Flamenco dancer shares his passion with others who have Parkinson's disease

Clapping and stomping are two key motions in flamenco dance, and they're much harder to perform for someone with Parkinson's Disease.

But longtime Vancouver flamenco dancer Oscar Nieto doesn't think the disease should stand in the way of the dance, and has launched a new class for those living with Parkinson's.

"I realized the singing and dancing was therapy," said Nieto, 72, recalling when he was first diagnosed with Parkinson's. Having been an active dancer most his life, he said the diagnosis initially sent him into a depression.

But he found, despite his disease, that he could still teach and choreograph the dance he's passionate for.

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"I thought, 'How can I still be of service to this community?' "

That's when Nieto came up with the flamenco Parkinson's dance class. The classes, held at the Vancouver Tap Society, appear to be popular with the students.

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"My world is getting too small ... and I need more music in my life," said student Patricia Vandercran. "I was a very physical, energetic person and I'm not anymore and it hurts."

"This is sort of a 'Come on, you can do this!' thing."

Ben Nelms/CBC

Nieto said he feels overwhelmed by empathy when he sees his students push hard to keep moving because he knows their struggle intimately. 

"We know where life is going to go. There's a dead end, sooner or later. So you try to make the best of every day. When you wake up, you're thankful."

With files from The Early Edition and Jodie Martinson