Class participants train brains, have fun

Class participants train brains, have fun

URBANA — Gretchen Potter feels both "grateful and graceful" about the free Dance for People with Parkinson's class she takes at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

The movements she and others learn there and then practice at home have helped, particularly with maintaining balance.

"It makes my Parkinson's less obvious because it's movement — it's movement that you have to train your brain to do," she said.

In addition, the 90-minute class is a good social activity.

"We can all pretend like we have tutus on," said Potter, 67, of Champaign.

Potter, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 30 years ago, has been taking the dance class at Krannert since it started in 2009.

The best thing about the sessions, she said, is the live piano accompaniment by Beverly Hillmer.

"This woman is incredible," she said.

Potter, the self-described musicologist for the group, provides theme music for each class. Early on, Hillmer played mainly classical music.

"We all started complaining," Potter said. "When you hear 'Heard it Through the Grapevine,' you dance a little differently."

Teachers Kate Kuper and Marianne Jarvi choreograph the moves. Both studied with the Mark Morris Dance Group to learn how to lead dance for people with Parkinson's.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based dance company developed Dance for People with Parkinson's Disease around 2001.

The aims of the classes are to offer people relief from their Parkinson's symptoms, increased mobility, improved flexibility and enhanced range of motion. The classes also lighten participants' moods and boost their daily life, as Potter would attest.

Things to know about the Dance for People with Parkinsons

1. Free for the using

As part of its community outreach, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts offers the dance class, free of charge.

2. Friday morning activity

The class meets from 10 to 11:30 a.m. year-round on the third Friday of each month and is open to caregivers or spouses as well.

3. More details

For information call 244-3963 or visit

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