Argentine Tango Moves Parkinson’s Patients: ‘Makes You Feel Better’

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By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder. It often starts with a tremor in one hand then progresses to slow movement, stiffness and loss of balance.

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(credit: CBS)

There is no cure, but there are things that can help, including dance.

On Tuesday afternoon, it’s time to tango – Argentine tango.

For one hour, a meeting room at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Denver becomes a ballroom. A small group gets moving, walking and dancing.

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(credit: CBS)

You’ll see heels and high tops and people working hard to master patterns with bodies they have to convince to cooperate.

“When I started it was daunting,” said 69-year-old Brian Hyde.

That’s because Hyde and the others have Parkinson’s disease. The progressive disease of the nervous system is robbing them of mobility and balance.

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(credit: CBS)

“Relaxing physically is probably the hardest single thing,” Hyde told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Argentine tango is therapy.

“My first adjective that I would use for these people is courageous,” said dance instructor Deb Iole.

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Deb Iole (credit: CBS)

Iole has been teaching the class for a year. She sees the dancing improve movement and create connections.

“It breaks isolation and many people with Parkinson’s, I think one of the biggest challenges, is feeling isolated,” she said.

Hyde had to overcome his inhibitions.

“Well even if you dance crappy, go for it if it makes you feel better,” said Hyde.

He knows tango can’t turn back the clock, but it can offer moments of joy.

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(credit: CBS)

“I don’t think I could think in the past year of a single time that I didn’t leave here feeling better than when I arrived,” he said.

The hope is tango on Tuesdays inspires. There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but studies have shown dance can slow the progression and improve lives.

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The Parkinson Association of the Rockies just received a $35,000 grant from the Daniels Fund.  Part of it will be used to expand their many exercise and dance programs, including Argentine tango.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

denver.cbslocal.com