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For couple with Parkinson's disease, dance class lifts spirits and may offer more

Nam Y. Huh / AP

Michael Lieb, left, and his wife Rosyln smile during a dance therapy class for people with Parkinson's disease at the Hubbard Street Dance Center in Chicago on Nov. 5, 2011.

The Associated Press reports from CHICAGO:

The two things that have brought Michael and Roslyn Lieb closer together couldn't be more different: Parkinson's disease and dance, one slowly taking away, the other giving back in ways they never imagined.

After tremors in his right arm and leg 11 years ago led to Michael Lieb's diagnosis with the debilitating brain disease, his wife became his caretaker. But two years ago, she developed a tremor, too. The diagnosis: Parkinson's.

"I couldn't believe it. It seemed incredible to me that we both should have the disease," he said. "It came as a real shock, a real downer."

"No one in either of our families has Parkinson's," she said. "It's come out of the blue for both of us."

Now retired, the couple still love to read, go to the symphony and opera, and get together often with family and friends. Once a week, they head to an unusual Chicago dance class tailored for Parkinson's patients.

Nam Y. Huh / AP

Patients listen to assistant instructor Heidi Landgraf, center, during the class.

A nurse first recommended the Hubbard Street dance classes three years ago, and Michael Lieb figured he had nothing to lose. His wife went along — first to help Michael, now to benefit herself, too.

Nam Y. Huh / AP

Michael Lieb takes part in the class.

The tremors and stiff, awkward movements of Parkinson's hardly seem compatible with dancing. But exercise is sometimes recommended for Parkinson's patients, to improve flexibility, and brain specialists are investigating if dance offers something more.

For the Liebs, the answer is clear.

"It just lifts the spirits," said Roslyn Lieb, 69. "It does transport us, to a different planet where Parkinson's doesn't matter so much."

"We check our Parkinson's at the door and we're all one community, mutually supportive and we dance together," said her 71-year-old husband. "It's just a marvelous experience." Continue reading.

Nam Y. Huh / AP