A Dance Program for Parkinson's patients – My Take by Hrishikesh Pawar

On My Take this week, Hrishikesh Pawar talks about what led him to start the Dance for Pakinson’s program in Pune.

I started the Dance for Parkinson’s program in Pune nine years ago in partnership with the Mark Morris Dance Group, which is based in New York.

At the time it was a very new idea. I wanted to look at training the body in a way that makes artistes more conscious of their surroundings. The idea was to look at how dance can apply on a humane level.

We have a Parkinson’s Mitra Mandal in Pune where many people are doing great work with patients and I used their database to reach out to a few patients.

It was hard to convince people at first. Initially, the impact of the disease is gradual, so people don’t realize it. My class was made up mainly of homemakers so persuading them was hard.

We made their caretakers and families understand so they would encourage them to come forward. I counseled them about how one makes changes in one’s lifestyle.

The first few months, people would not turn up but when they saw me waiting for them, they started feeling that there was someone who was waiting for them. Everyone now travels to the class together, they have meals together, and so it has helped build a sense of community.

We started with two classes a week and the demand grew. Now we have six classes a day, three in the morning and three in the evening. The dance moves are gradually made more challenging so they push themselves. We also put up shows and seminars where we encourage patients to come forward and talk to others. We also go to hospitals and doctors’ to talk about the program so the word spreads.

We have 62 dancers now, between 49 to 85 years. We are planning to take it to other cities but the challenge is to find people who understand the program.

We recently finished a 75-minute ballet performance called 'And So We Dance'. In this, they tell their stories, about why they dance. At the end of the show, they wrote thank you notes to the kids in the class. It was quite inspiring and moving. This is so much more than just therapy. In fact we don’t call it that, we call it a dance class.

About the Writer

Hrishikesh Pawar is the founder of the Hrishkesh Dance Company (http://www.hrishikeshpawar.com) in Pune. He can be reached at Hrishikesh.pawar@gmail.com or call at 09823745571.

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