Touching Merengue dance performance by seniors aged 72-83 with Parkinson”s Disease

We may be old and we may have Parkinson’s disease, but last night (Dec 14, 2013) five of us seniors aged 72-83, plus one member’s daughter, performed a merengue formation to a standing ovation at Monterey Dance’s Winter Ball. The six of us are students at Monterey Dance where we take a weekly class in ballroom dancing, delightfully taught by Michell Stone. We began training for this Merengue formation weeks ago, but as the date of the Ball approached we still struggled with the movements, with remembering the sequence, and with keeping in sync with each other. We added practices and trained a total of six hours together in the last four days including the morning of the Ball. Michell led us most of the time, sometimes she and I co-led, and when we ran into overtime, I took over and drilled the group. In the last few days before the ball, I scrambled to define and in some cases to purchase our costumes and accessories, to make coordinating and reminder phone calls, to help others with makeup, and to write an introduction to our group that I presented at the Ball. As we walked out onto the floor, the last of 10 performances that evening, I knew our act was far from perfect. But training for the formation had given us a goal and in pursuing it we all experienced a significant amount of recovery from what many consider an incurable disease. That was what was important, not the lack of perfection. I expected that we would play to a supportive audience that evening, but I was completely amazed when the entire audience came to its feet and cheered us on as we went into our mini kick line and the final figures of our routine. It was at once deeply touching to me. After the performance several members of the audience spoke with me about how deeply they were touched and they talked of friends or family members who have Parkinson’s and asked me questions about dance as a path to recovery, which gave me yet another opportunity to share the news that through exercise, and in particular though lessons in dance, one can get better from Parkinson’s. Our Wednesday class, which meets at 1pm at Monterey Dance, 71 Soledad Drive, Monterey, is ongoing and open to all seniors, particularly anyone with a movement issue. We welcome new members, so spread the word and give our class a try. By Irene Marie Kuch Watson. Questions can be directed to me at

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