12621717898?profile=RESIZE_710xVolunteers and instructors mingle with students of the class put on by the Boca Ballet Theatre. Jan Engoren/The Coastal Star

By Jan Engoren

Every week, dedicated people come to the Boca Ballet studios in Boca Raton for a movement class known as BBT4PD, short for Boca Ballet Theatre for Parkinson’s disease. It’s a dance class for people with Parkinson’s, a degenerative brain condition that affects muscle control and movement. 

Now in its 10th season, the class is taught by instructor Ines Lopez and program director Cindy Surman.

“Many physicians stress the importance of physical activity, social interaction and mental stimulation for patients living with Parkinson’s disease,” says Surman. “BBT4PD gives them all three.

“The joyful, lighthearted atmosphere we strive to maintain is welcoming [and] fun and encourages our participants to regularly attend and keep moving,” she says.

Surman is the only instructor in Florida certified by the founding organization, Dance for PD, based in Brooklyn, New York, and she thinks she is one of only 17 around the world. 

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include slowness of movement (bradykinesia), stiffness (rigidity) and tremors.

According to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, approximately 1 million people in the United States and more than 6 million people worldwide are affected by the disease.

To mitigate symptoms, experts suggest eating a healthy diet, exercising, finding a movement disorder specialist to determine the right treatment plan, building a support system, staying socially active and getting involved in the Parkinson’s community.

For Marylyn Ross, 80, of Boynton Beach, a retired business owner, getting involved with what class members lovingly refer to as the “shake, rattle and rollers” is just the ticket.

“The class keeps me going and gives me a mental and social boost,” she says.

After her symptoms were misdiagnosed as a stroke, Ross received the Parkinson’s diagnosis two years ago. Her symptoms include tremors, balance and gait issues, as well as fatigue.

She’s been coming to the BBT4PD for a year and a half and enjoys the camaraderie.

“It’s very uplifting, supportive and caring,” Ross says. “We laugh a lot.”

The benefits of the program include improved mobility, balance and posture, better mood, decreased symptoms and a reduced sense of isolation.

Classes are open for free to everyone with Parkinson’s, no matter their age, ability or the advancement of their condition.

Music is provided by professional ballet accompanist Aly Tejas on piano.

The class consists of both sitting and standing exercises, and Surman offers it on Zoom as well. 

To Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Fiddler on the Roof songs and the Drifters’ Save the Last Dance for Me, participants begin to rotate their arms, flap like eagles and extend their limbs in repetitive, coordinated cha-cha-cha movements. 

Several exercises require partners. One person poses while a partner pretends to sketch him. Or the partners shake hands and exchange greetings.

West Boca Raton resident Ed Kallen, 78, a retired attorney who has been coming to class for eight months, says the instructors and volunteers “all have great attitudes, are generous, supportive and positive.” Kallen was diagnosed two years ago.

Lopez and Surman work alongside assistant instructors Karen Wexler and Amanda Sewell and volunteers Judi Steinhardt, Judie Stewart, Romina Navaza and Bernie Krutchik.

The irreverent class members like to joke about their condition and even had T-shirts made up with slogans such as “I’m not drunk, I have Parkinson’s disease,” and “I have Parkinson’s disease. What’s your excuse?”

The main jokester is Mike Homer, 72, a former maintenance director from Boca Raton. In a recent class his T-shirt read:
“It’s okay I’m on 10,000 mg’s of carbidopa-levodopa.”

Carbidopa and levodopa is a combination medicine used to treat symptoms such as stiffness and tremors.

The music and mood in the class are lively and upbeat, with laughter, joking and camaraderie among the participants. Occasionally, a loud “yee-haw” erupts, as Surman leads the group in a communal expression of joy and excitement, courtesy of her Texas roots.


If You Go

What: BBT4PD, A Certified Dance for Parkinson’s Disease program
Where: Boca Ballet Theatre, 7630 NW Sixth Avenue, Boca Raton
When: 3-4 p.m. June 4, 11, 18 and July 2, 9, 16; normal schedule resumes Aug. 13, from 1-2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays
Zoom: Meeting ID for summer is 851 5563 8397 with password zoom.
More info: Cindy Surman at 561-995-0709 (ext. 226) or email csurman@bocaballet.org. Accompanying family members and caregivers are welcome.

Jan Engoren writes about health and healthy living. Send column ideas to jengoren@hotmail.com.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of The Coastal Star to add comments!

Join The Coastal Star

Activity Feed

The Coastal Star posted a blog post
7 hours ago
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in DELRAY BEACH
Jun 5
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jun 5
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in SOUTH PALM BEACH
Jun 1
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
Jun 1
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in DELRAY BEACH
May 30
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in BEACH WATCH
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in OCEAN RIDGE
May 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in BEACH WATCH
May 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in DELRAY BEACH
May 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in GULF STREAM
May 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in OCEAN RIDGE
May 29
The Coastal Star posted a blog post
May 29
Mary Kate Leming posted a discussion in OCEAN RIDGE
May 29
More…