There was a student who used a walker for mobility. He was one of the early participants in a dance program led by Leymis Bolaños Wilmott, the founder and artistic director of Fuzión Dance Artists.
She started the twice weekly dance class, “Let’s Dance Expressive Exercise” at Parkinson Place in September 2012. This particular student was a seasonal visitor, and had taken her dance class for four months before returning up north. Before leaving, he told her something powerful: “He came up to me and told me, ‘I’m really going to miss your class because when I came in, I had a walker, and now, I don’t need it,’” Wilmott says.
On Dec. 7 and 8, Parkinson Place students will dance in Fuzión Dance Artist’s winter program “Voices of Fuzión: Melange.”
Parkinson Place’s mission is to improve the lives of those living with Parkinson’s disease, and it offers many participation programs for its members and their spouses. The staff approached Wilmott about leading a dance class a few years ago, but Wilmott’s mother-in-law Phyllis Wilmott’s own struggles with Parkinson’s were getting worse. Wilmott and her husband, Kavin Wilmott, acted as caregivers, and Leymis Bolaños Wilmott wasn’t yet ready to lead the class.
Her mother-in-law died from complications of Parkinson’s in August 2011, and it wasn’t until a year later that Wilmott was ready.
Wilmott’s students socialize before the class begins, and many of the spouses of those with Parkinson’s disease also attend the class either drinking cups of coffee and chatting with each other, or participating. It’s a support system to both partners. It’s a class where students don’t force smiles and positive energy — it just happens naturally. They have fun with it. They encourage each other.
“She would have loved this program,” Wilmott says of her late mother-in-law. “She loved to socialize and talk, and she liked to move.”
Phyllis Wilmott attended nearly every Fuzión Dance Artists performance. Toward the end, when she couldn’t even leave the house to go to the doctor, she still made it a point to attend the performances. Wilmott begins to cry when speaking about her mother-in-law’s strength.
Ultimately, she feels like she’s turning the energy from her loss into something positive. The class not only heals her own wounds, but Wilmott also hopes it brings joy and provides a positive outlet for people dealing with Parkinson’s.
“I think I’m more driven to really encourage the participants to keep moving, to encourage the caregivers to be involved and do something fun,” she says. “Have a good time, move, laugh — they can come here, let loose and enjoy.”
IF YOU GO
‘Voices of Fuzión: Melange’
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7 and Sunday, Dec. 8
Where: FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail
Cost: Tickets $25 to $28
Info: Call 359-0099, Ext. 101 or visit fuziondance.org