My Interview with Cindy Surman, Assistant to the Directors, Boca Ballet Theatre. By Dr. George Ackerman. 4/3/2023
Please tell me a little about your background and what got you involved with awareness –
I have been a dance teacher for over 26 years. I learned about the Dance for PD® program at a time when I was transitioning out of teaching young dancers and looking for other ways for Boca Ballet Theatre to serve our community. In 2013, I went to NY for training and came back on fire to start a program in Boca Raton, FL. We knew there was a need for movement classes for the Parkinson’s community in Boca Raton. Since that time, I have completed more training, spent hundreds of hours of teaching, and received Certification from Dance for PD®. Currently, I am the only Certified Dance for PD® Teacher in Florida.
Can you tell me more about The Dancing for Parkinson’s?
Our BBT4PD Team consists of two teachers, two assistant teachers, and several volunteers. We are also so fortunate to have Aly Tejas as our pianist, she is a professional ballet accompanist and she is phenomenal. Our team is a group of individuals who have a passion for dance and want to give back. We have a heart for these participants. Moving is the key and we want to encourage and support individuals with Parkinson’s through movement.
Dance is not just exercise, but also an artistic outlet to express emotion. The live music hits our souls and unlocks so much joy and beauty.
The class format consists of about 30 minutes of seated work, getting our brains talking to our bodies, breathing as a class and warming up all body parts. Then we stand at a ballet barre, or behind a chair, for some supported standing movement. After that, we dance facing the mirror and moving across the floor. We always demonstrate the entire class seated to accommodate anyone in the class who is not able to stand, or who is just having a difficult day and would prefer to stay seated.
We welcome caretakers to participate in our classes. It is wonderful to have husbands and wives in class. We have seen some beautiful and touching moments as they dance together. One couple tearfully, but joyfully, told us, “We haven’t danced together in 15 years!”
What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?
Although I do not have any family members with this disease, I have gotten to feel like family with the participants over our 10 years of the program. It is a joy and an honor to work with our participants.
What type of goals do individuals with Parkinson’s have when attending the courses?
We have individuals of all ages and ranges of ability, and there is something for everyone. Our participants hope to slow down the progression of this disease by including movement into their lives. We also hope to improve the quality of their lives by welcoming them into a class where they are with a community of people on the same journey with Parkinson’s disease. This disease can be isolating and depressing, and we strive to keep each class joyful and allow participants an opportunity for artistic expression. Our classes become a support system, and joy is an integral part of what we offer.
What type of programs and how long are the classes?
Our classes are 1 hour long, twice a week, and we perform movement from ballet, jazz, tap, Broadway, and whatever inspires us to move! Teaching choreography exercises our brains and encourages everyone to multi-task arm and leg movement simultaneously. It is hard work but our participants enjoy the challenge and the fun.
What effect can it have on Parkinson’s fighters?
Movement and exercise are incredibly important as we battle this disease. Regular attendance in our program can improve coordination, postural balance, and other motor symptoms, as well as mood and self-confidence.
We hope to effect and improve the quality of life for all of our participants. One of the highest compliments we have had over the years came from a participant who said, “This is the highlight of my week!”
What would you like to see as a future goal for your programs?
I want BBT4PD, which is a community outreach program of Boca Ballet Theatre’s, to continue to build more support from our community. The classes are FREE to participants, but the program has costs and needs support. It is imperative that we can offer the program free because many individuals with PD will get a prescription for physical therapy, but those benefits eventually run out. Their need for movement does not end, and our program gives them exercise opportunities that are FREE to them.
Boca Ballet Theatre is a non-profit organization, so we need support from funders and patrons that see the value of our program and can support it financially.
What events do you participate in out of the program?
I try to participate in activities and events offered by APDA, Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson’s Wellness Center and other local PD support organizations. We also try to share information with our participants about PD resources throughout our community.
How can someone get in touch and sign up for the classes? What is your website?
Classes are held 1-2pm Tuesdays and Thursdays in person and on zoom. (561) 995-0709 www.bocaballet.org
More about Cindy…
Cindy Surman began her early dance training in Houston, Texas, studying with Edna Herzog. After receiving a BBA from the University of Texas, where she was an All American Collegiate cheerleader, she moved to Boca Raton where she gained a reputation as an exceptional dance instructor. Cindy co-founded BBT4PD, the Dance for PD® Program at Boca Ballet Theatre in 2013, and in 2018 became 1 of 7 certified Dance for PD® instructors in the world. She is one of the founding faculty members of the School of Boca Ballet Theatre, the program director for BBT’s College Dance Fair, and is the Assistant to the Directors.
Photo of Team:
Pianist, Aly Tejas
Behind piano – left to right
Assistant Instructors: Karen Wexler and Amanda Sewell
Volunteer Assistant: Judy Steinhardt
Program Director and Team Teacher: Cindy Surman
Team Teacher: Ines Lopez