The hip hop dance class treating Parkinson's disease

Dancer and choreographer Simone Sistarelli has an unusual way of helping people fight the symptoms of degenerative disease Parkinson’s – popping and locking.

His free classes, the only ones of its kind in the world, take place in Wimbledon, south London. “We started two years ago with just an idea with no funding. I just had an idea of having people who suffer from Parkinson’s taking Popping classes to fight off their symptoms and regain control,” says Sistarelli.

Sistarelli’s grandfather had Parkinsons, giving him a direct connection to the disease. He recently raised £2.5k ($3.3k) to allow classes to continue and has now set a stretch target so they can reach more people, take the concept on tour and develop research on the therapeutic relationship between popping and Parkinsons.

“It made sense artistically because one of the effects that Parkinson’s has is shaking, the tremors. I really wanted to see how that involuntary contraction and release of the muscles could turn into something positive.”

He realised that the controlled action required by popping could help people who suffer from tremors and began developing classes and routines along these lines. “With this hip hop-influenced dance, I could teach my students to channel their shaking. I wanted to try and change the negative – the tremor – into something positive and artistic and expressive.”

An estimated ten million people worldwide live with the disease and it’s symptoms, which typically include tremors, slowness of movement, stiff limbs and trouble with balance.

“There were no classes like this in the world. There are dance classes for people with Parkinsons but most of them are contemporary or ballet-based. Popping is just what I do best. I wanted to do something meaningful for the community just like hip hop taught me.”