In a third floor studio on a Tuesday afternoon, dance is changing lives.
"I have a new song I cant wait to play for you," says Misty Owens, a dance professor at the University of Texas Dallas, as she looks out at 30-or-so dancers. "Feet on the floor, everybody. Here we go."
Most of the people in this room never imagined they'd be taking dance in their 70s, 80s-- even 90s. But most of these people also never imagined they'd have Parkinson's Disease, either.
"My approach to anything of this nature is, how do we best deal with it? Not let it get us down?" says Roland Anderson, who's lived with Parkinson's for the better part of a decade.
This is part of the answer. It's a class called "Dance for PD."
Twice a week, every week, at Texas Health Dallas, PD patients of all ability levels gather to stretch their limbs, tap their toes and reclaim the rhythm their disease so greedily takes. "I really look to shake up the body, to invigorate the synapses and ask the brain to come alive," Owens, the instructor, says.
Owens helped start "Dance for PD" in New York City nearly 20 years ago. Until then, she hadn't known anyone personally with the disease. But she did know that the fundamentals of dance were just what PD patients needed.
"Be more aligned, be more able to walk with a larger gait," she says. "We really just went in and taught what we loved and it was really mind-blowing for people who were taking the class that they could do it."
"There was an article in the Dallas Morning News," Anderson says. "My wife read it and said, Roland! You ought to try that out! And I said, I'm not going to a dance class!"
But seven years later, Roland Anderson can't bear to miss a class. Neither can Mary Ellen Malone, who was diagnosed nine years ago.
"The tremors are kind of like there's a party going on inside your body, but you're not there. You're not invited to the party," she says, laughing.
Both Anderson and Malone say exercise like dance is just as important as medication when it comes to minimizing PD symptoms like tremors, imbalance and loss of mobility.
What does Malone's doctor think about her dancing habit? "Oh, he loves it! He loves it," she says.
Research shows that PD patients who exercise see a slower decline in their quality of life. Not to mention: it's fun.
"I love the music, love the music," Malone says. "We go to lunch once a month, stuff like that, we just enjoy one another's company," says Anderson.
It all makes a difference. Owens says the courage she sees in these dancers every week takes her breath away. "Really the resilience and the human spirit that keeps everyone coming back to class, that's what I see," she says.
Because here, they are simply dancers, finding their way through life.
The classes in Dallas are free, and will begin again at the end of the summer.