The Tango Effect

By Kate Swindlehurst

Parkinson’s and the healing power of dance

Lifestyle | Biography
106% funded
234 supporters
Preparing for print

Publication date: April 2020

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Meet for a coffee with the author in Cambridge or by Skype - a chance to discover more about Parkinson's, tango and writing. Plus everything at the Sacada level.
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Your favourite tango deconstructed - its lyrics translated and a full background on its writers, history and recordings - plus everything at the Sacada level
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A tango DJ's top ten tangos playlist, plus two signed first edition hardbacks, two ebook editions, and two names in the back of the book
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Free entry for two to a milonga in Cambridge: join us for three hours of social dancing. Or, if you're not yet a dancer, enjoy the music, soak up the atmosphere, watch the floor & prepare to become addicted!
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A half-hour tango taster session for two with Cambridge tango teacher John Connatty, plus two signed first edition hardbacks, two ebook editions, and two names in the back of the book
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A one-hour tango session for two (any level) with Cambridge tango teacher John Connatty, plus two signed first edition hardbacks, two ebook editions, and two names in the back of the book
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An illustrated talk by the author in Cambridge or by Skype, exploring the physical challenges and benefits of dancing the tango, as well as the social aspects - with music and photos. Plus everything at the Collectable level.
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Life writing: full manuscript appraisal by the author, who has an MA in creative writing, and many years' experience of critical reading and feedback
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Gran Baile

A personal, interractive demonstration of how tango can help with Parkinson's - in Cambridge with the author and local tango teacher John Connatty, or UK/ Eire only with just the author
For up to six people
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Your name printed on a special page in the front of the book as the book's patron. Plus ten signed, first edition hardbacks and the ebook edition.
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How do you deal with a diagnosis of Parkinson's? Dancing is probably the last thing on your mind…

Parkinson’s & the Tango Effect is the story of an incredible year in the life of a woman with Parkinson’s. It began with a tango lesson and grew into an exploration of the healing potential of the dance.

Quirky, intimate and unashamedly literary, the book takes an unflinching look at the dark side but also at reasons to celebrate. It builds on research on the impact of dance on Parkinson's symptoms & takes it a stage further, with a behind-the-scenes record of private lessons and contributions from tango teachers. It documents the emotional and social benefits of the dance and its impact on the quality of life.

This book is my story, a story of learning to accept myself as I am but also refusing to be defined by Parkinson’s. It’s about how I found a way of living with illness that is liberating. It’s the story of an extraordinary dance, both exotic and accessible, its history, its music. It’s the story of what happens when the two come together. And it’s the story of a sustaining and enduring friendship.

Parkinson’s & the Tango Effect challenges our perceptions of disability. It is essential reading for those with a professional interest in dance and Parkinson's, and for researchers in the field. It's also a book for the ordinary reader, for those living with a chronic condition, and for the tango and Parkinson's communities worldwide.

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  • Kate Swindlehurst avatar

    Kate Swindlehurst

    After 30 years as an English teacher in secondary schools in London, the north of England and Mexico City, the diagnosis of Parkinson’s proved my escape route, first to Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge and then, via their Creative Writing MA and with the help of an Arts Council Escalator Award, to Argentina, to work on a novel exploring Argentina’s disappeared. Closer to home, I was also keen to explore our relationship with the natural world. As writer in residence at Cambridge University Botanic Garden, again with the support of Arts Council England, I produced a short story collection, Writing the Garden. At present I am working on The Station Master, a novel with a Bulgarian setting based on our responses to the refugee crisis. The Station Master won this year’s Adventures in Fiction Spotlight competition for debut novelists. I have had short fiction and non-fiction pieces published and am working towards publication of the novels. Meanwhile, Parkinson’s and the Tango Effect is the book closest to my heart. It has survived several major revisions and I am delighted that it is at last coming up for air with Unbound. A northerner by birth and habit, I have now made my home in Cambridge. For further information and a varied and substantial blog history go to my website.



    So what is it about tango that has the power to transform? Sceptics often add a second question: ‘Is it just..?’ Answer: no, it’s not just – the rhythm, or the music, or any one aspect which makes it different from aerobics or cycling, or even salsa or ballroom. I’ve read much of the research documentation, which describes and records the impact tango seems to have on an individual with Parkinson’s, and in some cases speculates about why and how this works. From my own experience, I have felt how each feature of the dance hits a particular Parkinson’s spot, with dramatic results.

    Take grace. I’m no football fan, but watching an expert manage a ball for ten or twelve paces is infinitely satisfying: that combination of timing, poise, agility, fluency, dodge and weave, halt and go – wonderful, especially as these are skills I will never share. The grace of the tanguero is akin to that of the practised midfielder, except that I am not talking about professional dancers here. Of course, in performance, we enjoy these qualities, along with the complex motifs and patterns that ordinary mortals will never match. But what often draws that gasp of delight from those watching is a quieter moment, perhaps a hiatus before a step or a second or two where the balance of the follower is deliberately upset and then restored. Moments such as these are the stuff of the milonga. Any evening, almost every couple will glimpse perfection, that instant where everything comes together in the best possible way. And when you’re not on the floor yourself, look around: at every turn, amongst the clumsy and over-ambitious, fat or thin, skippers or gliders, shufflers or stalkers, the surprise of beauty.


    Actually that should read 'several steps forward': in addition to the fabulous cover design, I've now received the full cover artwork and have chosen a rather lovely typeface for the main body of the book. And I understand that the typeset proofs will be on their way to me very soon. All of which is pretty exciting. 

    The second half of Lenin's quote, 'two steps back', refers to yesterday's…

    18th June 2019 GETTING THERE...

    A nudge from Unbound reminds me that it's more than a month since my last update - so definitely time to catch up. I haven't been idle: the copy edit turned up what for me was a surprising number of points which needed my attention and that kept me busy for several weeks. But the good news is that the book is in better shape as a result and should be off to the typesetters very soon. 



    Perhaps you will have noticed that the book now has a new title? - THE TANGO EFFECT - a slimmer, smarter, catchier title, with a subtitle 'Parkinson's & the healing power of tango'. The original was a working title we settled for when the book was first accepted by Unbound. In an online conversation about the cover design last week I suggested it might be time for a rethink and this is the result…


    Tango is certainly extending its reach. I recently stumbled across this news item on an 'inclusive milonga' in Buenos Aires which makes quite inspiring viewing - 'magico' is the participants' verdict. And I was heartened to read in a link sent by a friend yesterday that word has also spread to Salon Canning, the first milonga I attended in Buenos Aires back in 2008. From 5th April, every Friday at…

    21st January 2019 Developing...

    THE DEVELOPMENT EDIT... is under way.

    THE REWARDS... I'm getting there!

    MEANWHILE.... I'm delighted to have been asked to read at Othersyde/the Engineer's House, Riverside CB5 8HN on Thursday 31 January at 19:00. If you are in or near Cambridge, do come and enjoy a glass of wine and a warm fire and listen to extracts from Parkinson's & the Tango Effect as well as a selection of other readings…

    27th November 2018 CELEBRATING... THANK YOU... REMINDERS

    REMINDER: A CELEBRATION - of reaching the 100% funding target AND A THANK YOU - to all who contributed so generously and who kept on believing in the book.

    WHEN? SUNDAY 16 DECEMBER 10:30 a.m.until late


    WHAT TO EXPECT? Coffee or a light lunch, tea and cake, mulled wine and a mince pie. Call in for half an hour or stay all day…


    After a fairly frenetic nine months of crowd-funding, a quieter time when I've been trying to resume what passes for normal life, in particular working on the novel which has had to take a back seat as well as chasing up the few remaining permissions for Parkinson's & the Tango Effect. Meanwhile John has been busy with his camera and we're assembling a collection of wonderful photos for the book.


    Last weekend to London for a 50th anniversary of a first meeting, in Room C12 we think on the third floor of Colllege Hall on Malet Street, with the woman who was to become a lifelong friend. We spent this weekend wandering the streets and bookshops of Bloomsbury (not unlike the time we should have been in lectures and tutorials way back when) though sadly we never made it to Carablanca or the…

    25th September 2018 IN CASE YOU MISSED THE NEWS...

    It's official! Parkinson's & the Tango Effect is 100% funded! A very big and heartfelt THANK YOU to all pledgers and promisers (don't forget to chase up your successful bid from the Auction of Promises if you haven't done so yet), also to the tweeters and sharers and the hundreds of supporters who got behind the campaign in so many ways. Thanks in particular to most recent pledgers Dan Kieran, Alex…

    11th September 2018 A FINAL PUSH?

    (for those who missed the latest email/facebook updates)

    So... the Tango Prom was fairly spectacular, with some excellent traditional Argentinian tangos from singer Nahuel di Pierro and bandoneon players Matias Gonzalez and Lysandre Donoso accompanied by Cambridge-based orchestra the Britten SInfonia, with performances by dancers Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone. This was followed by an exploration…

    2nd September 2018 ON THE ROPES...


    I first encountered Spotlight, the very excellent charity for people with Young Onset Parkinson's, at Rooney's Boxing Gym back in April. The first half of the slogan on the front of my t-shirt (the back pictured above) 'ON THE ROPES' sums up pretty neatly how I'm feeling just now. Months of dedicated slog on my part writing articles, blog posts, updates and emails, speaking to a range of…

    22nd August 2018 ALMOST THERE?

    Almost, but not quite. Hoping for a hike in funds to 85% last Sunday was just that, hoping, not unlike the magical thinking I was prone to way back in March when I imagined a mystery benefactor lurking like Magwitch among the gravestones. Of course I am immensely grateful to those who responded so positively to Parkinson's & the Tango Effect being Unbound's Project of the Week last week, but there…

    10th August 2018 81% & COUNTING

    So it's official! 81% funded and trending on Unbound! Is this the home straight? I'd like to think so.

    This week saw me present at the postponed PechaKucha Volume 15 'Fond Farewell' at Cambridge's Espresso Library: such a smart location and a very cool event - if somewhat intimidating! But the feedback from the 60-or-so-strong crowd was encouraging and you should be able to view my presentation…

    24th July 2018 SUMMER LOVING



    Blessed by the weather, the Grand Garden Spectacular Weekend was a spectacular success, and not just for the near-£2,000 injection of cash into the funds. For me it was a welcome chance to look away from the computer screen towards the human face of crowd-funding, a reminder of the kindness of strangers and the love and affection of friends. Too many to mention by name - some I didn…

    10th July 2018 PROMISES PROMISES...

    With just 5 days to go until its live finale, the online Auction of Promises has produced a fantastically generous range of promises so far and over £700 in bids. I'm optimistic that with your support we will achieve our £2,000 target, which will make a big dent in the amount still  to raise for Parkinson's & the Tango Effect. 

    My public profile has never been higher. Thanks again to the Cresset…

    15th June 2018 IN THE MIDDLE...

    Mid-June, & not far off Midsummer, and I'm cheered (and intrigued) by the latest addition to the Auction of Promises: 'Five meters of home-made felt bunting in colours of your choice'. Cheered because otherwise progress is somewhere between very slow and stopped. 62% funded sounds very promising indeed - until you remember that it's been thereabouts for some weeks now. At times like these, it's hard…

    1st June 2018 FLAMING JUNE

    More than an ironic aside on unseasonal weather, I discover that Flaming June is also a painting - a portrait of artist Frederic Leighton's muse, actor Dorothy Dene, wrapped in a frock which positively blazes passion, eyes closed in what looks like bliss. I'm wondering if she might have been a secret tango dancer. 

    So, a fantastic achievement with funding so far - in the dark days of winter, I…


    You will see them dancing above the water of rivers and ponds, not just in May but on any warm summer's day. Famous for their brief lives - some live as adults only for a few hours - they were one of the first winged insects, their fossils dating back over 300 million years, A vital food source for fish and other freshwater creatures, their presence is a marker of a clean, unpolluted environment.

    29th April 2018 COUNTING ON APRIL

    Inspiration from the past: in conversation with John Ruskin

    Having an April birthday, I tend to feel that this is 'my' month and last weekend's brief burst of summer saw us joining the hordes with the same idea for an afternoon in the deckchairs at The Orchard Tea Room. Sadly the weather doesn't last  although other anniversaries buoy the hopes. This Saturday Anglia Ruskin celebrated 25…


    I couldn't really let World Parkinson's Day go by without a brief update. It's a day that's being marked and - well, celebrated? - yes, I think celebrated - across the world. For the third year, Florida's Tonya Walker has rolled out her #HeelsOnHeadUp social media campaign and I felt I had to contribute my photo (in tango shoes of course!) - you should be able to find it on twitter. There's also a…

    28th March 2018 DIGGING IN/DIGGING DEEP

    Well that last stretch was a tough one! Heartfelt thanks to the most recent pledgers (and the movers & shakers: Andy, Francesca, Bob) who helped us inch our way over the halfway mark. I find myself thinking of the one marathon I completed, back in '84 - so almost exactly half my lifetime ago. Not the most encouraging comparison as I recall the second half began with a turn into the wind along the…

    12th March 2018 90 DAYS & COUNTING...

    90 days in, I am aware that I ask a great deal of my friends. This from Parkinson's & the Tango Effect Chapter 10: 'Medicine': 

    "As the last traces of summer warmth evaporated, I found myself embarrassed by my need – or was it neediness? I didn't know who or what to ask, or how or when. How late was too late? How much was greedy? How long before those closest to me felt the tug and chafe of me…


    I have been reading about the ‘mad’ March hare whose seasonal departure from its normal timidity into uncharacteristic spring frenzy – random vertical jumping and ‘boxing’ with rivals – has earned the creature its reputation. By association, the ‘Mad Hatter’s’ tea party (though Lewis Carroll never used the term) has perhaps cemented our view of the hare. Well, if the cap fits…

    So, the good news…

    31st January 2018 THREE IDEAS FOR FEBRUARY

    First, a MASSIVE thank you to all supporters so far! - to the 130+ who've pledged their support financially and helped us to an encouraging 40% of the target, as well as the creative thinkers, those who've posted blogs and articles, John for the photos and the tireless ones like Jack who have persisted with shares and tweets and generally helped to keep this small boat afloat. Also to tango DJs local…

    6th January 2018 Getting there!

    Well it's 25 days since the launch and, thanks to all who've pledged their support so far, Parkinson's & the Tango Effect is well on the way to achieving its target. I've been surprised and delighted by the way readers have got behind the project, by the generosity of friends and the interest of strangers. This probably shouldn't come as a surprise: the media are currently noisy with exercise regimes…

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