by Kate Swindlehurst

At the end of last week’s introduction, I felt excited to be part of this project from the word go and energised by the afternoon’s activities – so much so, that I fell over not far from the Union building on my way home – fortunately before I reached the Limehouse Cut – I wouldn’t fancy toppling into the water! I found the afternoon quite challenging: I’m not always comfortable either in a group or in free improvisation – but challenging is good!

Week 2 of the project led by Bim Malcomson was challenging in a different way. I relished the opportunity to stretch and twist to the extent of my kinaesphere, a brilliant counter to my tendency to stoop, fold inwards and hide away. I also loved the ballet structure and principles underpinning everything: I was subjected to ballet when I was 5 or so (why wasn’t I allowed those wonderful red shoes that came with tap?!), and have dipped in and out of watching ballet and contemporary dance as an adult.

I particularly love the fact that this project is ‘Dancing with Parkinson’s’ and not in name only: what a difference that small word makes! It feels like a genuinely democratic and collective endeavour: rather than recipients of a programme which has been designed (albeit with great care and sensitivity) for us, we are dancers collaborating on a project from the start. In a world where we are increasingly and probably inevitably on the receiving end of care and provision, this makes a welcome change.

I found it difficult to talk about the project to others afterwards, difficult to convey how special it felt. So (as we discussed in the feedback session) visibility feels especially important. Many of us know what it feels like to be embarrassed by the effects of Parkinson’s and the feeling that we have to hide the symptoms. Here is our chance to do the opposite: to stand up and be seen, maybe even shout about it. The fact that we are working towards a final sharing event which perhaps includes some kind of performance means that, if the telling is difficult, we can show what we mean.

Finally (for now) the sense of celebration: it seems an odd idea – to think that Parkinson’s might be something to celebrate? But we can celebrate what we can achieve, individually and as a group united by a common bond. And maybe there is something liberating in putting ourselves forward to dance in this way, enabling us to ‘wash away from the soul the dust of everyday life’ (thanks to Picasso) and reach for the stars?