I recently came across two forms of physical expression being promoted for use by people with Parkinson’s. Both are “alternative” ways of moving in that they push the body out of its preferred shapes; this, it seems, is particularly useful for people with Parkinson’s, as our movement neurology is effectively broken (or breaking) and we often need to find alternative ways of doing things.
In London, the English National Ballet (ENB) are running ballet therapy classes for Parkinsonians. This was a news article on the UK television channel, Channel 4. I didn’t see the piece on television, but this blog post seems to be a reasonable alternative. Apparently,this isn’t the first time that this has been tried:
The initiative follows the lead of the pioneering Mark Morris Dance Group in the US.
Being steeped in the traditions of my home country, I can’t shake the thought that this group ought to offer morris dancing, but the emphasis seems to be on ballet and collaborations with opera. You can watch a PBS report on their “Dance for PD” programme here. Conveniently, a transcript is also provided.
Ballet has long struck me as being a discipline that encourages a sort of physical excess – the moves are elaborate, extreme, and require a great deal of effort to perfect. I somehow imagine, though, that ballet therapy isn’t about perfection, but more about pushing your own body’s limits. One interesting aspect is the apparent effect on the psyche. Apparently,
… Parkinson’s typically flattens the personality of the sufferer.
I wasn’t aware of that. I imagine it’s a problem that emerges later during the Parkinsonian journey, and may be a combination of neurological issues and the result of many frustrating years of battling the condition.
ENB use their own upcoming productions as a springboard for each ballet therapy class, which provides:
… a focus on character, narrative and the art of ballet which is absent from more traditional forms of dance therapy, which just provide physical exercise. The focus on movement motifs and motivation from productions in the ENB repertoire adds a whole new dimension of creativity to the process. And it opens up an opportunity for activities that promote a range of emotional expressions that can help re-activate the eroded personality.
It sounds fantastic – I suppose the art galleries aren’t the only reason that it might be nice to live in the capital, after all…
Next up: Tai Chi.