Julie Blume, veteran Parsons dancer, has an ongoing relationship with Eileen Fogarty who works at Terence Cardinal Cook Health Care Center (found on fifth avenue between 105th and 106th streets) and has repetitively and graciously organized a performance for the patients suffering with Huntington’s Disease. This year, I was gratefully able to participate in this informal showing where we did segments of various Parsons pieces in the gymnasium of the care center. Huntington’s Disease is genetically transmitted and gradually degenerates the nerves cells found in the brain. Physical symptoms include sudden quick jerks of random limbs, facial movements, slow uncontrolled movements, and head turning to focus the eyes. Behaviorally, irritability, mood swings, dementia, loss of memory and judgement, and changes in personality and speech ensue. There is no cure or medications to prevent its onset and if a parent has the disorder, you have a 50% chance of having the same gene mutation responsible for its development. Those receiving care at Terence Cardinal Cook are in the more advance stages of their disease, and our respectful and enthusiastic audience were wheelchair-bound and accompanied by those who assist in their care. Everyone had varying capabilities and methods of soaking in our performance. I strongly believe whether or not their eyes were focused on us, our energy and even the mere shift in their daily regimen had some positive effect on their spirits. Many applauded and commented during and after each piece which brought added reassurance.
By far one of the most touching and enthusiastic viewers was Julio, sitting front and center, who was a professional flamenco dancer in Cuba. Amazingly, he had much of his wit and dance knowledge still with him. The thought of using your body as a form of expression and way of being, to then later be completely deprived of your body control and confined to a seat day in and day out is beyond comprehension. Julio carried an air of acceptance and knowledge about his degenerative state, but maintained a glowing face and his contagious laughter.
It is so beautiful to have the capacity to extend yourself to others and this experience reinforced the gift of waking up every morning with the ability to dance. Here are some photos Eileen took throughout the afternoon. The dancers beyond myself who participated include: Julie Blume, Sarah Braverman, Eric Borne, John Corsa, Emily Daly, Jason Macdonald, and Ian Spring. Very much looking forward to our next visit!