Spine-tingling moment ballerina with Alzheimer’s remembers routine to Swan Lake

10 November 2020, 09:27 | Updated: 16 November 2020, 10:54

Ballerina with Alzheimer’s listens to Swan Lake, all comes back to her
Ballerina with Alzheimer’s listens to Swan Lake, all comes back to her. Picture: YouTube / Música para Despertar

By Sian Moore

The moving moment a former ballerina with Alzheimer’s listens to Tchaikovsky, and her years of training come rushing back.

A video has been circulating of the wonderful moment Marta C. González, a former prima ballerina living with Alzheimer’s, recognises the sound of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

In her old age the Spanish ballerina, who once ran a dance company in New York, suffered from the memory loss syndrome and was in a wheelchair. But all it took was the power of music to unlock the memory of her bygone ballet years.

As the main, heartrending melody to the Romantic ballet plays through her headphones, a flicker of recognition and sadness sweeps across González’s face.

Within moments, her hands instinctively reenact the graceful movements she had once performed on stage. At the music’s crescendo, González is completely lost in the performance, her motions and facial expressions mirroring those she’d mastered decades earlier.

Read more: Amazon Christmas ad stars ballerina whose show is cancelled by COVID-19 crisis >

Ballerina with Alzheimer’s listens to Swan Lake, and it all comes back

The video, interspersed with clips of another ballerina – not González herself, as previously thought – performing in the ’60s, was originally filmed last year.

But as people across the world look to music for comfort, the clip has resurfaced and has been watched on social media by people across the globe, including choreographer and theatre director, Arlene Phillips.

Read more: 101-year-old man with Alzheimer’s shows us all the eternal power of music >

“This has absolutely broken my heart this morning. The glimpses of memory, the sadness for those with or a loved one living with Alzheimer’s. Support @alzheimerssoc and @AlzResearchUK,” she wrote in her tweet.

“If music and dance can restore or hold memory, how precious.”

Last year England’s Health Secretary said dance sessions should be prescribed to more dementia patients, to prevent ‘over-medicalised’ treatment.

A study found that giving patients personal music playlists resulted in a 60 per cent reduction in the need for medication.

A number of other studies have shown how music can benefit those suffering from not only memory loss syndrome, but other physical conditions too.

Marta C. González has sadly now passed away. But the beauty of her art lives on, continuing to bring light in darker times.