s support group, which meets the fourth Wednesday of each month at the senior center, phone 360-457-5352 or email


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@

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