Dance has been considered medicine to many, particularly spiritually— “feeding the soul,” as it were. But new studies show that dance plays an even larger, more tangible role in aiding those with degenerative diseases. Doctors at the Buenos Aires’ Hospital de Clinicas are pioneering an ongoing study of the effects of the Argentine tango on patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease. The connection of the intricate movements are proving to continue to challenge the mind and body in unison in these degenerative, neurological diseases.
Parkinson’s affects motor skills in the body, as well as brain function and social competence. Simple tasks, like getting up from a chair and turning around quickly can become insurmountably difficult, and eventually impossible as the disease progresses. While it is not anywhere near a cure, the results of a two-year trial at the Hospital de Clinicas showed that “…participation in a tango class was associated with improvements in the gravity of both motor and non-motor symptoms.”
Other studies have included control groups who attend a group exercise class compared to those who attend tango classes. Over the course of 20 classes, there was a significant improvement in balance and quick reaction movements. Patients are taking on the challenges of the steps and rhythm, and turning them into a healing for an ailment that slowly takes away the ability to process these things. One of the participants of this study says, “Tango has a reputation for being a difficult dance. It’s precisely for this reason that it appeals to me. Learning such a skillful dance demands a lot of effort and practice… a sense of awakening the spirit and body that might slow down, or reduce, the effects of Parkinson’s.”