The Port City Dance Academy (PCDA) is a not-for-profit community arts organization that has been located in Uptown Saint John for almost 20 years. A catalyst for collaboration and community connections, the school, the performing ensemble, and the facility itself have become a cornerstone of the city’s cultural landscape.
The PCDA asked for $2,000 from the Community Foundation to help fund Dancing with Parkinson’s Saint John, a program launched in honour of the Academy’s 20th anniversary.
The Dancing for Parkinson’s project began as an experiment in 2001 in Brooklyn, New York. The program now exists in more than 100 communities around the world. Pamela Wallace, a geriatric physiotherapist here in Saint John found out about the Dancing for Parkinson’s program and wanted to see a similar program launched in Saint John.
“Pam approached me,” says Andrea Webster Scott, Artistic Director of the PCDA, “and after some initial legwork, we were able to book a training seminar at the Toronto-based organization. The seminar was amazing!”
Dancing with Parkinson’s promotes movement and exercise, but more importantly, it stimulates courage, camaraderie, and joy. After just an hour of class, the change in the atmosphere in the room and the demeanour of participants is remarkable.
Dancing with Parkinson’s Saint John has offered free pilot session classes and is about to finish up their first official six-week program. They will soon be offering another six-week session and are adding classes through The Studio Dance School in the Kennebecasis Valley.
These classes are not only beneficial for people with Parkinson’s disease, they’re invaluable for getting and keeping seniors active.
“If our students find relief from PD symptoms for a while after the classes, that’s an extra bonus,” says Scott. “In the moment, we don’t realize that we’re exercising, doing therapy, learning technique, or making new friends, and bonding with spouses, caregivers, and strangers.”
The Port City Dance Academy is proud to be the first and only community in Canada, outside of Toronto, that is offering Dancing With Parkinson’s classes. Because of the required training, venue, and the need for more than one teacher on site for every class, it can be an expensive program to start.
“I felt a wonderful sense of relief in knowing that we would be able to get over the first hurdle, and cover expenses while we get the word out about the project, and our spectacular classes,” Scott says. “Thank you (deepest knee on the ground curtsey) to you for your support, we couldn't have done it without [the Community Foundation]!”