The UK development organisation and membership
body for community and participatory dance
You are here:> Home > Developing Practice > Animated magazine > Searchable archive > Winter 2017/18 > Happily ever after
Animated Edition - Winter 2017/18
Happily ever after
At the age of 37 Marc Vlemmix, founder of the Dance For Health foundation in the Netherlands for people with chronic movement disorders, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. For a while he tried to ignore it, but it got worse and worse. Something had to happen. The answer turned out to be right in front of his nose

Associated Attachment(s):

 Marc Vlemmix.pdf
Image: Marc Vlemmix (right). Photo: Rob Hogeslag and commissioned by Dance for Health.
Marc Vlemmix (right). Photo: Rob Hogeslag and commissioned by Dance for Health.

Julian’s bay
Having a drink on a terrace,
Enjoying the sun
And the summer sea breeze
In the middle of a conversation
I got up
And without any excuse
I ran away along the bay
In one straight line
to my apartment.
Like Cinderella leaving the ball
5 minutes before midnight
Just before the carriage turned back
into a pumpkin again
I knew that if I was fast, I would be
able to get home
Just before the transformation
Just before my body would turn off
Because that’s what it does,
After more than eight years of living
with Parkinson’s disease,
That’s what I have to cope with,
Learning to live with a body that can
switch off at any second of the day.

As founder of the Dance for Health foundation, I was invited by Natalie Muschamps, of the organisation Step up for Parkinson’s, to share my mission – to change people’s lives through movement – with the Maltese community. For me the art of dance and the art of living are placed very close together since my diagnosis. It is the art of living, to ‘be’. It is an art to achieve this because with Parkinson’s the body and mind can often get in the way, dominating each other and competing for attention. If we can succeed in making them listen to each other it frees the mind and body together in ‘surrender’. And surrender is never an act of force, but an act of openness, and peace. Openness and surrender to the dance brings me to my core. It makes me strong in my vulnerability.

I believe in the whole person. At Dance for Health we encourage people to be curious about their own situation with a positive attitude, to surprise themselves and push boundaries of what they think is possible.

We put people moving first. Art and dance can breathe life into everyday movement and taking part in Dance for Health classes is initiated by a desire to shape one’s own experience in an enjoyable and uplifting way. At Dance for Health we connect dance with health. Health is not just about your physical condition, but about feeling healthy and beautiful, from the inside out.

That’s the challenge, to surrender to the dance, not to dance to the Parkinson’s tune.

To get there we have to look ourselves in the eye.

It’s like being in a boxing ring
Without boxing gloves
Without any training in advance
Finding out that there is no opponent
in the ring
But the opponent is secretly taking
his space into your own body
Recognising this
You know that by fighting it, there
will only be losers
But if you surrender to the dance,
Then you can start to play around
with your own body
Parkinson’s brought me to dance
as a need
But the moment when I went on
beyond the need,
I could really start to develop my
dancing skills
in which I could surprise myself
and others.

Developing something in your body during the process you are in, where Parkinson’s is progressing and taking step by step more space, dancing is an ultimate empowerment experience, which is not about changing your perspective any more but really about improving.

At the beginning of the year I decided to really surrender to the dance, to start a process in the studio under the creative guidance of choreographer Itamar Serussi to find new ways for my body to move. Working with a professional who takes me seriously as a dancer, who doesn’t approach me as the sum of my Parkinson’s, makes the difference. Dancing as a form of art is closely connected with my core and the fact that Itamar treated me as a dancer, not a Parkinson’s patient, was incredibly valuable for my sense of identity and for my creative potential.

Recently we spent four whole days in a creative process in a studio. For a moment I felt like Cinderella again. This time not afraid that when the clock would tick to midnight, everything would change. No, it felt more like the moment where the prince finally did find the foot that fits the glass slipper. Where Cinderella didn’t need the golden carriage or the fancy dress, but here beauty did shine from the inside out straight through her dirty skin.

Itamar did give every participant one theme that in his opinion would fit his or her personality. In my case it was the phrase ‘high heels’. On day two I brought in some shoes, not glass slippers but some real black stilettos. Can you imagine? Me with my eight years of Parkinson’s, balance and walking problems, dancing on heels? Strange? Yes – but not really.

It happens a few times a day that I unconsciously start to walk on the tip of my toes as a result of Parkinson’s. In Dutch it’s an expression: ‘To walk on the tips of your toes’. It means that you act and live at the highest possible speed, continuously pushing your limits. As a child my mother did warn me many times, ‘not to push myself to the limit all the time’. But now, at the age of 45, coming close to my core, I found out that I like to push myself to the limit, I like to ‘walk on the tips of my toes’.

Then what?
Out of balance?
Is it physically? Or is it a fear?
What happens first, the physical
un-balance or the fear for it?
And is it possible to completely
go beyond it,
to let loose the break,
Get on the dance floor,
just go and don’t stop.
In a flow,
Like Cinderella at the ball
without fear
Feeling beautiful!
Happily ever after.


The content of this site is proprietary to the Foundation for Community Dance and any access to this site or the use of any content made by any person is expressly subject to these terms:

Unauthorised copying of any material (including artwork) on this site and the reproduction, storage, transmission or the distribution of any content, either in whole or in part and in any medium or format, without the prior written consent of the Foundation for Community Dance and, where appropriate, the author or artist, is not permitted.

Please read our website terms & conditions by clicking here

Animated: Winter 2017/18