Since my first dance class after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (2010), I just know that Dance matters. Only one hour of dancing completely changed the way I experienced my own body. Since then, I have continued dancing almost every day. Every morning dancing in my living room became a new ritual to start the day. Exploring my body in my own safe comfort zone. And sharing the joy of dancing with likeminded people while dancing in Class every week.
Now five years later, every week over 350 people with Parkinson, Rheumatism and MS share their dancing expierence, attending one of the 30 Dance for Health classes. Just by watching them you can see how it affects their physicality, state of mind and self-esteem. Their faces show satisfaction, are smiling en happy and the dancers leave the studio with a different positive energy.
When we know that Dance Matters, out of experience and by observing, the question rises, why Dance Matters? I want to understand what it is exactly what brings this positive value. What way of dancing creates these positive benefits? And how do we define the beneficial values dance gives us?
In my lecture at the People Dancing conference in Glasgow, I tried to explain how my idea about the benefits of dance for people with Parkinson’s changed by analysing my own development as dancer compared with the progress of Parkinson’s in my life.
To underline the idea, I danced a duet together with choreographer Itamar Serussi. A duet which we danced for the first time during a TedX event in 2013. Now, almost five years later, my dancers vocabulary, the richness and quality of my dancing, developed in a positive new direction. In complete contrast with the space the Parkinson’s took in my life. Literally I have, almost daily, moments I am completely without balance and that I can hardly walk. Despite this am able to perform with a body in control, in balance, strength and flexibility in a quality I never could have imagined. Its this contrast that made me aware of changing my focus towards the art of dance in relation to the art of living, beyond the Parkinson,
Move beyond Parkinson
This gap between my ‘dancers body’ and my ‘parkinson’s body’ started to grow the moment I decided tot stop dancing in function of my Parkinson, and started to challenge my self as a dancer. Where the dance classes we are offering didn’t bring me personally enough. By freeing the creativity, giving space for self-expression, in whatever form possible, from the inside out.
“If we do not continuously develop and stimulate ourselves in our dancing, it could easily turn into repetition of movements which will become exercises and will lose its bene ts. Stagnation means decline, so new impulses are needed to get us out of our comfort zones and to further stimulate our creativity.”
To start a process in the studio under the creative guidance of choreographer Itamar Serussi to find new ways for my body to move. Working with a professional who takes me seriously as a dancer, who doesn’t approach me as the sum of my Parkinson’s, makes the difference. Dancing as a form of art is closely connected with my core and the fact that Itamar treated me as a dancer, not a Parkinson’s patient was incredibly valuable for my sense of identity and for my creative potential.