November 1, 2017

SF Ballet School Launches Classes for Parkinson's Patients

San Francisco Ballet School in partnership with Kaiser Permanente has launched a year-long dance class designed specifically for people who are affected by Parkinson’s Disease (PD). The class integrates ballet, modern, folk, and improvisation to engage in an experience that will provide the benefits of conscious and expansive dance movement in addition to developing individual artistic expression, all while honoring PD-specific concerns such as balance, flexibility, coordination, isolation, and depression. 

The free-of-charge weekly class has begun with a pilot program that includes a dozen PD dancers who were referred to SF Ballet School by Kaiser physicians. The classes are taught by Cecelia Beam who has been teaching adult ballet in colleges and private schools for over 25 years and who recently trained with the respected Dance for PD® program developed by the Mark Morris Dance Group and Brooklyn Parkinson Group. 

Cecelia shared, “I enjoy using all of my dance disciplines and skills to create doable and fun dances for this special population, including adapting choreography from SF Ballet’s repertory.  Having a skilled improvisational pianist and composer like School Pianist Jamie Naruchshen accompany the class is a real gift.” During the first class, students learned a few adapted excerpts of the Grandfather’s dance from Tomasson’s Nutcracker. Familiar music and a beloved story help create an inviting atmosphere to try dance steps.

The classes are a dream for SF Ballet School Director Patrick Armand. PD is close to him as his mother, a ballet teacher, suffered from the disease, and he well understands the benefit of physical activity and dance in particular. At the orientation session, Patrick welcomed everyone and shared his story. “I am so very happy to have all of you here. I feel that everyone can dance and it's our responsibility to provide opportunities. I hope you will enjoy yourself in these classes and find benefit in the movement and self-expression.”

At the end of the first pilot series in December, the class will be evaluated and may be expanded beyond Kaiser members. For updates on the program, contact Cecelia Beam at