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When Pune resident Pradnya Joshi, 59, first found out that she had Parkinson’s disease, she never realized that a day would come when dance would come to her aid. In a documentary by Pune-based film-maker Tapan Pandit, Joshi talks about living with the degenerative condition of the central nervous system, and why joining a dance class in 2011 was probably the best decision she has made.

Called Dance For Parkinson’s Disease, the 22-minute documentary will have its inaugural screening in Kothrud, Pune, on 14 September. Pandit says the film, which he began shooting in March, may be screened in Mumbai later this month.

“The number of people who have Parkinson’s is quite large. A film would help in creating this awareness. Secondly, I believe this is amazing work and it needs to be documented. I am sure it will be something that people will look back at in the future," he says.

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A still from the documentary

According to the European Parkinson’s Disease Association, the number of individuals above the age of 50 with Parkinson’s in 2005 was 4.1-4.6 million worldwide. By 2030, this number is expected to be 8.7-9.3 million. The world over, dance is used as therapy for the progressive movement disorder that is often accompanied by impaired balance.

Pawar now conducts hour-long classes thrice a week with 15 participants, including Joshi, in Pune. Two assistants and he start with basic exercises, and move on to Kathak mudras and the essentials of choreography. The dance technique helps improve flexibility.

A student of Pawar’s began holding classes for persons with Parkinson’s disease in Mumbai in 2013, with four participants. The film also follows the story of 64-year-old Prabhakar Apte, who retired as a major from the Indian Army—he joined these classes last year.

In the ​film, both protagonists talk about how dance has made them happier and improved their quality of life.

“There were some choreography shots in the film that we had to do repeatedly since we had a one-camera set-up. The participants danced with so much energy each time. I was thrilled," says Pandit. “Joshi aunty fed us a lot each time we shot at her house. We couldn’t move at the end of the day. All these participants are examples of how to live."

Dance For Parkinson’s Disease will be screened on 14 September, 5pm, at the National Film Archive of India, Phase II, Kothrud, Pune.

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