Former Ballerina with Dementia Gracefully Comes Alive to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake

Accord­ing to dance/movement ther­a­pist Eri­ca Horn­thal, “dance/movement ther­a­py oper­ates on the premise that our life expe­ri­ences are held in the body, and that through the use of move­ment, mem­o­ries and emo­tions can be recalled and re-expe­ri­enced despite cog­ni­tive, psy­cho­log­i­cal, or phys­i­cal impair­ment.” The video above of for­mer dancer Mar­ta C. González shows in effect how music might acti­vate those mus­cle mem­o­ries, as a record­ing of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake sends Ms. González, a for­mer bal­let dancer, into an ele­gant rever­ie when she had been bare­ly respon­sive moments before.

The video was report­ed­ly tak­en in Valen­cia, Spain in 2019 and “recent­ly shared by the Aso­ciación Músi­ca para Des­per­tar, a Span­ish orga­ni­za­tion that pro­motes music ther­a­py for those afflict­ed by mem­o­ry loss, demen­tia and Alzheimer’s dis­ease,” writes Anas­ta­sia Tsioul­cas at NPR. It has since been shared by celebri­ties and non­celebri­ties around the world, an “undoubt­ed­ly mov­ing and uplift­ing” scene that “speaks to the pow­er of music and dance for those suf­fer­ing from mem­o­ry loss.”

Many such videos have made head­lines, illus­trat­ing the find­ings of neu­ro­science with mov­ing sto­ries of recov­ered mem­o­ry, if only for a brief, shin­ing instant, in the pres­ence of music. The González video doesn’t just warm hearts, how­ev­er; it also serves as a cau­tion­ary tale about shar­ing viral videos with­out doing dili­gence. As Tsioul­cas reports, “Alas­tair Mac­caulay, a promi­nent dance crit­ic for­mer­ly with The New York Times, has been chas­ing González’s his­to­ry and post­ing his find­ings on Insta­gram.” His most recent post pos­si­bly iden­ti­fies Ms. González as a dancer from Cuba, but the details are murky.

The video’s text iden­ti­fies her as the pri­ma bal­le­ri­na of the “New York Bal­let” in the 1960s, yet “there is no such known com­pa­ny and the New York City Bal­let does not list any­one by that name as one of its alum­ni.” To com­pli­cate the mys­tery of her iden­ti­ty even fur­ther, Macauley says the clips that appear to show a young Mar­ta González, who passed away in 2019, are actu­al­ly “a for­mer pri­ma bal­le­ri­na from Russia’s Mari­in­sky Bal­let, Uliana Lopatk­i­na.” So who was Mar­ta C. González? Sure­ly some­one will iden­ti­fy her, if she was a promi­nent bal­let dancer. But no mat­ter her per­son­al his­to­ry, Tchaikovsky “clear­ly evoked a strong, tru­ly vis­cer­al response,” as well as a grace­ful­ly mus­cu­lar one.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

How Music Can Awak­en Patients with Alzheimer’s and Demen­tia

The Restau­rant of Mis­tak­en Orders: A Tokyo Restau­rant Where All the Servers Are Peo­ple Liv­ing with Demen­tia

How Yoga Changes the Brain and May Guard Against Alzheimer’s and Demen­tia

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

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