Saturday, August 16, 2008


The Value of Dancing for Parkinson's Patients

Oliver Sacks in his wonderful book Musicophillia writes about music "that the parkinsonian needs, for only music which is rigorous yet spacious, sinuous and alive, can evoke responses that are equally so. And he needs not only the metrical structure of rhythm and the free movement of melody--its contours and trajectories, its ups and downs, its tensions and relaxations--but the 'will' and intentionality of music, to allow him to regain the freedom of his own kinetic melody."

Research at St Louis University show that Parkinson's patients who dance the Argentine Tango developed better mobility and balance over the 20 week research period where one group of patients were given excercise classes and another was given Tango lessons.

Tango classes for PD patients are starting up across the USA and the world from New South Wales to Chicago. Some of the dancers could not walk without the help of a cane or walker but can take the dance floor and immediately be able to move gracefully around in a close embrace tango.

It is the kinetic response to the music/the rhythm of the music which may evoke this ability.

Kinetic energy, defined chemically as the work required to accelerate a body from rest to its current velocity - in this case movement. Once gained, the body maintains the kinetic energy unless or until its speed changes...the dance ends.

The term "kinetic melody" was coined by the Russian neuorologist Aleksandr R Luria studying automatic rhythm in the physical act of writing in The Functional Organization of the Brain.
Although written over 40 years ago the original observations and subsequent development may help to offer part of the physical explanation.

But what else is there about the tango that reaches people?
Is it the social aspect of dance?
Is it the archetypal beat of the tango which insinuates itself into the dancer's very being leaving him/her ready to be seduced by its rhythm?
When you listen to a tango, the music describes the dance and its vitality becomes the dancer.

Researchers don't know what causes tango to control PD symptoms so successfully but patients who have learned the long slow walk-likesteps don't care, I suspect, as they move slowly around the floor.

Want to give it a try?
Here are some links to the basic Tango steps:

To read aloud:

Videos to watch:

And here's a link to a site with music you can download and lots of interesting
info about the Tango.
You don't have to rush out to buy the shoes but you will enjoy this site:
You will also find the advice to take a few relaxing breaths before you begin.

To learn the steps, repeat them to yourself a few times a day while you feel where your feet, legs, arms, torso should be and don't forget to repeat them before you go to sleep. From your kinetic memory you should be able to tango in your dreams as well.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for having this site and providing so much useful information. I especially appreciate the articles on dance, on CoQ10, and on sexuality.

    I also have a website, though not so informative as yours, I write to try and find the humor in my everyday challenges.


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