Dance With Me

Imagine having only scattergun control over your body's movements and living with the constant uncertainty that at any moment, your leg might freeze or your hand may begin to shake uncontrollably.

This is the reality for many with Parkinson's disease. Across the globe, more than seven million people live with the condition – 100,000 Australians have it.

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative neurological disorder affecting a person's ability to control their body's movements. It is triggered from a deficiency in dopamine – a neurotransmitter necessary for regulating smooth motor skills.

Symptoms may develop slowly, but inevitably intensify over time. They vary between individuals and are helped with medical management and exercise. Currently there's no cure, although researchers are working on it.

La Trobe University is at the centre of breakthrough trials using dance to alleviate Parkinson's symptoms. World-renowned expert on the condition, La Trobe's Professor Meg Morris is helping lead a global study into dance and exercise as a potent form of medicine for Parkinson's patients. Professor Morris recently discussed this research in a Q and A for our Knowledge Blog.

Helping 'unlock' symptoms 

From Venice to Victoria – from contemporary dance to tango, classes are helping 'unlock' Parkinson's symptoms and allow participants to move more freely. They relax and there are huge mental health benefits for sufferers and their partners.

'I have many moving stories of participants who shuffle into the studio, put on a costume, hear the music then transform into dancers,' says Professor Morris.

'We think dancing can improve mobility and reduce the number of falls in people with Parkinson's. 'When we put on the music and ask them to dance, they're less rigid. Likewise if we ask them to sing in time with the music, they are able do that. A lot can be done through physical activity and exercise.' 

'Ordinary people transform and the dancing can bring hope. Imagine a couple who've been together 40 years and living with this for a decade? To be able to dance together is really special.'

Worldwide momentum

The Dancing for Parkinson's Project is run with a growing consortium of people worldwide. Professor Morris collaborates with neurologist Dr Daniele Volpe in Venice, Italy, and physiotherapist Dr Amanda Clifford in Limerick, Ireland. The Michael J Fox Foundation has also helped support her research. Global momentum calling for Professor Morris' expertise in treating Parkinson's and running the dance program shows no sign of abating. She returned to Europe this year to work with colleagues in Italy and Ireland.

La Trobe research focuses on sport, exercise and rehabilitation  

Professor Morris's research offers a genuine community benefit, improving the health and quality of life for Australians living with Parkinson's disease. At La Trobe, we conduct groundbreaking research in sport, exercise and rehabilitation. This research aims to improve the health and wellbeing of everyday Australians and to improve the performance of elite sportspeople.

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Learn more about Parkinson's Disease.