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Invertigo Dance Theatre Offers Dancing Through Parkinson's Classes Online

Invertigo Dance Theatre Offers Dancing Through Parkinson's Classes Online

Los Angeles-based professional dance company Invertigo Dance Theatre (Invertigo) has shifted its weekly Dancing Through Parkinson's (DTP) classes online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement was made today by K. Bradford, Community Engagement Manager of Invertigo Dance Theatre. For the past nine years, the company has offered free (donations accepted) weekly dance classes in studios throughout Southern California to people living with Parkinson's.

People may view the first online class below. Online classes are being posted to invertigodance.org/dtp. Participants may receive the classes directly to their email by signing up for the DTP newsletter by emailing dancepd@invertigodance.org. Beginning May 7, the company will offer streaming classes live on Zoom on Thursdays at 1:30 pm Pacific with a recorded lesson available following. Additional details will be posted at invertigodance.org/dtp and sent via the weekly DTP newsletter.

The classes mirror the experience and progression of a professional dance class with movement executed from wheelchairs, walkers, and chairs, or while standing. The curriculum is designed specifically to meet the needs of people with Parkinson's Disease from newly diagnosed to late stages; the series is equally beneficial for aging populations and anyone with a different neurological diagnosis.

"Our dance classes invite people with Parkinson's and those with limited mobility into movement as a source of joy, strength, and discovery" says Bradford. "Our participants tell us they find healing and a sense of belonging in the DTP community, and that the classes foster a greater well-being in what can be an isolating time," they add. "Our teachers' hearts are fully engaged in the classes, and we're so glad that our online studio can transmit care, art, and community while people shelter -- and dance -- at home."

Prior to California Governor Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home order, Invertigo had been offering its weekly Dancing Through Parkinson's classes in Venice, Beverly Hills, Tarzana, Culver City, and Inglewood, CA. Additionally, a company of DTP dancers representing four of the area classes were scheduled to make their debut on Monday, April 13th, for a special Los Angeles International Dance Festival (LAIDF) performance presented by Debbie Allen and Nigel Lythgoe O.B.E. at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica.

Proclaimed "dance theatre at its finest" by LA Dance Chronicle, Invertigo is a "sublime" (Diversions LA) professional company known for its hyper-kinetic high-impact movement vocabulary and dynamic storytelling. The Los Angeles Times praised the company's September 2019 world premiere of Formulae & Fairy Tales at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA, as a "meaningful and poignant..." "breakthrough show."

The DTP online classes are modeled after the in-person studio classes. No dance experience is required to take part in the online or live classes. Teachers Kelsey Ang, Linda Berghoff, Heidi Buehler, Jess Evans, Haylee Nichele, and Rachel Whiting-representing the five different studio classes-each lead a segment featuring their unique styles and music selections. DTP participants move at their own pace, and every section of the class is designed with seated modifications for those who need to remain seated or who would like to take a break from standing. Classes are open to everyone; family and caregivers are also encouraged to participate.

Jeanie McNamara, a longtime Dancing Through Parkinson's participant, said of the first online class, "This is phenomenal! What a wonderful, collaborative class, and what a gift to all of us who are working hard to continue moving without going anywhere. Thank you for all that you are doing so that we can continue to battle PD while trapped at home."

Each session begins with a seated warm-up that incorporates breath work, upper body stretches, and joint mobility. Participants perform seated choreography, tap work, and muscular brain teasers. For the next section of the class, members progress into a modified ballet barre segment-either standing with a chair or sitting-and then move through standing or seated center traveling steps and enjoy some creative at-home improvisation. The class's traditional end-a circle of gratitude-has been adapted into an individual hand-on-heart gesture, where all participants join in a collective breath of thanks for this opportunity to remain connected to community.

"We believe everyone is a dancer-we just ask you to give us a chance to prove that to you!" laughs Linda Berghoff, who in addition to being a DTP teaching artist also serves as a DTP Advisory Board Co-chair and Invertigo Board member.

When Berghoff, a lifetime dancer, was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2006, she thought she would never dance again. Taking a class at the Mark Morris "Dance for PD" program in New York City made her reconsider: dancing again seemed possible, and was a positive experience. When Laura Karlin, artistic director of Invertigo and Berghoff's longtime friend, reached out with the idea of creating a dance class for people living with Parkinson's on the West Coast, Berghoff agreed and soon, Karlin, Berghoff, and Invertigo dancer Sofia Klass were designing Invertigo's program.

Since 2011, Berghoff has led DTP in collaboration with Karlin and other company artists and administrators. Says Berghoff, "We still need to dance! Parkinson's doesn't stop just because the world does." Berghoff's neurologist and DTP Advisory Board member, Michele Tagliati, MD, one of the nation's leading research and treatment specialists in Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders, praises the program saying that it promotes healthy living and works on abilities that can be compromised by Parkinson's. [Source: Cedars Sinai article about the DTP program].

The public may visit invertigodance.org/dtp or email dancepd@invertigodance.org for more information.

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