A curate’s omelette

Dance Parkinson’s

I’m always part open, part suspicious when people start saying to me, ‘so, %&$$£** is the new cure for Parkinson’s’. Open because I want, unsurprisingly, for there to be something new to report … suspicious, because I fear another Helen Mirren Wii-fit patronisefest. Last night’s Inside Out London pushed both buttons for me, and has led to endless tutu jokes doing the rounds. I have no problem with tutus, by the way. I immediately saw one problem … that is, there was no-one young in this group. For PD, young means under fifty … those early-onsetters like myself who were diagnosed at or before the age of forty.
The programme is presented by some bloke who says things like ‘What’s great about this is that I can see that they’re genuinely having, a good time, dancing, moving and expressing themselves, not thinking at all about Parkinson’s’. Well, let me point out that ‘they’ is patronising (he means ‘those ill, old people, not young hotties like me’), I’m not convinced simply following the moves of one part of the Nutcracker is ‘expressing themselves’ so much as expressing the choreographer and Tchaikovsky, and how in god’s name do you know they’re ‘not thinking at all about Parkinson’s’. Sorry. Dick. There. I’ve said it. Furthermore, his commentary reminds me of nothing less than a natural history programme.
The casually good-looking Dr Sarah Houston (you see, I can do it too) is much better when she talks of PWP doing movements that are different, and she’s right, but I can’t help but feel a teensy bit of ‘pull yourselves together’ about her when she say ‘actually what you’re doing is feeling different’. Now, this all seems to be a bit stating-the-bleedin-obvious. Of course movement will help, and of course that’s great. But it all seems so obvious to me.
Psychologically, we do not like to do stuff we find hard or are bad at. Directed movement for the PWP is hard, and you’re not very good at it. The result is, naturally, that we move less, and the less we move, the less able we are to move. It’s a self-fulfilling, self-affecting prophesy. Now then. Here’s the science bit. Anything that gets a PWP moving is going to have a positive affect on the patient. Because it will turn back the secondary effect of PD, which is to limit movement. So of course getting Jane and John (you see what I did there?) to do anything is going to help everything work better.
But then the feature gets lazy again. The presenter opines thus about Jane, mostly wheelchair-bound: ‘in spite of her condition, dancing has always been a part of her life.’ Er, hang on a second, she was diagnosed in 2005. She is older than 6, therefore, forgive me, but this sort of lazy writing just patronises. It’s also illogical and pointless. I do wonder why Jane thought she’d never be able to express herself in dance again though she has been a keen dancer throughout her life. Is this because as she became clumsier, stiffer, no-one would dance with her? Or was it because she couldn’t face dancing badly, when she had, I imagine, once been accomplished?? If the former, for shame. If the latter, for shame on no-one organising therapeutic dance sessions. Oh, hang on … they have?

I don’t want all this to end up as yet another chinese whisper stylee ‘cure’ for PD. But I do think that it’s a great thing. But I find it hard to pick one dance over another. Don’t fret about the style – anything formalised yet fluid and non-rigid will suffice, I shouldn’t wonder. Or perhaps style should fit age and advancement … but then again, Tango is fabulous I have found, and in many ways it mirrors the sorts of movements that martial arts have which can also be very beneficial to the PWP. Sarah talks about measureable improvements, and that’s great. It’s also no surprise to me. Anything which makes a PWP do stuff will help. Because when we do stuff our body understands, we’re fine. It’s when our brain has to send instructions that we’re in trouble.
This is where, as ever, everything gets wishy-washy … there’s no real talk of how and why it will help, and especially odd is the lack of conclusion with regards preventative care – I’m sure martial arts or dance classes for the newly diagnosed, when delivered on the NHS as a matter of course, would save hundreds of thousands of pounds in the long run … and make for much happier patients.
There were some useful insights, mind, the talk of rhythm helping walking is interesting, as is Sarah’s use of the word ‘stutter’ – this is actually quite an accurate portrayal of how PD feels sometimes (to me, anyway). My instinct suggests that the point behind ‘feeling the rhythm’ is that this takes the mind away from the problem at hand, while making the body work as a whole.
The thing with dance and sport and martial arts is that they strengthen the body and make it work as a machine rather than a bundle of individual parts which don’t really talk to one another. This is what helps us function better, when our limbs work in concert, not against one another.
And this is what amazes me. The fact that no-one seems to have thought to ask a PWP their opinions. Because, to be frank, we’re way ahead of you on this one. Just check out my post on the guitar and tango, and this one on movement.
Bloody talk to us. We’re not them, we’re people. With names. And it isn’t just Parkinson’s.

Zalamanda

Oh, Helen

A whole lotta shaking not going on

(dr) sarah houston talks about ways of moving that are different, and she’s right, but I can’t help feeling there’s aa teensy bit of ‘pull yourselves together’ about this ‘actually what you’re doing is feeling different’

yes, it’s going to help, and that’s great. It’s actually pretty simple. Psychologically, we do not like to do stuff we find hard or are bad at. Directed movement for the PWP is hard, and you’re not very good at it. The result is, naturally, that we move less, and the less we move, the less able we are to move. It’s a self-fulfilling, self-affecting prophesy. Now then. Here’s the science bit. Anything that gets a PWP moving is going to have a positive affect on the patient. Because it will turn back the secondary effect of PD, which is to limit movement. So of course getting Jane and John to do anything is going to help everything work better.

‘in spite of her condition, dancing has always been a part of her life’ er, she was diagnosed in 2005. she is older than 6, therefore … this sort of lazy writing just patronises. It’s illogical and pointless. I do wonder why Jane thought she’d never be able to express herself in dance again though she has been a keen dancer throughout her life. Is this because as she became clumsier, stiffer, no-one would dance with her? Or was it because she couldn’t face dancing badly, when she had, I imagine, once been accomplished?? if the former, for shame. If the latter, for shame on no-one oganising therapeutic dance sessions. Oh, hang on … they have?

I don’t want this to end up like wii-fit all over again, which in chinese whisper stylee became a ‘cure’ for PD. But I do think that it’s a great thing. Just don’t fret about the style – anything formalised yet fluid and non-rigid will suffice, I shouldn’t wonder.

Sarah talks about measureable improvements, and that’s great. I’s also no surprise to me. Anything which makes a PWP do stuff will help. Because when we do stuff our body understands, we’re fine. It’s when our brain has to send instructions that we’re in trouble.

The talk of rhythm helping walking is interesting, as is Sarah’s use of the word ‘stutter’ – this is actually quite an accurate portrayal of how PD feels sometimes (to me, anyway). My instinct suggests that ‘feeling the rhythm’ is vital, and this takes the mind away from the problem at hand. It doesn’t cure, but helps to counterbalance.

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