Former prima ballerina Marta C Gonzalez's performance while seated in a wheelchair was captured while she lived in a care home in Valencia.
Music can have incredible effects on people. It moves us to our core and it can even dig out memories we had hidden deep within us, consciously or subconsciously. Music therapy is a part of many treatment strategies, including chemotherapy. As per Harvard Health, music therapy can calm anxiety, ease pain, and provide a pleasant diversion for the process and even during a hospital stay.
One of the most incredible moments where music touched someone was shared by the Asociacion Musica para Despertar, a Spanish charity which helps dementia patients by using music to improve their mood and memory, among other things, as per Daily Mail. The video from 2019 is of a former prima ballerina who was living with Alzheimer's. The former ballerina Marta C Gonzalez, who died in 2019, is seen sitting in a wheelchair and dancing at a care home in Valencia.
Marta was reportedly part of the New York Ballet in the 1960s and probably danced to Tschaikovsky's Swan Lake in her youth. In the video, she is seen moving to the same music as she had practiced many decades ago.
The dancer flows with the music after a carer placed headphones on her and played the classical piece of music. She starts reenacting the dance moves while sitting in her wheelchair. The video became viral after Jennifer Garner, Antonio Banderas, and internationally renowned choreographer Arlene Phillips shared it, as per Shape.
"Our innate connection to music, to movement, to the arts, is beautiful," Garner wrote in an Instagram post alongside the video of Gonzalez. "This former ballerina's sense memory of Swan Lake — just does me in, it's so lovely. Thank you to everyone in the fight against Alzheimer's."
Banderas shared the video on Facebook, writing, "53 years ago she was a NYC Ballet dancer. Tchaicovsky's music managed to mock her Alzheimer's. It's been a year since all of this. Now on the occasion of your passing, serve the dissemination of these images as a well deserved recognition of your art and your passion. RIP Marta C. Gonzalez." Meanwhile, Phillips said, "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. If music and dance can restore or hold memory, how precious."
Marta had reportedly performed the Swan Lake in 1967 on stage and it's incredible that she still remembers it. It's almost as if the repeated movements, because of tireless practice, are etched into her soul. She doesn't miss a beat and just starts moving her hands gracefully while listening to the famous and familiar piece of music.
After she finishes her performance, those watching her applaud to show appreciation for her art and skill that Alzheimer's hadn't taken away from her. The carer then comforts her when she says that she is "emotional." The Spanish charity was quoted by Daily Mail as saying, "The power of music is immeasurable. May she rest in peace."
This isn't the first time someone tried to explore the connection between music and memory. In the 2014 documentary Alive Inside, neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks is heard saying in the documentary's trailer, "Music has more ability to activate more parts of the brain than any other stimulus." Music can be used to activate certain pathways in the brain of those suffering with dementia, said Concetta Tomaino, executive director and co-founder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, adding that music is "a gateway to stimulate and reach somebody who's otherwise unreachable."