Tuesday, April 08, 2014


Fate—as fate so often will—has thrust me into a place where I never expected to be—Saturday morning dance classes sponsored by the Edmonton chapter of Parkinson Alberta.. Never mind that I don’t have Parkinson’s—a good thing to be sure. Never mind that I have four left feet, a stiff right shoulder, a sieve-like memory for consecutive sequences of step patterns, and insufficient vision to imitate the instructor by following visual cues. I’m there anyway, fighting off performance anxiety at the very mention of Charleston, Tango, Plie and Paradiddle. All over the world, people who have Parkinson’s are attending dance and sining classes. They are stretching their muscles, fine-tuning their balance, experiencing the liveliness that complex musical and movement functions bring to the brain. People with symptoms resembling Parkinson’s attend as singles or couples. The messages are clear: Do what you can. Try to do more than you think you can. Have fun. Never have I been more aware that a person who is blind from birth has no idea how people dance. How high do they lift their legs? How quickly do they raise their arms? Never have I been more aware that, in this class, where participation of any kind trumps all else, it really does not matter. For those of us who have spent our lives trying to achieve, it’s a difficult idea to fully integrate—this concept that participation is everything and fun is the ultimate reward. There’s so much to worry about, so much to remember. What is supposed to follow the eight heel taps of each foot? How can I have forgotten the Grapevine again? Why did I just bop my neighbour in the nose with the up-and-over? But every once in a while, near the end of the gruelling two-hours, we turn to partners. I look forward to this time. I am more comfortable dancing with a partner—my partner. The instructor says: “Do the Tango.” We laugh. Neither of us can remember the Tango, even though we learned it last week, and possibly again the week before. The instructor says: “Move towards the door.” David and I move in opposite directions. The conventions of marriage set in. I am outraged that he has moved the wrong way. Now we’ve missed the next instruction. “Not the door we came in,” he whispers. “That’s the door she means when she says to move towards the window.” Then we get the giggles. The instructor starts to laugh. Other people start to laugh. There is, I think, a certain liveliness in the brain.

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