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Holland Home offers ballet classes to residents

‘Moving with Parkinson’s’ aims to improve quality of life on day-to-day basis.

September 27, 2019
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GR Ballet Holland Home
The 45-minute class is geared toward residents with Parkinson’s, but any resident is allowed to participate. Courtesy Grand Rapids Ballet School

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Residents at a senior living nonprofit will be putting on their dancing shoes. 

Holland Home is partnering with the Grand Rapids Ballet School to offer ballet classes at its Raybrook campus starting in October, once per week, over the course of the next year. 

The 45-minute “Moving with Parkinson’s” dance class is geared toward residents with Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. 

The foundation stated the symptoms include tremors, bradykinesia, limb rigidity, gait and balance problems. 

Alisha Van Epps, fitness manager and personal trainer at Holland Home, said although the classes are geared toward residents with Parkinson’s, any resident can join.

The classes will be conducted by Attilla Mosolygo, the school’s director. He became the director of the Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company in 2011 and was later named the school director in 2017. He has choreographed “Snow White,” “Peter Pan,” “Beauty and the Beast,” among other performances. 

“The participants will start the class sitting in chairs,” he said. “They will start with basic warm-up exercises based on basic ballet vocabulary and movements. This will progress to stretches and rhythmical movements and improvisation to the music they hear. The class will end with center work without the chairs. (Our goal is) to increase their quality of life on a day-to-day basis, develop a closer sense of community for them and introduce them to freedom of movement.” 

Although the scheduled classes have not started, residents will get a chance to experience what it will be like this week, when Holland Home celebrates Active Aging Week. 

“The benefits of the class are dance, movement, flexibility, balance, strength,” Van Epps said. “All of those are things that people with Parkinson’s can really benefit from increasing. What is really nice about the dance piece of it is that not only they can incorporate the physical activity, like exercise, but there are also cognitive aspects. There is live music and the instructor does a nice job incorporating emotional expression and then there is a social interaction piece, as well. So, it is not just an exercise class.”

Marenta Klinger, director of resident life of Holland Home, said the Moving with Parkinson’s dance class falls under Holland Home’s Vibrant Living program. The program has five components, which are spiritual fulfillment, social engagement, physical wellness, intellectual discovery and emotional well-being. 

“This opportunity, this collaboration falls right in line with Vibrant Living,” Klinger said. “It ticks off the five components, and it provides the highest quality of life for the residents that we serve, which is our ultimate goal. We are really excited that this will be a fun class, a positive class, a positive environment. We thought it was neat that the instructor refers to the participants as dancers. It is just something that is totally new and unique for our residents.”

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