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I was mesmerized watching Cecelia Beams’s pink ballet slippers lyrically move from first position to second position as she taught ballet accompanied by a live pianist to people with Parkinson’s. The ballet class helped me forget my own Parkinson’s as I was transported into the romantic world of dance. The class led by Cecelia Beam, a gifted teacher and performer is must-do for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Miserable with aching joints, weight gain and fatigue, I had been searching for what I could do to feel less pain from living with Parkinson’s disease. After scheduling an appointment with a Kaiser physical therapist Keiko Kumar who prescribed exercise, I challenged myself to consult a great resource for Parkinson’s exercise:
Stanford’s PD Exercise Classes in Northern/Central California http://parkinsons.stanford.edu/exercise_classes.html. Their list of exercise classes gave me enough choices for a full itinerary.

The first class I signed up for was Dance for Parkinson’s. The class turned out to be a show-stopper for pleasurable fitness. The free program, sponsored by Kaiser Permanente is at San Francisco Ballet’s Chris Hellman Center for Dance. Participants need to commit to a full session which includes a blend of chair, bar, and floor exercises. Their upcoming season of classes starts in September 15, with 8-week sessions, held quarterly for people with Parkinson’s. First-time attendees need to register in advance and attend an orientation by contacting Cecelia Beam, cbeam@sfballet.org at San Francisco Ballet, 415-865-6583.

Cecelia teaches ballet to adult students at the San Francisco Ballet School and for over 10 years she coordinated SF Ballet’s Adult Education and Audience Engagement programs. She earned a master’s degree in ballet at Indiana University and has taught adult ballet at universities and private schools including Mills College, Indiana University, and her own studio in the Oakland Hills.

Most recently, Cecelia received instructor training with the Dance for PD® program—a dance program developed by Mark Morris Dance Group and Brooklyn Parkinson Group. Dance for PD® offers dance classes for people with Parkinson’s disease through their network of partners in more than 250 other communities in 24 countries.

Cecelia knew each of her students by name and greeted them individually as they arrived. The group of about 12 participants were ushered into a large mirrored exercise studio. The class was a committed, friendly bunch, loyal to dance, and their instructor Cecelia Beam. No dance training is necessary, and the class is manageable for most people who can walk and move unassisted.

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