If you pictured a dancer, you probably wouldn't imagine someone with Parkinson's disease. Worldwide, there are 10 million people with the progressive movement disorder, and they struggle with stiff limbs, tremors and poor balance. But over the past 15 years or so, a few thousand have taken dance classes that are part of a program called Dance for PD. It began in Brooklyn and has spread throughout the country and around the world. It has also attracted the attention of scientists interested in the ways dance might ease symptoms.
"We don't dumb it down. I believe very much in making this a really joyful and challenging experience," she says. "But it has to be both challenging and kind of satisfying."
Karlin learned what she needed to know to start her Parkinson's program at the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, where Dance for PD began about 15 years ago. David Leventhal is the director of the Mark Morris program. At the beginning, he says, it was trial and error because "there's no one type of Parkinson's, no one set of symptoms."