Cultivating Creativity: The joy of movement for people with Parkinson’s

by Jane Gardner

Belleville-based dance teacher Kristina McIntosh is using creative movement and dance to make a difference in the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease.

“The wonderful group of people who come to Dancing with Parkinson’s classes at Quinte Ballet School in Belleville connect me to Belleville’s rich history and stories,” says McIntosh.

“They’re a dynamic group of people with mobility challenges that inspire me – former teachers, doctors, ministers, writers, visual artists, musicians, nurses, community leaders and volunteers. As a teacher, it is so rewarding to see how creative movement exercises, social interaction and dancing together has changed our participants physically, emotionally and bonded them as a group.

We hope that during Parkinson’s Awareness month in April that new people will join us at our Thursday classes at 11:00 am. These free classes are made possible through special funding from the City of Belleville’s Social Infrastructure Fund and The Rotary Club of Belleville’s Community Grants Program.”

McIntosh started dancing at age four in Toronto and moved to Belleville in Grade 8 to study for six years in the professional training program at Quinte Ballet School of Canada (QBSC).

She remembers touring The Nutcracker and Spring Showcases with QBSC to many communities including performances in Belleville, Kingston, Lindsay, Ottawa, and Toronto, and says her favourite ballets to dance were Paquita and Les Sylphides.

After graduating from Ryerson University and performing with Paula Moreno Spanish Dance Company, Kristina returned to Belleville in 2000 and joined the teaching faculty of QBSC where she has been teaching many styles of dance for students of all ages (ballet, modern, jazz, character, conditioning, and pointe).

“The training I received at the National Ballet School to teach the Dancing with Parkinson’s program at QBSC provided me with insight, new techniques for working with people of different abilities and enabled me to grow as a teacher of dance,” said McIntosh.

“Our Dancing with Parkinson’s classes which begin seated to increase confidence in balance and stability, move from simple foot stretching exercises to sweeping arm movements accompanied by playful improvised music by our pianist. Eventually we stand, using the chair to balance, and introduce various dance techniques and rhythms that focus on a range of movement and I lead them through fun exercises and improvisations.

I create new choreography each class that moves us across the floor and we finish our classes in a circle exercise that gives everyone a sense of accomplishment. Participants tell us that these classes make them feel better, improve their mobility and balance, make them feel “physically free” for a while and improve their self-confidence.”

For more information, contact the Quinte Ballet School of Canada.