A striking and moving meeting, not for pity but for the amazement of watching people from all over the world sat together sharing experiences to find a common, and at the same time peculiar, way to help people with Parkinson through dance. A roundtable, held in Bassano del Grappa (Vicenza) during BMotion dance 2014 – an occasion for having artists, teachers, researchers, patients, students, all together telling their story not for creating a memory but in order to build a possible real future.
Living example and leader of the meeting Marc Vlemmix, affected with Parkinson and founder of Dance for Health & Parkinson in Rotterdam, together with Andrew Greenwood, creator of the classes based on the common movements and principles between dance and Parkinson. Great sharing of experiences with the German reality, through Monica Gilette and Josef Mackert of Theater Freiburg, along with the participation of Yasmeen Godder for a future development in Israel. Important witness Sara Houston, researcher at the English National Ballet on the impact that dance can have on Parkinson’s disease. Besides the presence of Lauren Potter, dancer and teacher recently approaching these classes, also some Italian dancers who have attended the training course in Bassano, Rotterdam and Maastricht to start teaching dance at people affected with PD. Coordinating mind of this heterogeneous group Roberto Casarotto, promoter of the project in Bassano.
So what impressions have all these people collected in the last year and which are their goals? Very interesting to hear how different are the realities and the reactions based on the specific spirit of each country. Andrew Greenwood has created classes based on what could dance and Parkinson have in common: struggling for balance, fighting with coordination, working on flexibility, finding the right posture. The results have been so striking that the request to learn this “movement platform” keeps on increasing.
Marc Vlemmix goes straight to the point: the mission is to reach people with Parkinson both geographically and financially. It’s not a therapy, everything is still going to be studied, but it’s more an holistic approach: «It’s not about Parkinson, it’s about Life». More than the physical aspect what is coming out since the beginning is that what’s important is its mental and social side: «it’s about connecting people at personal level, therefore we must invest on the community».
As always money and funds should be found presenting and showing results, but it’s necessary to keep in mind when starting a project what to do, who to reach, how to do it. It’s very important to be able to relate to each specific environment, always connecting ART (dance) with the MEDICAL aspect (disease). In between we have to relate and confront with neurologists, philosophers, politicians and media, or the project will always be unbalanced.
This approach has been mainly followed by Theater Freiburg, as the project is collaborating at University level. Here the point is less on money and more on “physical thinking”: move from a theoretical approach to a physical one, this is what are dancers needed for. Finding out that neurologists are more willing to attend a lecture than a dance class, the focus has been moved on their students, working with the new generation and creating a future platform of research and development.
Another very important point which has been risen is about communication: how can we deal with all the material and information collected? And most of all, how can we prove it? Where is the meeting point between quantity (scientific approach) and quality (patient approach)? The philosopher seems the bridge, the common answer, someone who is able to communicate with people with a language that they can understand and means that can be proved.
Proofs are needed to find finances. In the Netherlands Dance for Health and Parkinson is collecting a booklet with stories that can show how people feel and what they are doing; in Germany Theater Freiburg has to prove that it’s not a therapy but an artistic research. What’s in common is that the quality of life of people with Parkinson improves with these experiences. In Italy, up to the moment, the project has collaborated more with medical structures and less on the artistic side. But Italian patients are less shy, willing to show what they have done and learnt, as when Scapino Ballet brought a class in the central square of Bassano among common people and professional photographers.
In Israel Yasmeen Godder reports that there are many associations working with Parkinson, from using martial arts as means of movement to those making research together with universities or hospital, or for example Ohad Naharin who skips scientists giving gaga classes to patients to see how they react. Yasmeen is starting a partnership between her company and Theater Freiburg trying to find a balance between science and art, which is the same aim of Marc Vlemmix: never to forget the connection among Art, Dance, Health, and always putting new energy on this balance.
Dance is the common denominator, what links the disease to freedom through beauty. When Sara Houston started her pilot project at the English National Ballet, she ranked the aesthetic values from her Parkinson experience: the first aesthetic value was Beauty, followed by Grace and Pleasure. Only at the fourth place we find the freedom to move. In the Netherlands a person with Parkinson said on Monument Day: «I can’t dance for myself, but I’m ready to dance for others».