By Leah Fein
The music we listen to early in life remains engrained in our brain and can even be recognized throughout the course of Alzheimer’s disease. Memory in Motion aimed to use this power of music to get people living with cognitive deficits and their caregivers up, moving, and having fun. Colby Damon, a former professional dancer with BalletX, led the group.
“Dance gets the heart rate up and the circulation flowing, but the only side effect is having fun,” Damon told Penn Medicine News. “It breaks the isolation, connecting them with music and thereby emotional associations they know and love.”
During each class, Damon was joined by another teaching artist to help participants who many need modifications. “The whole room stands as soon as the music starts,” Damon told Penn Medicine News. Although not everyone can follow along, Damon says “they naturally stay in the beat,” and he keeps the moves simple.
Although participants enjoyed following Damon’s dance moves, he often tried experimental ways to get participants involved. For example, he facilitated mirroring exercises where participants take turns doing whatever move they want and the rest of the group follows.
“It gives people a safe space to take risks, encouraging them to do something they haven’t in a long time,” PMC Co-Director Jason Karlawish told Penn Medicine News. Karlawish said the program also enhances dignity and reduces stigma. “It makes them feel like they’re the people they are.”
Memory in Motion was held weekly between March 11 and April 22, 2019. Learn more at Penn Medicine News.