Ballet Arizona offers free dance classes for Parkinson's patients

April is Parkinson's Awareness Month, and it's a disease that affects more than 10 million people around the world.

Here in Phoenix, a special partnership between Ballet Arizona and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center is helping those struggling with the neurodegenerative disease.

For one hour on Wednesdays and Fridays, dozens of Parkinson's patients practice their plies at Ballet Arizona near 29th Street and Washington.

"The thing about Parkinson's is [that] it's a neurodegenerative disease, the brain is affected," said George Eckenroad, a patient. "When the brain is affected everything is affected, and so those things that can affect your brain in a positive way like dance, singing, being with friends, endorphins from running, swimming, any positive activity…what helps your brain helps you with Parkinson's."

Debbie Braganza is the dance instructor. She says her father had Parkinson's for over 20 years, so it's a disease that's all too familiar with her. 

Braganza says movement is medicine, and music heals.

"We work on balance, we work on stretching, we work on also the cognitive side which is coordination, and just learning different steps and learning different choreography every week," Braganza said.

Dance has the power to connect the mind and the body, and George Eckenroad says it has done so much for him.

"It is more than I could have expected, I can't believe that this is available for free for everyone," Eckenroad said.

Learn more about the classes here:

For those who don't like ballet, all different types of dance are taught. The classes are free for patients and their caregivers.