Then and Now: Dancing to fight Parkinson's

Posted at 11:09 PM, Dec 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-16 05:54:23-05

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — Each week in a studio at Spotlight Dance Academy in Grand Haven, people come to heal; they come to dance, but they also come to heal.

Most everyone in the class has Parkinson’s disease, a debilitating illness that attacks the body for which there is no cure.

“It was a change in life to say the least, kind of a shock to get it,” said Rich Kuiper, who was diagnosed a few years ago and almost immediately started coming to the class. “You realize there are more people that have it. You’re not alone in the world.”

And at its core, it truly comes down to community. As FOX17 learned on our original visit to the class, the movements and the dancing are designed to music help stave off the incapacitating effects of Parkinson’s – a fact Rich knew as a former physical education teacher – but he says the class heals the soul as much as the body.

“I forget about what I can’t do and remember what I can do,” said Kuiper, “so I try to focus on what I can do.”

The teachers are all unpaid, and work on a volunteer basis. Many in the class come with their spouses or children. For an hour a day, they get to be with people who understand how the disease can tear you down, but also how the right attitude can build you up.

“You have people who are going through similar situations,” said Kuiper. “You can talk about it, share it with them, and you just become a close-knit group in a hurry.”

Anyone is welcome. The class meets at 1:30 p.m. every Wednesday at the Spotlight Dance Academy in Grand Haven. To contact the class, or to find out about volunteering to teach, email or go to the national organization’s website.