The music of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake was all it took for this former ballerina with Alzheimer’s disease to dance once again.
Marta C. Gonzalez had been a prima ballerina with the New York Ballet—one of the most prominent dance companies in the world—during the 1960s.
However, when she developed Alzheimer’s disease and began using a wheelchair, the illness and her old age ended her ballet years.
But when Pepe Olmedo, the director of Musica para Despertar (Music to Wake Up To), gave Marta a pair of headphones to listen to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, a fire inside her seems to have been rekindled.
The look on Marta’s face and body language upon hearing the opening notes of the music said it all. As the heart-rending melody of the composition played on, she entered ballerina mode once more, and the woman began moving her body to its rhythm. Instinctively, Marta reenacted the graceful choreography she had performed on stage in 1967.
The movements she had mastered decades ago had been buried in the recesses of her mind for years. Amazingly, all it took was for her to hear the music again before the long-hidden prima ballerina emerged from her shell.
After her performance, she was met with a round of applause by her small audience. She said the music made her “emotional.”
The haunting moment was captured on video by staff at a care home in Valencia, where Marta lived until she passed away in 2019.
The footage, which was interspersed with clips of Marta performing the dance in the 1960s, was originally taken last year. But in a time when people rely on the arts for comfort, the Musica para Despertar, a Spanish charity that uses music therapy to help people with Alzheimer’s enhance their mood and memory, shared the video of Marta dancing on their social media pages.
So far, the emotional clip has been watched over 900K times by people all over the world. One of them is famed choreographer and theater director, Arlene Phillips.
“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,” she tweeted.
Even actor Antonio Banderas couldn’t help but gush about the evocative clip.
“The emotional power of music!” he tweeted in Spanish.
YouTube commenters also shared their own experiences with loved ones who battled Alzheimer’s.
“I love this so much! It breaks my heart and heals it at the same time. My grandmother died having suffered alzheimers. I played the piano and sang for her her favorite songs and got the same reaction. Music cannot be underestimated. I’m glad I’m a professional singer,” wrote Antonio Watts.
“Truly beautiful. My mother had Alzheimer’s too. She could not communicate or do anything for herself. But she never forgot how to sing to her favourite songs. Music is so powerful. God bless the lovely people taking care of her,” said Krysia Hurford.
A study has shown that allowing patients to listen to personal music playlists reduced their need for medication by 60%.
Several other research has proven that music can benefit those suffering from memory loss and other physical conditions.
Alzheimers.org also confirmed that music therapy could assist people suffering from the disease and work to manage and reduce agitation, isolation, depression, and anxiety. It can also help those who have trouble communicating verbally.
Watch the video below to witness Marta dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
Though Marta may have passed away, the beauty of her masterful dancing will continue to bring light during darker times.