Dec 8, 2007

Chapter 10

Dancers talk about neurology more than neurologists talk about dancing. The neurologists are imbalanced.

Margie Gillis

"My approach is based on listening to the connection between thought, emotion, spirit and body. This is the natural kinetic process whereby our inner landscape translates into electrical impulses that transmit to the muscles the message as to how and with what quality to move. I explore the physical manifestation of this pure experience of being; the neuromuscular interrelationship." - Margie Gillis

The dancer knows neurology, the dancer knows how the body moves.

Margie Gillis on stage, solo. No actors, no dialogue, no special effects, just recorded music. And her artform is movement and her instrument is herself. Truthful movement. Expression of the human condition in the universe and the beauty of it all, tragically, magnificently, lovingly. 50,000 years in the making, with a cast of millions.

The dancer knows how to go deep inside, to inner feelings and interpretations of the world, formulating a response to the world, and then the brain, having decided a plan of action, sends out electric and chemical signals through an immensely complex nerve system, to the muscles, telling the muscles how and where and when to move, in what sequence, and with what quality.

Dancing is one of the most complex activities that the brain can instruct the muscles to do. Dancers know about movement. Parkinsonians are attracted to dance and to dancers in great numbers. The dancers are extremists of body movement, and they push the human body to its limits. They know things about movement that you cannot learn from a book. They are perfectionists in mind-body co-ordination, the lack of which causes such grief for those with movement disorders.

Geologists study Mt. Everest by looking at satellite photos and examining rock samples. Dancers climb the mountain. They go to the outer limits of human experience, and they do it because it is there to be done; the mountain is there to be climbed.

Oh Lord, don't move the mountain. Teach me how to climb
Oh Lord do not remove my stumbling blocks, but teach me to go around

Jill Bunce talks about “K” who came to the dance class at the age of 56. She swayed and tottered, she could not run or jump, she had tremors down her right side, she literally sat on her hands to stop them from shaking, and then she would aggressively deny having any symptoms of Parkinson’s (which she had had for six years), she had no sense of time and was always late, she spoke of loss and sadness and disability. She was remote and would not talk to anyone and she would slide into black depressions.

And she had been a musician. A music teacher. And guess what was the first thing the Beast stole from her? She could no longer control her fingers to play a musical instrument. Which became less important when she started losing the ability to ride a bike, then to run, then to walk.

It took two years. It took two years for Jill Bunce and the group to get K up and back into life. K wanted folk dancing. And folk dancing she got. Not just a little bit. Not half-hearted. Parkinson’s cannot be defeated with a little bit, with half-hearted.

Ya gotta dance wit’ a feelin’ or you ain’t dancin at all.

-Famous Blues Advice (FBA)

K began to ride her bicycle again, took on a new sense of purpose, started giving talks to groups in town, started driving her car again, started to run and jog and jump for the first time in six years, took an active role in helping others, and became the”wise woman” of the group. And she sat down at the piano and she played.

And she sat down at the piano

and she played.

Jill Bunce, dancer, explains what happened in those 2 years: “The non-verbal act is primary, before the awareness of it occurs. This is due to the brain’s need for a sensory fine-tuning to rapid and complex changes in the environment and involves feedback of information to and from the brain. In PD the feedback system is impaired and so there is a lack of response to behaviour. I have observed this with PD patients who have attachment problems and who have suffered abuse. There seems to be a disruption in feed-back from the behaviour to their conscious awareness of it. The ability to feel what the body experiences is crucial… dance is particularly suited for making what is pre-verbal into consciousness…”

That’s a dancer talking.
Margie Gillis says:

"Dance is the direct communication through nature of our human experience."

"Dance, like nature, is a necessity and at this time it is sadly under valued by society."

"Dance and it's contribution to what is humanly possible and what is health holds a place of honour in me."

"I feel, it seems incumbent upon us, to find ways to keep alive the necessity of dance's contribution to society and to find a way to allow the public to know what is there in truth; that they themselves, and their world of what is real and possible, is illuminated by being with us and supporting our work and research."

Margie Gillis
Our work and research

Dance is a universal human behavior, one associated with

group rituals (Sachs, 1937; Farnell, 1999). Although it is

depicted in cave art from more than 20 000 years ago

(Appenzeller, 1998), dance may be much more ancient than

that. Dance may in fact be as old as the human capacities for

bipedal walking and running, which date back 2--5 million years

(Ward, 2002; Bramble and Lieberman, 2004).
That's a neurologist talking


Pravin said...

I am amazed at the writer's zeal and enthusiasm in trying to use dance as a tool in helping those sufferring from movement disorders, and in enlightening neurologists like me that there is a lot more to be done in this field..

Bob Dawson said...

Pravin, that's the most encouraging thing I have heard for quite some time. I am especially thrilled that you are a neurologist. Science and art are needed to defeat Parkinson's, and the scientists and artists just don't seem to bump into each other enough. Thank you, please spread the word, and I am always open to advice. I was absent the day they taught science in school, and I dance like an Anglican, so I need all the help I can get in persuading people that they should look into this.

Miriam - Flow Motion Fitness said...

nicely done. dance challenges us cognitively and phsycially at the same time… in conception, memory, spatial design, rhythm, kinesthetics, balance, flow… breath - in this way dance really is like a fountain of youth… a reason for our brains and nervous systems stretch or keep it's plasticity - to change and respond in every authentic moment. No matter the age, dance helps us recognize our spoken and unspoken core values. Dance is a synthesizing art form, in this way - and in reaching towards it we find our personal and collective kinestitc poet - regardless of pathology or assumed purpose.

Miriam, danceFIT danceABILITIES Canada