The Tango Effect

By Kate Swindlehurst

Parkinson’s and the healing power of dance

Thursday, 1 March 2018


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: funding for Parkinson’s and the Tango Effect is almost half way there. Almost. And I’m encouraged to find I’ve miscalculated, somehow thinking that mid-February was the three-month marker. In fact, we’re still a couple of weeks shy of three months since the launch. There are more articles published: in addition to 'Tango Treatment' published online by Parkinsons Life, there is 'Writing as a Response to Diagnosis' in the Melbourn Magazine, pieces in two local Parkinson's groups newsletters and - very exciting! - one pending in a neurology journal. ACNR. I've tried Huff Post too. And I've just come across an invitation to give a TED talk in my junk folder! There are a couple of events planned (not least the big 'What wouldn't you give for a decent cup of coffee?' weekend - I trust you'll be there?) and I am hatching schemes for one or two more. However, there is still a long way to go before we reach the target. My stock of ideas is running low and I find myself at odd moments prone to magical thinking, greeting that black cat randomly crossing my path as a sign of good luck – as if my secret benefactor is somewhere just out of sight, lurking like Magwitch among the gravestones, waiting for his opportunity to shed some of his load.

One event which has stolen my thunder somewhat but may turn out to be a blessing, or at any rate an inspiration, comes courtesy of BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. I’m alerted by a friend and switch on to hear Sue Wylie’s Parkinson’s story, which begins with a diagnosis uncannily similar to mine. An actor and teacher, Sue has written a play and then has successfully raised an impressive £30,000 through crowd-funding in order to turn it into a film. Kinetics is intended as an ‘innovative and accessible teaching resource’ and aims to inform and entertain, as well as raising questions about ‘patient empowerment, breaking bad news and providing much-needed insight into living with a chronic condition’. Sue is now touring the country with the film of which she is, quite rightly, ‘incredibly proud’. Of course I am delighted, both on her behalf and that her work is bringing Parkinson’s more into the public eye, although it smarts just a little as my attempts to engage Woman’s Hour with Parkinson’s & the Tango Effect bore no fruit. Well… I have written to Sue. No reply as yet but I’m hopeful. Meanwhile, my instinct to keep moving sends me out into a snowy Cambridge and by the time I get home my morale is boosted.

As for the momentum of our own project, please do continue to spread the word, share the link and badger your family & friends, colleagues & acquaintances to pledge their support. Any tips & ideas would be very welcome. And if you happen to bump into a  “fearful man, all in coarse gray, with a great iron on his leg… no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars…” do please send him my way.



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