Dancing disease away

Taryn Zard, Staff writer


Parkinson’s disease is a disorder affecting the central nervous system. Parkinson’s inhibits a person’s motor control, coordination, balance, and impacts mental acuity and emotions. The consequences of the disease are well known; however, the reasons behind it are still a matter of debate. 

At present, Parkinson’s is incurable, and treatment options almost exclusively involve heavy medication that has intense negative side effects. 

So, what is the deal with dancing, then? David William Marchant, a professional dancer, choreographer, and instructor, would describe dancing as, “fundamentally a study of coordination, balance, and movement control”

The idea behind movement therapy is to strengthen a person’s overall muscle function in cases where control of such faculties might be impaired. Thus, Marchant—and other dancers—have been working with scientists to design programs that not only help train people’s muscles, but also create a fun and expressive environment. 

The intensity of Irish dancing seems impossible for someone with a muscular disorder such as Parkinson’s. Yet, while watching a traditional Irish jig, a specific step with three counts, and six counts per bar, Doctor Daniele Volpe noticed the jig could override a person’s gait. That is to say, either the fast pace of the traditional Irish jig or the constantly alternating feet, can supersede the neurological inhibitions that are associated with Parkinson’s. In theory, could go from struggling to walk, to dancing on-stage like nobody’s business. 

Other styles of dance can also serve as great tools for helping combat other diseases. When dancing the body just knows what to do, if there is a gap in one’s mind as to where a step should be, improvisation serves to fill the blank just fine. There is a level of cognition intertwined with dance and movement. Some styles might be more effective, but for the most part, it is a matter of personal preference. Dance focuses on a person’s core strength, and over time, a dancer is able to build up balance, coordination, speed, and endurance. 

Dance has long been a method of expressing oneself, and in some cases, can be integrated as a form of therapy. So the next time you are hanging out with friends, struggling with the stress of homework, or even if you are by yourself, take a dance break; even if that break is only 30 seconds long. 


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