[WATCH] Parkinson’s sufferers find some relief with the power of dance

Dance therapy is allowing patients with Parkinson’s to cope with the progressive nature of the disease, study finds

Left to right: Cassie Camilleri, Sara Houston, Natalie Muschamp, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca
Left to right: Cassie Camilleri, Sara Houston, Natalie Muschamp, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca

Dance therapy has allowed patients with Parkinson's disease to cope better despite the progressive nature of the disease, according to lecturer and researcher Sara Houston.

Houston, who is a principal lecturer at Roehampton University involved in groundbreaking five-year research into dance for Parkinson's, was speaking during a screening of a mini-documentary on the topic.

"With dance therapy, Parkinson's patients reported feeling better despite the disease progressing... they cope better and prove more able than those who do not dance. This means they are more independent and can support themselves better."

The mini-documentary was a collaboration between voluntary organisation Step up for Parkinson's, THINK magazine and the University of Malta.

The event was opened by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, Step Up For Parkinson's founder Natalie Muschamp, and THINK Magazine co-editor Cassie Camilleri.

Dance groups had a number of positive effects on patients, Houston said, as it would help them make friends and rebuild confidence.
In her research, Houston also found that as a result of the group dance therapy sessions, further groups arose, and patients were doing activities which otherwise they would not have.

Houston shared an anecdote of a patient who reported feeling "degraded" by the disease, and felt that she needed to know that her body was doing something "pretty".

"Dancing is beyond physical exercise. It helps patients feel good about themselves," Houston said.

Dance therapy for Parkinson’s is an innovative initiative which ought to be celebrated, as it provides empowerment and hope for anyone living with the disease, which is approximately 2,800 people in Malta, Coleiro Preca said during the event. Of these, 1,400 persons are diagnosed with the disease while another 1,400 are their carers.

The President expressed her support for Step up for Parkinson’s, which she said helps to educate people on the condition and strengthens resilience in favor of human dignity.

The documentary itself provided a glimpse into the lives and struggles of patients and their carers, their experience with the disease, and how dance therapy has helped to improve their lives.

Apart from the physical improvements reported by the patients, the dance classes also provide a sense of community and allows patients to make friends who are going through similar experiences. “Everyone’s in the same boat here… we are like a big family,” one couple interviewed in the documentary said.

“Even if you’re worried about something, at least you get to forget about your troubles for an hour and a half here…” another participant said.