Vicky Hart, who runs her own media company and is a volunteer on our committee, went along to see the Moving with Music class last week. The classes are held most Tuesdays, in St Albans and Vicky spoke to Coral and Stephen about their experiences of the class.
My name’s Coral and I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 8 years ago. I had very few symptoms in the beginning and didn’t start treatment until about 3 years after diagnosis.
The challenges I have are mainly to do with balance and stamina. Sometimes I feel slightly ‘off-centre’, as it were, but that’s to do with balance.
I heard about Moving with Music at a Parkinson’s conference and one of the speakers talked about dance and movement and I thought ‘that sounds great’, so I spoke to the teacher during the interval and started going to her class in Kentish Town, near where I lived at the time. Then I moved to St Albans and was delighted to find a class here. I used to do Ballroom dancing when I was younger and have been told I have a good sense of rhythm.
I did wonder if I would be able to do it, but I was totally fine from the moment I walked in. I didn’t know what to expect but I was totally blown away with it. I love it.
I always feel better after class, I always feel much better than when I arrived, it’s very good and I love it. It’s mainly mental, that’s the biggest bonus for me, it makes me feel positive and gives me overall well-being. There’s a great crowd here.
It’s a weekly class and I try to attend every class. The music helps a lot, it’s much more difficult to move without it. The music just carries you along and the rhythm is important to me. It’s very positive, the two things go very much together; the movement goes with the music and the music goes with the movement and having music carries you along, it gives you continuity.
I feel perfectly safe in this environment, I always assumed I would. I feel perfectly at home, supported and accepted. Before I started, I wondered if I’d be able to do it, if I’d be able to keep up but, once I’d experienced it, it never crossed my mind.
I would say to others living with Parkinson’s that if you can find a class like this, go for it straight away because it’s very reassuring that there’s other people with the same condition. Although you know there are, you tend to feel very isolated in the beginning and because everyone is so supportive and accepting you feel relief and much more relaxed about it. There’s nothing to worry about, if you can walk or even if you struggle to walk, you can do these exercises and there’s acceptance with what you can or can’t do, it doesn’t really matter, it’s not a competition. It’s non-judgemental and all inclusive. It makes me feel more relaxed and more outgoing and I leave feeling ‘Yeh, I can cope with anything’. For the rest of the day, I just feel more ‘normal’, which one can feel very isolated with a condition like this, and it means I don’t have to think about having Parkinson’s, for a while anyway.
I’m Stephen and I was diagnosed 12 years ago. I’ve been coming to this class for around 3 years now.
Parkinson’s tends to close people down, one of the difficulties is that each case is individual, there are common symptoms but there are things that don’t affect some people. It’s a movement disorder so it can affect you in different ways; mood, restricts what you want to do and you can, if you’re not careful, close in on yourself. My objective is to try and persevere and keep going as many of the bits for as long as I can.
Moving with Music helps with stamina and balance but it also overlaps with other activities you do so it helps me in other areas and other activities help me in this area. I mean, any movement is good but the music makes it uplifting and the people are very nice.
I didn’t really have any reservations, you learn to keep an open mind, especially with Parkinson’s, you learn not to take anything for granted and I’ve found myself doing all sorts of activities that I may not have done if I didn’t have Parkinson’s. It’s key to keep on the move and keep your body flowing. I don’t want to be a ‘Parkinsonian’, I want to be someone who has the condition Parkinson’s and so to be able to be expressive is very important to me. It’s a safe atmosphere because everybody knows what the challenges are, which means you can express yourself which, for me, is the most important thing. Also, Lucy the dance teacher, doesn’t rest on her laurels, every term she revises the format and keeps it interesting.
Why do I come? Because, why not. It’s social, there’s nice people, it’s local. You know, if you don’t use it you lose it and you exercise so many different parts of you, so it’s a great thing. The one thing I do notice is the gap over the holidays, you have to do what you can over that time because it’s like getting the plates spinning all over again. Movement and routine is very important. I try to come to every class. It’s a way of self management as it makes a tremendous difference.
Dancing is the best thing. Having the chance to move and having an expert to show you is a great thing. It’s a way to express yourself, free yourself from inhibitions and it makes the symptoms of Parkinson’s less visible. You can’t turn the clock back but if you want to get on with it, you have to seek positive things, it’s like finding a diamond in a coal mine.
One of the great things about this class, is it touches a lot of areas; it’s constantly innovating and if you’ve got the mind to do it, it’s good on every level. I would describe the environment as friendly, encouraging and social.
My advice to anyone living with Parkinson’s would be that they should definitely try it, under the principle that unless you’ve tried it, you don’t know and you’re doing no harm trying it. The blessing and the curse of Parkinson’s is that it affects people in different ways, so discarding it isn’t an option, because you never really know how something is until you give it a go. A group like this really does encourage people to move out of their shells.