The Tipperary branch of the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland created a little piece of history last week that, it is hoped, will go a long way for people battling the disease countrywide.
The Tipp branch held the first set-dance class in Ireland for people with Parkinson’s after international research had shown that the dance can have rehabilitative qualities for patients.
The research, by Dr. Daniele Volpe, Medical Director at the St. John of God Hospital Parkinson’s Centre in Venice, reveals that regular participation in Irish set-dancing classes can improve mobility and balance, reduce the number of falls, and, generally, enhance quality of life.
Dr. Volpe was one of a number of key-note speakers at the National ‘Patients’ Conference on Sunday at the National Convention Centre, attended also by a large number of Tipperary delegates. The kicked off the international Movement Disorder Society’s 16th international Congress in Dublin, which was attended by 5,000 delegates, including some of the world’s leading movement disorder experts.
Dr. Volpe, who has a deep interest in Irish culture and plays Irish music, conducted the research after watching a Parkinson’s patient dance “with remarkable balance and fluidity” a set at an impromptu set-dance during an Irish music session Dr. Volpe was playing in at a Co. Clare pub.
“I am a huge fan of Irish music, song and dance but I couldn’t but notice the excellent balance of this Parkinson’s patient when I saw him dance in that set in Co. Clare. There was so little impairment to his gait that I felt there must be something in the fact that he set danced regularly so I decided to start a research project on the value of Irish set dance in rehabilitation of Parkinson’s Disease. The results so far have been striking.”
“In conclusion Irish set dance seems to be an effective rehabilitative intervention to improve mobility, balance and quality of life in PD,” he added.
Parkinson’s Association of Ireland Director Una Ryan said the fact that the Tipperary branch was the first to put on a class is testament to the organisational strengths of Michael Burke and all involved in the branch. “They put on a fantastic show on Thursday night and were excellently supported by Club Rince in Nenagh. It’s a little piece of history and hopefully other branches will take a leaf out of Tipperary’s book and that set dancing can begin to make a significant physical and social impact on people all over Ireland with Parkinson’s.”