1001 reasons to dance in Poplar

Three (of a thousand and one) reasons to be happy dancing in Poplar

by Leslie Mapp

1. There’s no need to apologise…

For me, life with Parkinson’s has led to a lot of apologising: I’m sorry, I’m slow … I say, as I hold people up in queues or dodder into their way in the street. I’m sorry, I lose my words… I say, as the link between my thoughts and speech fractures, leaving me unable to sustain conversation; maybe to speak unexpected words at random. I’m sorry… I say, as I stare blankly at a friend trying to evoke an emotional response. In Poplar though, on the CID dance project, there’s no need to apologise. It’s a peer group, our condition is background. With Parkinson’s pushed to one side, we can rise above the condition, counter the despair.

2. It’s the real thing…

As someone remarked, in Poplar we’re dancers first and people with Parkinson’s second. Not everyone here has the condition, but if you are here, you’re either a professional in dance or a ‘professional’ in Parkinson’s – patient or carer. It means the classes are led to high standards, accompanied by genius live music, and we can model ourselves on the best techniques as we learn our personal means of expression. Of course, there are sympathetic allowances made for our disabilities, but not as many as you might think. We are still expected to participate and to express as much as we are able. It’s hard work but it’s therapeutic – it’s no accident that dancers are so physically fit, so graceful and controlled. I may be a pale shadow of them, but at least I’m able to be a shadow. I walk better afterwards, and feel uplifted. It’s a practical art.

3. It adds dimensions…

Dance has made me appreciate three dimensions. Before this, I lived essentially in two – I would write, I might paint, I took photographs, I watched movies. With dance, I’ve discovered a front and a back as well as a side to side. And this dimension has a new language. I don’t just walk across the floor, I ‘travel’. And it’s not just a floor, it’s a ‘kinaesthetic space’ in which to tell stories. Like any art though, it’s essentially an expression of something beyond the reach of words, which makes it especially important as abilities with words decline. Poplar has also added a community – mixed in age, origin and gender. I’m meeting people I would never otherwise have encountered, and getting suprisingly close to them. Who knew how different other people’s breakfasts could be; or that we could invent a dance about making them! As a characteristically solitary person with an isolating disease, this makes an invaluable contribution to my well-being. In Poplar, see me smile.

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