Dance Movement Therapy and Parkinson’s
What is Dance Movement Therapy?
Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) is a psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance to engage creatively in a process which enhances emotional, cognitive, physical and social well-being. It is based on the principle that movement reflects a person’s feelings and patterns of thinking, and can be used to explore and express emotional and creative experiences.
 
Dance Movement Therapy and Parkinson’s
Dance can be exhilarating mentally, physically and emotionally and the benefits of exercise are of course numerous. For people with Parkinson’s, not only is dance is a fun way to keep physically active, there are many other positives too.
There are a growing number of dance and/or movement classes for people with neurological illnesses and they are very often informal sessions, providing a relaxed environment in which to both express yourself and share your difficulties with people who face similar challenges to you. Becoming a member of a dance group can also be a valuable social activity, helping with self-confidence and overcoming depression or anxiety. Other benefits include:
increasing self-awareness, self-esteem and independence
expressing and managing thoughts and emotions through actions
improving communication
enhancing social interaction skills.
As there are many different types of dance - from ballroom and ballet, tap and modern, to Latin and square dancing – there is a good chance of finding something you will enjoy.  Some dance groups include a variety of styles of dancing, but if you just like one particular style, for example Salsa, that’s fine.  It’s not the dance itself that matters, but that you have fun dancing and exercising this way!
 
How DMT can help with Parkinson’s symptoms
For people with Parkinson’s the connection between the intention to move and actually starting and/or completing an action is disrupted becausedopamine (a neurotransmitter which passes messages from the brain to the muscles)levels are depleted.  Movement may no longer be automatic and a conscious effort may be necessary in order to initiate or execute a given action.
The rhythmic and repetitive movements of dance can help with motor symptoms, such as bradykinesia, gait, start hesitation and freezing, by providing a model for movement, making you think about how to move before you actually do so.  It can also help train the mind to initiate and complete sequences and patterns of movement. In time and with practice this becomes easier and easier and so confidence builds, which can be very helpful in everyday activities, such as maintaining a steady pace on a crowded street or keeping moving when paying at a shop checkout.  It is as if the rhythm of dance helps you to discover your own lost automatic movements.
Some people have found that marching music helps them to overcome ‘freezing’ episodes.  If feet feel ‘glued’ to the floor, singing or humming a marching tune can help to get the feet moving again.  See http://www.epda.eu.com/projects/copingStrategies/dvd/resources/dancing2.htm
In some, but by no means all cases, dance can also improve tremor and dyskinesia (involuntary movements) by providing patterns to synchronise and control movements again. This is usually when these symptoms are not too severe. 
Posture may also improve too, particularly if you follow a warm up routine using either a proper dance barre or even the back of a steady chair for support. Many who dance regularly say that they notice a significant improvement in balance, posture and flexibility, and movement becomes enjoyable once again.  Some have noticed that practicing turning and other tango steps has improved their balance and mobility.  Seehttp://www.epda.eu.com/projects/copingStrategies/dvd/resources/dancing.htm