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BEHIND THE SCENES: Parkinson's global awareness campaign launched by Guelph-based artist

GuelphToday reporter Taylor Pace takes us behind the scenes

A global online awareness campaign has been launched by Barbara Salsberg Mathews and PD Avenger’s Richelle Flanagan, titled ‘Dopamine Dance Against PD’. The campaign aims to raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease, the fastest-growing neurological condition. Salsberg Mathews tweeted a video of herself dancing in defiance of Parkinson’s disease, which prompted a flood of responses from others living with Parkinson’s, many posting videos of themselves dancing. From April 3 to 11, the pair are asking everyone to boost their dopamine and raise awareness by posting videos of themselves dancing. Parkinson’s organizations in the UK, Europe, the U.S. and Canada are working with their marketing teams to promote the campaign.

Parkinson’s disease affects 10 million people, 40% of whom are women, and 30% are under the age of 60. While there is no cure, research suggests dancing can have a powerful impact when it comes to things like dopamine, gait, and balance. Sarah Jane Burton’s Park’n Dance class in Guelph uses dance as a way to help people with Parkinson’s. Burton choreographs the dance moves using storytelling and imagery, making it easier for people with Parkinson’s to move freely. Each class runs for about 45 minutes to an hour, and typically has some time carved out for socializing at the end. During the pandemic, the classes have been primarily over Zoom every Thursday at 1 p.m. The class plans to begin transitioning to a hybrid version soon, with some classes online and some in-person.

The awareness campaign encourages participants to use the hashtags #dopaminedancepd, #dancepartypd and #dance4parkinsons.

Video Summary:

Barbara Salsberg Matthews, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2020, posted a video of herself dancing in her kitchen on Twitter with a defiant message: "Parkinson's can't stop me from dancing." The video went viral, and Parkinson's organizations worldwide reached out to her to start a campaign called "Dopamine Dance Against PD." The campaign aims to spread awareness about Parkinson's disease and encourage people to post videos of themselves dancing with the appropriate hashtags.

Research has shown that dancing can have health benefits for people with Parkinson's, including improving gait, balance, and mobility. Sarah Jane Burton founded Park and Dance in 2016 to offer dance classes for people with Parkinson's. The classes provide a fun and social way for people with Parkinson's to exercise, meet others with the same condition, and improve their symptoms. The organization plans to expand its options to offer classes targeted at people with early-onset Parkinson's.

The campaign and dance classes are providing a boost to the spirits of people with Parkinson's and spreading awareness about the disease. The simple act of dancing can have significant benefits for those living with Parkinson's, and the campaign and dance classes provide a platform for people to come together, have fun, and support each other.