Writing The Prescription For Ballroom Dance
Article written by Erin Drake on December 12, 2018
If you are a professional or amateur ballroom dancer or simply just a lover of ballroom dance, then you know how good dance is for your brain and body. You may have even experienced its benefits yourself! It’s obvious from watching TV shows like Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance that ballroom dance keeps you physically in shape while challenging you mentally, lifting your mood emotionally and promoting a social connection with your partner. In fact, scientific studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine as well as by Harvard, Columbia and other major medical schools all agree that ballroom dancing is specifically linked to the prevention of Dementia and Alzheimer’s, and one of the best treatments for people struggling with neurological degenerative disorders.
With ballroom dance being proven as an effective way to prevent and treat dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and many other neurological diseases, why is it not the #1 prescribed activity among those afflicted?
Access, education and resources.
There is a gap between the patients and the prescription. The medical facilities treating the people who would benefit most from dance therapy do not have staff that are trained in ballroom. In addition, ballroom dance teachers are not specifically trained to work with students with neurological degenerative disorders. Finally, those who do struggle with neuro disorders typically can’t afford pricey private lessons; they’re too bogged down by medical bills.
So how do we make ballroom more accessible to those who can truly use it to improve their quality of life?
Rx Ballroom Dance is the nonprofit organization that stands for a Natural Prescription to a Healthier Mind and Body through Ballroom Dancing. Our mission is to make the healing benefits of ballroom accessible to everyone who demonstrates the medical need for it.
We need your help to complete that mission, but first, we’d like to introduce you to someone.
Meet James Dong, the first participant and student in the Rx Ballroom Dance lesson program. His loving daughter, Seika, writes the following:
“Ever since I was a little girl I thought my father was hardworking and brave. He worked tirelessly to provide for my music lessons and my education. Even after work and on weekends, my father would go to the public library to improve his knowledge. In order to take care of his parents, my father decided to work overseas in China to provide for them. My grandfather was diagnosed with intestinal cancer, and my father saw to it that he spent his last months comfortably. Unfortunately my grandfather passed away in June 2016. Twenty days later, my beloved mother (his wife) passed away unexpectedly. Still, my father took care of our household and saw to my college graduation. He also took care of my grandmother, who had late stage dementia, until she ultimately passed in February 2018.
Since then, the loss and the stress of my father has been immense. This stress manifested itself in small ways in the beginning. At first he noticed loss of control in his arm- he could no longer sign his name on paper. Then he had so much trouble driving that he stopped all together. Walks to the park became more and more difficult, and his movement became more rigid and challenging. After much trial and error, the doctor finally diagnosed my father with ontiponticular cerebral atrophy. OPCA is the loss and shrinking of brain cells that impair movement. There is no cure, besides medication to alleviate symptoms and physical therapy. This was devastating to my father, because it mean that his conditions were irreversible and that he could no longer work or do things he enjoyed.
Then I came across a Facebook video that featured patients with Parkinson’s being able to move smoothly due to dance! I became hopeful that perhaps it could help my father- after all, we had tried so much already and had nothing to lose! We found Erin, who had done amazing work with people affected by Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cerebral atrophy. My father was not a quitter, and agreed to seeing if dance could help his condition. Just from the first lesson we noticed immediate improvements to his posture and balance. By the second lesson, my father was able to dance to the beat of the music. Never have I seen my father smile in such a long time. Dancing has given him something to look forward to, an opportunity and hope for something to call his own. I truly hope that with this non-profit organization, Erin will have the opportunity to change the lives of other people like she has already done so much for my father.”
James’ progress has been phenomenal. Here is a week by week update:
Week 0: James is unable to walk small distances without assistance and has trouble standing alone with balance issues. He claims he cannot hear the beat in music and does not understand rhythm. He takes many medications to help alleviate pain, muscle soreness, eye strain and to help with sleep.
Week 1: Upon teaching posture, James walks out of the lesson easily with little assistance. With assistance and introduction, he is able to hear the beat and rhythm in the music, and for the first time, James smiles during the lesson, which he has not done in nearly a year.
Week 2: After a lesson on Waltz and Foxtrot, James is able to walk out of the lesson unassisted. He can stand alone without balance issues and is able to clap to the beat and hear the rhythm in the music.
Week 3: James can walk and stand completely unassisted and with good posture. He can dance to the beat for approximately 30 seconds and smiles frequently and easily. He laughs at the end of the period of dancing. There is a sense of pride. He walks unassisted out the door and down the hallway several times without help.
Week 4: James can now dance for nearly 2 minutes to the beat and stay on time. He has now sequenced 3 patterns in a row and can repeat them. Although he still struggles to keep his feet together, he can concentrate and keep the pattern going without assistance. He has reduced his nighttime medication and feels better without it.
In just one month of taking one 30-minute lesson per week, James experienced:
- Better balance, posture and the ability to walk without assistance
- Better core strength, leg strength and stamina in the back
- A sense of joy, increased smiling, especially when moving to music
- Reduced medication
As a new nonprofit, Rx Ballroom Dance needs your help to ensure James’ continued success and to make ballroom dance more accessible to those who would truly benefit from its healing effects.
We are looking for dedicated Board Members: Leaders in their community who understand what a valuable role Ballroom Dance plays in the treatment and prevention of neurological disorders as well as the overall improvement of one’s quality of life.
We are looking for volunteers: Participants who can play a direct role in building the organization from scratch: Web Designers, Accountants and Marketing Specialists.
We are looking for donations: To ensure finances are never a barrier, participants in Rx Ballroom Dance’s program are not required to pay a single cent if they are not able. Your donations will directly cover the cost of ballroom lessons, travel, materials, space and the source of joy for the participants who find healing through ballroom dance.
Our honorary Board Member, the prestigious Mary Murphy, has lent her full support in our blossoming organization. Ballroom lessons for students with neuro degenerative disabilities have already begun, so by donating today, you are directly contributing.
Please click here to support James and future participants of Rx Ballroom Dance:
Thank you for your support. Let’s use ballroom dance as a tool for healing!
Executive Director and Founder
Rx Ballroom Dance