10 November 2020

Prima ballerina with Alzheimer's remembers her Swan Lake performances

Marta C. Gonzalez Valencia, via.  I recommend viewing full-screen.

The ability of music to unlock the memories of Alzheimer's patients is well documented, but still impressive to watch.  

For relevant discussion, see the page on "music therapy" at the Parkinson's Foundation website.

Some will also recall scenes from the movie "Awakenings," about Oliver Sachs' experiences with post-encephalitic catatonic patients

And help yourself to a tissue.  You'll probably need one.

Addendum:  This extended commentary from a reader Fletcher is relevant -

I'd recommend viewing the original video rather than the various shortened versions going around social media, because the conversation in the third minute is just as important as the activity in the first two. (Not to mention that most of the shorter videos don’t give any real detail.)

A Spanish organization called Música para Despertar (Music to Wake) produced this video featuring Marta C. González Saldaña. She founded and directed Rosamunda, a New York ballet ensemble in which she was principal dancer and choreographer. When this video was made in 2019, she was in the Residencia Muro de Alcoy with late stage Alzheimer’s. She passed away later that year.

Here’s my translation of the conversation after the music:

Marta: I get excited…it’s…
Pepe: Normal! My dear, how could it not be exciting? And you thrilled us, dancing so well.
Marta: You have to be up on the points (toes).  

Marta: [hearing the music again]  This is the chorus…this is the chorus...this is more legs...
Pepe: That’s more legs, no? 
Marta: That was fifty [years ago]. The chorus...
Pepe: Madre mia!
Marta: That’s the floor. [continues to dance]

What really did me in was the difference between the beginning of the video and the end. In the beginning, she is locked away inside herself, but afterward, she’s so talkative! She’s animated! I hope the staff caring for her played this music (and other ballets she danced to) for her every day from this point until she died. 


  1. Breath-takingly beautiful and amazing! Thanks for the tip about the tissues ~ I used one or two!

  2. When body memory takes over . . .

  3. To have carers that think to do such ... to care enough to hold her hand, kiss it ... not all heroes wear capes, but when one does their job with respect, compassion, humanity ... that leaves me reaching for the box of tissues.
    To wind back the hands and relive the happy, a sweet treat.


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