In April 2015, Audrey Beesley, a lady who brings her granddaughter to ballet classes at my studio, told me about a program called Dance for PD (Parkinson’s Disease). Audrey has PD.
Our studio was busy with the preparation for our bi-annual, end-of-year, Playhouse Theatre Production so my schedule was full, and of spare time very little. It was only few months later I googled the program, but I have not looked back since!
Luckily, that year-end production left enough in the kitty for a plane ticket and course fees, and off I flew to NEW YORK, to study under the Founding Director and one of the pioneers of the PD Program - Mr David Leventhal.
I landed at JFK and goodness me! Hello yellow taxi cabs and the hustle and bustle of New York! I made my way to an Airbnb accommodation ... it was not what I expected. I lugged my case up four flights of stairs on 7th Avenue Brooklyn!
That afternoon I took a few trains to find myself in Manhattan on a Saturday night. A friend of a friend had made contact and said he would show me a night out in New York. Well it was a perfect introduction! Caught a yellow cab, had a pizza from a Food Truck, Wine ($9 a glass!) and caught 2 trains home. I climbed off the subway and instead of walking up 7th Avenue I walked down ... an hour later, I asked for help and was pointed in the right direction! By this stage it was 4am South African time and 10pm New York time. I was shattered.
The next morning I caught a few trains to get to The Julliard School! The JULLIARD SCHOOL! Growing up, I was a keen ballerina, and had many a time heard of the Julliard School. Now here I was about to attend my first PD Workshop. It was amazing. I did a singing for PD class with an incredible musician, Philip Hamilton (An award-winning singer and musician who has been called contemporary and cutting edge by the New York times). Followed by a few Dance for PD classes after that.
I managed to find my way home from Manhattan to Brooklyn at about 8pm that night. Exhausted I fell into bed. My body-clock had yet to adjust to the new time zone, so sleep was restless. Coupled to the fact that my room had no window, I didn’t sleep that well, but I was thrilled to be there!
The next day I had free and explored New York - Little Italy, the Freedom Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge, and ended off with a treat of a musical called Beautiful on Broadway. Dreaming? It felt like it!
The next few days were filled with full-day classes and workshops with the Dance for PD group. I was lucky enough to participate in classes all over New York. It meant a lot of travelling, but despite this, I was amazed, humbled and inspired to see sometimes 80 dancers with PD in a class. I had only ever met one person with PD, and now to be part of such an incredible class, with so many people with PD, was quite an eye opener. It absolutely cemented my passion towards this program.
I applied for the Stanley J. Wertheimer Fellowship program towards the end of last year, and was thrilled to hear that I am now the 14th person in the world to be awarded this honour! I am privileged to receive 2 years’ free tuition with regards courses and workshops. I am beyond excited as, on my last trip, I chatted, and became friendly, with several dancers with PD, and now I cannot wait to see them again in October 2017!!
I will be returning to New York in October to attend the Advanced Teacher Training Course!