A Dancer’s Perspective of the World Parkinson Congress

by Claudine Naganuma

dNaga, courtesy of the World Parkinsons Congress

The first World Parkinson Congress I attended was in Montreal in 2013. That year, David Leventhal made a presentation on the benefits of Dance for PD, our very own Gary Turchin brought a film and a book to present, and I attended several inspiring scientific presentations. I also met Eli Pollard, the director of the World Parkinson’s Coalition, who invited my intergenerational dance company, dNaga, to perform at the next WPC to be held in 2016 in Portland, Oregon. We attended that conference in Portland and performed Proteinology during a lunchtime and evening exhibition. That year the WPC named David Leventhal as an awardee for his distinguished contribution to the Parkinson’s community through his leadership of Dance for PD®.

It was clear that dance was becoming more important to the larger Parkinson’s community and in 2018, Eli Pollard again invited dNaga to perform at the next WPC, 2019, in Kyoto. Our dancers worked for months developing and rehearsing the dances we would perform in Kyoto. With the generous support of many individual donors, dNaga was ready!

We flew to Japan with six dancers with Parkinson’s, four youth performers, and three adult professionals. The schedule was packed, starting with a weekend of Dance for PD activities at the Saitama Arts Center in Tokyo. The program, led by David Leventhal, was tailored to the Japanese dance teachers who are interested in offering Dance for PD classes in Japan.  

Next, we traveled from Tokyo to Kyoto, and immediately began rehearsing “Ooh Ahh,” choreographed by Brooklyn-based dancer with PD and inspirational teacher, Pamela Quinn. Ooh Aah, with about 60 dancers from many countries, was performed at the WPC welcoming program. That evening, adorned in scrubs, dNaga performed a site-specific dance, making silly sounds amongst the almost 3000 attendees, the medical displays and posters. Over the next few days, dNaga performed at two lunchtime events, an evening salon, and participated in a Dance for PD class conducted by David Leventhal, offered as one of the congress activities. 

 Led by Eli Pollard, the World Parkinson Congress has been successfully bringing together people with Parkinson’s, caregivers, researchers, medical professionals, and creative individuals. The congress provides opportunities for the Parkinson’s community to develop a global network, exchange information and to be inspired.

Claudine Naganuma

This year at the WPC “Book Nook”, I presented a book that I published entitled Peace About Life: Dancing With Parkinson’s which shares excerpts of interviews that I’ve collected over ten years, poetry and photos of the dNaga dancers. It is in Japanese and English in the hope of fostering the understanding that each of us is part of a larger community.

To end our Japan trip, the company took the Bullet Train (Shinkansen) back to Tokyo for the weekend. We held a Dance for PD class and performed twice at the Toyosu Bunka Center. Many of the people who attended the Saitama workshop the previous week attended the dance performances. It was heartwarming to hear that the dance teachers in Tokyo are excited about fostering Dance for PD classes in Japan. As different as our cultures are, I am inspired and invigorated anew to see how dance universally can impact our bodies, our sense of self, and our connections to one another.