Cerebral Palsy and Ballet
Current studies are showing positive findings that support the effectiveness of dance combined with other rehabilitation methods to promote movement coordination and motor learning. Recent research suggests that this new approach to therapy can change the social and mental, as well as the physical aspect of peoples' lives. Specifically, research is currently being conducted on the effect of ballet for individuals with Cerebral Palsy (CP). Through this, ballet is not only providing therapeutic benefits for children with CP, but now individuals affected by CP who used to only dream of becoming a dancer may now get to see their dream come to fruition.
The Gregg Mozgala Story
Gregg Mozgala is a 31-year-old actor who was dealing with weak muscles, postural imbalances, and lack of coordination which are the most familiar symptoms associated with CP. Mozgala has now turned to a new, innovative dance therapy to increase his motor control. In 2008, Mozgala met Tamar Rogoff, a choreographer who was determined to create a dance piece for him. Mozgala was initially walking on his toes with his upper body thrown backwards. Working on basic choreography and techniques to release muscle tension, Mozgala began exercising areas of the body that he had never used before while increasing range of motion and working with dance and stretching techniques. Soon after starting, Mozgala was able to stand upright with both feet on the floor. In addition, he was able to actually feel his Achilles tendon, which was a wonderful and new feeling for him. Mozgala spoke with the New York Times saying, "The amount of sensation that comes through the work has been totally unexpected and is really quite wonderful." Mozgala had seen various therapists for over a decade, but the creative movements associated with dance have brought the most success. Mozgala's balance and strength have improved tremendously, which has correlated to improved gait function, so he rarely falls. Mozgala's story has inspired researchers and rehabilitation specialists to look more closely at the positive correlations that ballet may have for individuals with CP.
The Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation (CPIRF)is considering funding a dance therapy program. Doctors at the CPIRF explain that there are pre-existing structures in the brain that are very receptive to music, rhythm, and moving to music. Dancing to music acts as reinforcement for getting the body activated and helps form new pathways in the brain. Through dance, children learn to activate and train their own affected muscles and therefore learn to take control of their own bodies.
The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago - Caring for Kids Program conducts a weekly dance class for children with CP lead by Citlali Lopez-Ortiz, PhD. This class is built to increase movement, build postural awareness, and increase motor control of selected limbs of the body. Dr. Lopez-Ortiz and her research team are using a motion analysis system to gather data relative to movement coordination and motor learning in children with Cerebral Palsy.
For more information about these classes, and to watch its feature on Good Morning America, go to (http://www.ric.org/healthinfo/fitness/sportsprograms/caringforkids/cfkyearround.aspx) or download this pdf: http://www.ric.org/pdf/spring%20session%201-1.pdf
Dance Programs in Your Area
Because the research looking at dance and CP is relatively new, a specific program may not exist in your area. In addition, many of the current existing programs are in the form of research studies. For a general list of dance programs, visit the NCHPAD website at http://www.ncpad.org to search for programs in your area.
If you are looking to start up a dance program of your own, or would like more information, please contact:
RIC Sports- Caring for Kids Specialist
Other Dance Resources: