JF&CS Volunteer News Spring 2015

Dancing is an expression of joy. Throughout history, people have gathered to dance – to celebrate, to move, and to be together. JF&CS volunteer Peggy Wacks has been dancing her whole life: ballet as a child and modern, folk, and jazz as an adult. Every week for almost four years, she's been sharing her love for dance with the participants of the JF&CS Parkinson's Family Support dance program.

"It's a wonderful group and it helps so many people. It's not just the dancing, it's the support," said Peggy. "Dance contributes to their well-being -- physically, mentally, socially, in every way!"

Parkinson's disease is a progressive brain disorder that causes trembling, rigidity, and slowness of movement that typically gets worse over the years. Parkinson's Family Support offers a way for people at all stages of the disease to enjoy the pleasure of music, movement, and togetherness.

"The dance program is an opportunity for people to become part of a community and feel connected," said Nancy Mazonson, Director, Parkinson's Family Support. "With Parkinson's, people become socially isolated. This is an upbeat place to meet other people."

A retired pathologist who lives in Lexington, Peggy brings a unique combination of medical and dance skills to the program. She's a member of "Dance'n Feet," a group of ten women in their 60s and 70s who practice modern jazz and acrobatics every week and "perform whenever we can" at local dance festivals such as Mayfair in Harvard Square and the Dance for World Community festival.

Peggy loves dancing with the thirty or more people who gather each week at JF&CS Headquarters, driving through snow, sleet, or rain for a two-hour session of movement and conversation.

"Peggy always has a smile on her face and has a great personality," said Nancy. "She loves to dance and adds tremendous life to the program."

Art Sullivan, a country western dancer trained in Parkinson's dance, leads the group through a series of moves set to all types of music including modern, country and western, pop, classics, Hawaiian, Bollywood, and show tunes. Wearing upbeat and colorful dance costumes and occasionally a sparkly pink hat, Peggy sits in the middle of the circle and follows Art's movements, demonstrating a slower, seated version of what he is doing so that everyone can participate.

"She makes it as much of an offering as what Art's doing. She puts a lot of heart into what she does and she makes people feel valued," said Nancy.

Within the class there is a wide range of abilities. As participants dance, some standing and some in wheelchairs, they work on balance and multi-tasking while doing complicated movements. No matter what challenges they face, , the participants love dancing and being together. One woman said, "I come because I get so much out of it." Another added, "I just come to watch Peggy dance."

Peggy feels that because she is the same age as many participants, she normalizes their experience. "I'm the only volunteer who's the age of the people in the group. It's nice to see someone their age. They identify with me." She added, "People respond me and say wonderful things like ‘I look at you and I can follow along' and ‘You help me.'"

Peggy's energy and enthusiasm are a great gift to the dance program. She loved her work as a pathologist and thought that she would miss it when she retired. But, unsurprisingly, she has become an active volunteer for organizations throughout Greater Boston and has even started taking lessons in – what else? -- tap dance!

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.