Healthy Body

Dare, dream, dance

Written by Leigh Neely

When Ellie Lowrey was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she was relieved to learn she could dance her way to better health.

Photo: Anthony Rao

While living in Delray Beach, Ellie Lowery enjoyed ballroom dancing for 15 years. When her son convinced her to move near him in Mount Dora, however, she stopped dancing. Then came the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

“I had been healthy all my life, never been in a hospital,” says Ellie, who admits to being an octogenarian. “But it got me in to see Dr. (Leonardo) Almeida at Shands, and I entered their research program. After I did that, the nurse recommended I do ballroom dancing and the doctor agreed.”

Chris McCain, owner of Dancin’ Ballroom in Leesburg, wasn’t surprised when he received Ellie’s call.

“One of our students had Parkinson’s disease, and it was amazing to see the change in him,” he says. “We helped him correct his posture, strengthen his balance, and have a longer gait.”

Many Parkinson’s patients develop the “shuffling” gait when walking, and the movement needed for ballroom dancing improves that significantly.

Ellie was thrilled to be back on the dance floor. “They have such a great time here, and Chris has been a great instructor,” she says.

Everything begins with a 30-minute complimentary private lesson. “This gives us a chance to see their agility and from there, we start teaching,” Chris says. The dancers join a group class. If they progress enough to want private lessons, those are available, too. 

“I’d suggest to anyone with Parkinson’s disease that they do ballroom dancing,” Ellie says. “It makes them have to learn something and then remember it, and that’s good for them and fun.”

When Ellie had her last doctor’s visit in January, her doctor said there had been no change in her disease. Since Parkinson’s is a progressive disease with no cure, remaining at the same level is welcome news for patients.

Ellie says ballroom dancing has allowed her to continue doing other activities she loves. She works part-time at the Secret Garden in Mount Dora and is an active member of Kiwanis and Women for Hospice.

“I have a full calendar all the time, and my son has seen the difference in me,” she says.

Chris adds, “Dancing helps because we teach them body mechanics—how to use and stretch muscles, we work on their gait, and posture. They have to learn to defy gravity.”

About the author'

Leigh Neely

Leigh Neely began her writing career with a weekly newspaper in the Florida panhandle, where she not only did the writing but delivered the papers to the post office and dispensers. She has been writing ever since for a variety of newspapers and magazines from New Jersey to Leesburg. With her writing partner, Jan Powell, Leigh has published two novels as Neely Powell.

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