A journey of dance

Julie Symmonds, right, and Kwela television presenter Therese Benade.

Julie Symmonds, Somerset West

My journey of Dance for Parkinson’s started in early 2015, when a very special woman, Audrey Beesley, brought her granddaughter to ballet classes. Audrey has Parkinson’s, and she was the first person I had met with this disease.

She told me about a link she had seen on the internet about Dance for Parkinson’s Disease (PD). When I went onto the site, I was immediately moved, and knew this was my next step in my teaching career.

I was lucky enough to have finished with a ballet concert and there was enough left in the kitty to do the first course in New York.

I was over the moon and being in New York was just amazing. I met incredible teachers and did courses at Julliard School of Dance and various other places. A whole new world.

When I came home, I started doing presentations and demonstrations at old age homes, support groups etc to spread the word. The first official class took place on February 4 last year, with four people.

Slowly the word spread, I hung in there, and 16 months later we have three classes: Somerset West with 16 participants, Gardens with five, and Pinelands with five.

For me to be able to train other teachers in this amazing programme, I need to get back to New York in October for the advanced training. I do not have the funds this time. I sold my ballet school to dedicate my time to Dance for Parkinson’s.

After I complete the advanced training, I can continue with certification, which is a lengthy process of seven steps (I am currently on step two).

The bursary I was awarded covers my advanced training fee, and all the courses, but it does not cover flights, accommodation, food and the certification (this costs $1 500/ R22 000).

I have had to put my pride in my pocket and started to look at alternate options to raise funds, and have launched a fundraising campaign on the leading South African fundraising platform called Thundafund.

The link to my campaign is www.thundafund.com/project/parkinsons

Our other exciting news is that Kyknet has done a story on us, which will be aired on channel 144, on June 28, at 8.30pm, on the Kwela show.

The director, crew and presenter Therese Benade were incredibly moved by our programme, and we are thrilled to be getting some national TV exposure.