Step it up for Parkinson's

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Dance is not just an exercise, it is also a method of expressing one’s individuality and personality. Unfortunately, I never had much talent for this sport, but I always admired people who did – even more so if there was a social care reason behind the dance. I had the privilege to interview someone who not only is a talented dancer, but who devised a dance class to help people with Parkinson’s disease to move.

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But first, let me introduce to you – Natalie Muschamp! Natalie started dancing from the tender age of 5. She studied at the University of Dance in Holland, and after just two years was offered a contract to work professionally as a dancer. After 10 years of dancing professionally in Holland, France, Portugal, Greece and Italy, she moved to Malta. Here, she decided to change career and instead went into media. After 6 years, and particular life experiences, she realised that she wanted to continue dancing, but this time, she also wanted to help people. So she enrolled in the dance department at University, and she is now in her final year of studies!

So why Parkinson’s disease? Well, a year and a half ago, Francesca Tranter from the Dance Department informed Natalie of a dance for people with Parkinson’s, and it was this video – as well as the fact that her aunt lost her partner to Parkinson’s - that instilled in her this desire to create this dance class in Malta. Therefore, she attended a course at the University in Plymouth to train herself to teach specialised classes for people with Parkinson’s Diease (PWP).

What exactly is “Healing through dance” and why did you feel the need to create such an NGO?

Healing through dance is the Facebook Page on which I promote my dance classes. It is called Healing through dance as my mission is to help as many people as possible through dance. I have a great passion for life and I want to share it! Making people smile, especially those who need it, is more than amazing and actually really not as hard as one may think. Step Up for Parkinson’s is the name of the Voluntary Organization that I have and it’s the name of the classes for people with Parkinson’s disease.

I saw that you have some dance classes happening called “Step Up For Parkinson’s”, what is this exactly? And how can dance help?

Step up for Parkinson’s classes are tailor-made dance classes for PWP. 15 years ago in the US Dance for Parkinson’s started dance classes for people with Parkinson’s disease. Ever since then there have been several case studies done in the US and the UK which have proven that these dance classes improve balance, motor skills, and quality of life. Patients with Parkinson’s Disease suffer from extreme difficulties in initiating movement which results in “freezing”. Tremor is another feature of the disease and it can cause stress, even shame, and it can result in isolation and depression which leads to an extreme low quality of life. When practising fun interactive dance classes with your spouse or loved one, patients improve movement, breathing, and weight shifting. The tremor becomes less visible, and patients in general end up enjoying themselves as they are dancing, and not controlled by their Parkinson’s disease. Further, the classes are also a way for patients to socialise.

3. Most people with Parkinsons are elderly people, how do you manage to adapt the dance routine to their abilities?

Yes, they are mostly elderly people, however, there are people starting from the age of 28 who are diagonosed with Parkinson’s disease. Also, the classes are completely adapted to the needs of PWD. We start on chairs and then slowly go to a standing position and move from there onwards. It has the same build up as a dance class but with exercises specialized for PWP.

4. How can people get a hold of you if they’d like to help out with the cause, or attend a class?

They can message me on my Page Healing through dance by Natalie Muschamp or contact through me through my website nataliemuschamp.com or call on 99200822.

Written by

Mel McElhatton

Mel McElhatton

Melissa McElhatton who has recently graduated with a BA (hons) in Social Work started out with Insite as a writer, then as CEO, and following as Social Policy Associate. She is also currently President of Gender Equality Malta (GEM).

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