Each week, What's Online features a curated selection of Koffler.Digital artist projects and publications, Koffler Gallery exhibitions and online gallery publications, features on recent community-engaged programs, as well as podcasts of past Books & Ideas events, talks and discussions.

Dear Koffler Friends,

This week we’re profiling the Koffler Centre of the Arts' long-term community partner, Dancing with Parkinson’s (DWP) – a specialized weekly dance program for individuals living with Parkinson’s disease (PD). It's inspiring to witness the profound impact of this program, not only how it helps alleviate the physical symptoms of PD, but also the way it builds social connections and creates a sense of community. 

As part of each season of multidisciplinary public programs at the Koffler we collaborate with artists and DWP director and founder, Sarah Robichaud, to create experiential workshops where DWP participants respond to Koffler Gallery exhibitions and thematic investigations through improvisational movement and dance.

In November 2019, DWP dancers participated in a 2-part workshop with artist Heather Nicol who was part of the Koffler Gallery group exhibition, Undomesticated. Participants responded to Nicol's glassworks by evoking a range of impressions and references from circus to elegance, imagination, conflict, sophistication, precariousness, confections, transformation, and love. Sarah Robichaud, Executive Director/Founder of Dancing with Parkinson's, incorporated their responses and led participants through a series of choreographed movements, bringing together their collective ideas while providing each other support. Participants concluded the workshop in the Koffler Gallery with an exploration of sound, utilizing papier-mâché cones created by Nicol.

See photos of the workshop on Facebook.

In winter 2019, DWP dancers responded to Ghazaleh Avarzamani’s Koffler Gallery exhibition, Never Never Land. Considering a range of spaces, structures and devices for interactivity, self-development and play, Never Never Land reflected on the continuous process of learning, unlearning, forgetting and remembering that shapes an individual’s outlook. Inspired by Avarzamani’s evocative sculptural, drawing and textile works, DWP dancers created sequences of gestures and movements prompted by memories of personal choices, regrets and wisdom gained within their lives.

See photos of the workshop on Instagram

Dancing with Parkinson’s is a unique community-engaged program that brings seniors with PD out of isolation to connect with others in a creative and welcoming space. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, DWP is working tirelessly to find new ways to maintain connections with and support for their communities during these challenging, physically-distancing days. Programming has shifted online, with an offering of free daily classes on Zoom. 

On April 20, 2020, the Koffler's Mary Anderson, Manager, Literary & Public Programs, participated in a DWP Live Zoom Class, and was utterly amazed at how successful the class was. Said Mary, "It was as if Sarah and the dancers had more energy than ever, and that this digital platform had created a new sense of connection and community – something that is particularly inspiring in these challenging times."

See some short videos of the Mary's class on the Koffler's Facebook page. Dancing with Parkinson's online classes were recently featured on Global News.

Testimonials from participating Seniors:

"Our thanks to you for making it possible for us to join the Zoom online dance class this morning. We really enjoyed it. So much good - so much happiness added to our quiet days. Thanks so much."

"This was great today! Thank you for doing this - it really does help us all to stay connected in our isolation - what a great thing!! Your enthusiasm is infectious - that’s the good kind!!"

"How wonderful to have such a fantastic and special person like you helping all us to spread the joy of dancing during this difficult time. Your program and warmth are inspirational. We are so fortunate to have an amazing person such as you guiding us."  

I encourage you to look through these inspiring photos and share the link to these energetic and accessible classes with friends and family who will benefit and enjoy. Please note that DWP classes are suitable for everyone – those with and without PD. 

Let’s keep moving together in positive directions during this unprecedented time. Be well, take good care and stay connected. 

Jessica Dargo Caplan
Director, Public Programs and Engagement
Koffler family FoundationCIBC Wood GundyOntario Arts Council | Conseil Des Arts De L'OntarioToronto Arts Council | Funded by the City of TorontoCanada Council