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Dancing for yourself, one year later

Revisiting a Bellingham dance class for those with Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders

Participants in Pam Kuntz’s dance class follow along as she directs them on Jan. 1, 2024, at the Firehouse Arts and Events Center in Bellingham, Wash, where the class occurs every Thursday. Kuntz teaches participants specialized movements uniquely tailored to help them with their conditions. // Photo by Ethan Blanchard

The Front has revisited a dance class for people with Parkinson's and other neurological disorders, one year after the initial coverage by Briana Tuvey, published in February 2023. 

Unlike what might be found in a regular dance class, chairs are available for everyone at any time, allowing participants to take rests when needed and making the experience one that doesn’t cause overexertion. In addition, caregivers and family members of participants with a neurological disorder are welcome to join in on lessons.

Instructed by Pam Kuntz, the class provides a safe and supportive space for people with Parkinson's disease and other similar conditions to maintain physically and socially active lives while simultaneously assisting in treatment. 

“There’s an awful lot of things that happen with the human body that are not known challenges,” said Nora Wolfe, who attends the class each week. “It’s great that there’s a dance class designed to help people with Parkinson's that’s also open to their caregivers and family.”

Upon The Front's revisit, Kuntz highlighted the importance of getting word out about the class and the necessity of continued support. One way this is accomplished is through press coverage, of which Kuntz keeps a detailed record to help keep sessions freely available to participants. 

“I have to stay on top of the information about this class so that people know about it and we can get support for it,” Kuntz said. “It’s important that the class be free for people who take it.”

According to Kuntz's website, the most prominent newspapers in Bellingham have not provided any detailed coverage of the dance class for over a decade. The Bellingham Herald last published a major article on it in 2013, and any coverage from them has been limited to marking the dates of lessons on their upcoming events calendar.

Virgil Sweeny, the director of the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation, said dance classes like the one instructed by Kuntz are important, emphasizing the reasons he has for using his position to provide support and funding.

“Beyond advocacy, the most effective way to help is by donating time and money to local and independent Parkinson's organizations that are vested in the communities they serve,” Sweeny said. “Volunteer for local events and join or create a walk team to support those impacted by Parkinson's in your community.” 

Parkinson’s is the ninth most common local cause of death, according to the most recent Whatcom County Health Assessment, published in 2018. Sweeny said it is the fastest-growing neurological disorder in the world, and this is confirmed by the most recent findings of the National Library of Medicine, published the same year.

“Over 10 million people live with it worldwide, and estimates put new cases at 90,000 per year in the United States,” Sweeny said. “If you do the math, that's 247 per day, or 1 every six minutes. The sad thing is, I think these numbers are low and will continue to increase.”

Kuntz’s dance class will continue every Thursday at the Firehouse Arts and Events Center in Bellingham, Washington until March 14th, 2024. For more information, contact Pam Kuntz at

For more information about Parkinson’s disease, visit the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation’s website.

Ethan Blanchard

Ethan Blanchard (he/him) is a city news reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a transfer student, earning his AA at Clark Community College before coming to Western to finish his degree, majoring in history/social studies with a news/editorial minor. He enjoys creative writing and a good adventure, whether it be a hike through the wilderness or finding cool places around town. Ethan can be contacted at

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