The remarkable way people are using dance to overcome debilitating disorder

Posted at 7:02 PM, Nov 30, 2017
and last updated 2019-03-21 13:53:53-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- At a dance studio in Chesterfield County, Wednesday is a day of escape for folks coping with Parkinson’s disease.

“Nothing happens on Wednesday unless I come here first,” Bill White said.

Like clockwork dedicated folks arrive ready to dance at Simply Ballroom. Dancers are perfecting new moves while stretching their boundaries, but .more importantly the students, like Earl Hill, are keeping the ravages of the disease at bay.

“Finally one day (the doctor) told me I had Parkinson’s,” Hill said. “Everything is in slow motion.”

Hill’s diagnosis three years ago of the debilitating disorder affecting motor skills changed the retired Richmond Sheriff’s deputy’s life forever.

However, the 63-year-old, who has trouble putting on his shirt, checks his symptoms at the dance hall door.

“When the music comes on, it just flows naturally,” Hill said.

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Veronica Nugent founded the free class nearly seven years ago after seeing her late-father who lived with Parkinson’s respond to similar therapy.

“I guess I do it for selfish reasons because I couldn’t help my dad, so in some ways I wanted to give back,” Nugent said. “I love what I do and it makes me feel good if I can help someone else.”

Instructors lead students through exercises that improve balance and coordination.

CeeCee Lee admits she was skeptical about the class when she first signed, but now the Petersburg woman wouldn’t think of missing class.

“It has been a true blessing for me,” Lee said. “When I first came here, I was overjoyed because they were so nice to me.”

Former professional dancer Anne Anderson said that on the dance floor, she is not self-conscious.

“People are happy. They’re loving. And smiling. And we have a ball,” Anderson said. “I was so happy to be here. My favorite day of the week is Wednesday.”

The weekly class may not be a cure for Parkinson’s, but the 60 minutes are liberating the body and soul.

“It is either come here or go to a doctor, I’d rather come here,” Hill said. “It gives you a piece of mind. I can’t wait to come back next Wednesday. I can’t wait to come back next Wednesday.”

Next spring the dancers in the Simply Ballroom class in Chesterfield will hold a recital for family and friends. And a new class for people living with Parkinson’s is beginning in the West End.

Click here to learn more about the program.

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