A look back on the Champ
Parkinson Awareness Month on ABC 7
Tests That Could Save Your Life
West Coast Woman featuring Leymis Wilmott
Observer Interview With Member Peter Joy
Parkinson Place: A Place of Hope and Care
Larry Hoffheimer, Chairman of the Parkinson Research Foundation which supports the programs of Parkinson Place, said this show promises to be a stellar example of the wonderful happenings at Parkinson Place. All of us associated with Parkinson Place and Fuzion Dance Artists should be very proud.
Fuzion Parkinson Place Herald Tribune Article
November 23rd 2013
By Carrie Seidman , Herald-Tribune
/ Saturday, November 23, 2013
The rehearsal room is alive with milling bodies and restless energy. More than a dozen dancers hover near center stage, dividing their attention between choreographer Leymis Bolaños-Wilmott and composer Francis Schwartz, both directing from the front of the room, as they await a cue to recommence their run-through.
A lone figure sits on the fringe of the dance space, his hands gripping the arm rests of his chair as he works to push himself to the edge of his seat and then rise to his feet.
“Oh!” says Bolaños-Wilmott, noticing the missing participant. “Could someone please help George get…”
Before she can finish, George Lowsky is standing, unsteady, but eagerly working his way into position.
“Good for you, George,” says the director of Fuzión Dance Artists, underplaying the considerable accomplishment.
It is not the first time since Bolanos-Wilmott began teaching weekly classes last year at Parkinson Place — a center devoted to addressing the physical, mental, emotional and social needs of Parkinson’s patients — that she has seen the lure of creative movement supersede the physical limitations caused by the degenerative nerve disease.
“They are so committed and so in for the ride,” Bolaños-Wilmott says of her dozen-plus regular participants, who range in age from their 50s to their 80s. “They will go along with me on anything. We’ve built a real trust and now I feel like I’m constantly wanting to try new things with them.”
The feeling is mutual. The classes have not only increased mobility in the dancers but bolstered confidence in their ability to continuing improving and remain active. Peter Joy, whose personal dance style personifies his last name, says the class, which he began in May, has been “heaven sent.”
“It gives me a reason to wake up every morning,” says Joy, who serves as Bolaños-Wilmott’s official rehearsal director when Fuzión company member Mary Richardson is absent. “It’s good for me not only physically and mentally, but emotionally and socially.”
Joy’s wife says the classes have not only helped with her husband’s tremor and sometimes debilitating arthritis, but have also allowed him to tap into a enjoyment and excitement he’s not experienced since childhood.
At the moment, the participants in the now twice-weekly class have an extra incentive to push themselves — they’re rehearsing a piece that will open a “Voices of Fuzión: Mélange” concert this weekend that also includes premieres by several of Fuzión’s newest choreographers.
The mixed-ability work, choreographed by Bolaños-Wilmott and as yet, untitled, integrates class members of varying physical agility with professional dancers from the contemporary company. It was commissioned by the Parkinson Research Foundation and includes a score of vocalizations created by New Age music guru Schwartz and live accompaniment by percussionist and longtime Fuzión collaborater Scott Blum.
For the class members, most of whom left their jitterbugging days behind decades ago, the idea of appearing on a proscenium stage, in costume and with professional partners, is quite a prospect.
“When you’re 88, you don’t get much opportunity to do this kind of stuff,” admits Zane Kyle, a formerly avid tennis player who was misdiagnosed for nearly four years before receiving a Parkinson’s pronouncement two years ago.
Kyle walked into his first class behind a walker. Soon he’d abandoned it for a cane and now he’s back to walking by himself says his wife of 66 years, Barbara, as she watches her husband strike a seated but stretched pose between two Fuzión dancers.
“The performance? He wants to do it. In fact, it’s been an incentive for him,” Barbara Kyle says. “There is always a hand on everyone to keep them safe but they’re encouraged to be as active as they can. Now he’s determined to get back on the tennis court.”
But not everyone was immediately on board when Bolaños-Wilmott decided to include the unusual work in her company’s fall concert.
“To be honest, some of them were like, ‘Um, no thank you!'” she admits. “And others were like, ‘What?? You want us on the stage?'”
She did her best to allay their fears and offer enticements — an opening spot on the program, a “green room” for preparation, even “the paparazzi” — and assured them that if anyone had a “bad day” come performance time — Parkinson’s symptoms can come and go unpredictably — adjustments could be made on the spot. She was also not beyond using the lure of the participants’ pleasure in working with the mostly young female company members who assist during class time.
“I’d say, ‘Well, you know you could dance with Molly…'” Bolaños-Wilmott says, laughing. “Or, ‘Maybe you’d like to do an improv with Mary?’ Having the company members involved made it easy.”
As the rehearsal proceeds, it’s clear the Parkinson’s dancers are integral to the choreography, not merely tacked-on additions.
Their facial muscles stretch as they “Ahhhhhhh” and “Rrrrrrrrr” and “Ssssssss” according to Schwartz’s prompts. The men slide chairs across the stage, cradle the heads of their partners or grasp their arms tightly and stretch away to just short of the point of toppling over. Every dancer’s move requires a compensating counter-move from another.
“I really wanted us to be integrated,” Bolaños-Wilmott says. “This is really about how we come together and meet them right where they are.”
Each Parkinson’s dancer has a highlighted segment in the piece. Don Komishane, a spritely 79-year-old in a bright pink oxford shirt, says his part, with Fuzión’s Molly Nichols, is entirely improvised.
“If you feel the music, you can do anything you like,” says Komishane, who still recalls the bottle of Champagne he won in a swing dance contest as a college senior in the ’50s. “It’s a nice feeling. Makes you very warm inside.”
He’s not just talking about temperature rise from the exercise. This is a multi-generational gathering — most of the Parkinson’s dancers are seniors, most of the Fuzión dancers are 20-somethings and even Fuzión dancer Xiao-xuan Yang Dancigers’ infant son, Max, is part of the group, either bouncing in a Snugli on his mother’s chest or on the lap of an on looking spouse — and everyone is part of the “family” says Nichols.
“There’s a feeling of team here that’s so huge,” says Nichols. “The interactions are all about what’s really important in life. It’s such a safe place for us all.”
As the dancers move into place for a final run-through, an aide stands behind Fred Walker, tightly clinching the belt around Walker’s waist that allows him to stand. Nevertheless, Walker tries to make his own progress forward with a few halting steps as if trying to escape the boundary.
“Be careful, Fred,” Bolaños-Wilmott cautions.
Walker waves her off.
“I got it, I got it,” he says.
Minutes later, the dancers practice their final bows.
“Leymis,” says Joy, wiping a sweaty brow. “That was the best we ever did it.”
“Yeah,” says another dancer. “We just keep getting better with age.”
VOICES OF FUZIÓN: MÉLANGE, Fuzión Dance Artists and friends. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8. Jane B. Cook Theater, FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. $10-$28. 359-0099, ext. 101; www.fuziondance.org
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