Dancing to slow down Parkinson‘s disease

ITALY • Having a contemporary dance lesson in a museum setting is a new form of support therapy for people affected by Parkinson‘s disease in Italy.

Under the Dance Well initiative, one-hour dance lessons are held twice a week in the Museo Civico (Civic Museum) in Bassano del Grappa, Vicenza, for people who suffer from the condition.

The initiative was launched by Mr Roberto Casarotto, artistic director of the Operaestate Festival Veneto.

Parkinson‘s is a progressive illness of the nervous system, marked by tremor, muscular rigidity, and imprecise movement.

It is fast reaching epidemic proportions all over the world, said Dr Daniele Volpe, director of the neuro-rehabilitation department at Villa Margherita, a state-of-the-art treatment centre for Parkinson‘s in Vicenza.

There is currently no cure for the disease. The symptoms can be treated with medication, but rehabilitation sessions are also needed.

Research shows that “movement can trigger neuroprotective mechanisms in the brain, encourage neuroplasticity and lead to the creation of new synapses”, said Dr Volpe. “We can slow down the disease.”

During a lesson one Monday morning in April, the teacher-choreographer invited the participants – about 70 strong – to move along imaginary paths, following lines that the paintings in the museum seemed to suggest.

They moved back and forth, holding their arms above their heads or lying on the floor. Some sought out their own space, while others crossed paths with one another, resulting in physical that could be therapeutic.

Dance Well, launched in 2013, focuses on people with Parkinson‘s, but is trying to involve others in the community, like young people and immigrants.