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Northwestern Medicine and The Joffrey Ballet collaborate to offer dance classes for Parkinson's patients


The five-week program will take place at The Joffrey Ballet's South Loop Studios

The Joffrey Ballet's Carly Liegel leads class

CHICAGO – July 20, 2023 – Northwestern Medicine, in partnership with The Joffrey Ballet, has announced the launch of Dancing with Parkinson’s, a transformative five-week series of classes that explores various dance styles including ballet, jazz, tap, modern and improvisation. Each class is further enhanced by the presence of a live pianist, who will accompany the participant’s movements.

Designed for individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD), this research-backed program aims to enhance physical, mental, and emotional well-being through the joy of dance. The series takes place every Thursday from July 13 to August 10 at The Joffrey Ballet’s South Loop Studios located at 1920 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago. 

“Dance involves the practice of fluid movements, postures, and body control, which may address the rigidity, slowness, and postural instability associated with PD,” said Danny Bega, MD, movement disorders specialist at Northwestern Medicine. “Dance is proposed to offer cognitive and social benefits as well. The activity requires planning movements, following music and signals, and remembering choreography. The sense of community and enjoyment that comes from dancing and listening to music with other people may also address common PD-related problems such as depressed mood, fatigue, and isolation.”

Dancing With Parkinson’s offers a supportive and inclusive environment where individuals can explore a variety of dance styles. Whether dancing in a standing or seated position, participants will engage in movements tailored to their abilities, fostering strength, flexibility, and creativity. The program’s holistic approach focuses on promoting overall well-being, empowering participants to embrace the transformative power of dance.

Space is limited to a total of thirty participants per class, and each Parkinson’s patient is invited to bring a caregiver, friend, or family member. It’s one of Northwestern Medicine’s first in-person offerings for Parkinson’s patients since the COVID-19 pandemic caused all classes and support groups to go virtual.  

Participants warming up for their first "Dancing With Parkinson's" class

“The classes are completely filled, which is a first for our program,” said Katie Fagan, senior program coordinator and clinical social worker for the Northwestern Medicine Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center. “There’s a desire for patients and their caregivers to meet others in-person again and we’re so excited for the launch of this new program with The Joffrey Ballet. If all goes well, it’s our intention to bring back additional sessions in the fall and spring, possibly expanding location and time offerings.”

Classes are led by Carly Liegel, community engagement program coordinator with The Joffrey Ballet. In 2019, Liegel completed training with Dance for PD®, a New York City-based program that pioneered dance classes for people with Parkinson’s disease. “My goal for the class is to emphasize artistry and connection. I want to let everyone know that dance is an accessible art form for all. It’s a safe space to come how you are, express what you need, and connect with others for support, guidance, and inspiration.”

Ginger Hall, a class participant who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two years ago, emphasized the importance of remaining active in managing her symptoms. “I do believe that the magic bullet for Parkinson’s is exercise. Even though you can’t gain what you’ve lost, you can keep Parkinson’s at bay. Post-COVID, this program reminds me of how important community is, so, I’ll come back to every class because they’re good people and it’s fun to be out with a group.” 

There is no cost for patients and their caregivers to attend the dance classes. For more information about classes and support groups for Northwestern Medicine Parkinson’s patients, visit

View Dancing With Parkinson's b-roll
Dancing With Parkinson's b-roll
View Carly Liegel SOTs
Carly Liegel SOTs