Dancing With Parkinson’s

NMS’s Dancing with Parkinson’s program began in 2009, when NMS took over administration of the class started by the Connecticut Parkinson’s Working Group (CPWG). CPWG continues to provide funds through the generous annual gift of a private donor.

Seeded by support from the Yale Community and Beyond Parkinson’s Support Group and the American Parkinson’s Disease Association of Connecticut, and sustained by grants and donations, the NMS program currently offers three weekly classes, in Middletown, New London, and Branford. These classes, along with occasional outreach classes in the community, are taught by Rachel Balaban and Laura Richling.

Rachel and Laura have trained extensively with the Dance for PD program of the Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn, N.Y.; as such, they are Teacher Affiliates, and NMS is the official affiliate with Dance for PD™ in CT.

Classes are offered at 3 Connecticut locations:

Mondays, 1:15-2:30 pm (excluding civic holidays)
Middletown Senior Center, 61 Durant Terrace, Middletown
Instructor: Laura Richling
Contact: lrichling@nmsnewhaven.org

New London
Wednesdays, 10:30-11:45 am
Connecticut College: Crozier-Williams Student Center, 3rd Floor Studio, New London
Instructor: Rachel Balaban
Contact: rbalaban@nmsnewhaven.org

Fridays 10:00 – 11:15 am
Trinity Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 1109 Main St., Branford
Instructor: Laura Richling
Contact: lrichling@nmsnewhaven.org

The classes are free of charge and open to all. They offer people with Parkinson’s and related neurological disorders (along with family, friends, and/or caregivers) the opportunity to explore and create movement in a variety of dance styles. No dance experience is necessary and walkers, canes and wheelchairs are welcome. Participants enjoy the physical and social benefits of the class within a supportive and joyful atmosphere.


“For an hour and a half, once a week in dance class, I take on a new persona, one without the diagnosis of Parkinson’s. I leave outside the door present limits and anxieties for the future. This is a time to join with others and appreciate to the utmost the respite. Time stands still and I am enveloped in the world of movement, music and a fine tuned, joyful and funny teacher. I am conscious of the value of each movement that seems simple but is actually encouraging more fluidity and less rigidity. There are no judgments and the underlying message is to do what you are able with joy, laughter and creativity. I am delighted to focus on the abilities that come forth, the strengths that remain. I walk out the door standing taller, with more external and internal balance and a steadier gait.”
          – DWP participant

Watch our segment on Dancing with Parkinson’s on the Community Culture Showcase here.

This class is a collaborative effort. Rachel Balaban and Laura Richling have trained with the Mark Morris Group and are knowledgeable about specific techniques, muscle relationships, balance and rhythm. But the class is also about learning from each other. All are encouraged to share and enjoy the class together. (It should be noted that the focus of this program is about artistic and creative expression and the enjoyment of social interactions with others experiencing similar challenges. While many may experience health benefits or the alleviation of symptoms, this program is not intended to be a therapeutic offering.)

For more information, please contact:

Laura Richling, administrator, Dancing with Parkinson’s program, lrichling@nmsnewhaven.org
To learn more about the approach, visit the Dance for PD website.
And for an article about one of our affiliated programs featured on NBC/Hartford, click here.

DWP funders:
Thank you to this year’s major supporters: