Dance for M.S.- Multiple sclerosis research at Nationale Opera & Ballet

15 February, 2016


RESEO member Nationale Opera and Ballet Amsterdam, facilitate a Creative Wellness Programme, Dance for Health & Multiple Sclerosis through a series of weekly open classes and facilitate a medical research programme in cooperation with Dance for Health Foundation and the medical VU University Amsterdam. Its’ an eight week programme where 40 participants are MRI scanned and receive a qualitative and quantitative questionnaire. Twenty participants will be passive and twenty will do the movement programme Physical Sense designed by Andrew Greenwood. All the participants are MRI scanned at the end of the eight weeks as well. Hopefully the research will show improvements with neuroplasticity, meaning the creation of new channels for bodily commands or possibly results in the improvement of their quality of life and wellbeing both physically and mentally.



My name is Andrew Greenwood; I spent my life dancing and teaching ballet in a professional environment. My career suddenly changed direction when encountering Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis.

The Royal Theatre Den Hague, Netherlands

Marc Velmmix, the artistic director of a dance house in the Netherlands was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 37. I was working as a guest ballet master in his establishment. As a teacher I have always been interested in the healing powers dance holds. He was not a dancer himself, but asked if I would go into the studio with him. After a few sessions to our surprise it really made a big change to his attitude towards Parkinson’s and life in general. This was a turning point in my career. Marc and I established a foundation called Dance for Health, with the aim to “change peoples lives through movement.“

With much trial and error, step-by-step, I started to offer specific movement programmes for people with Parkinson’s with the aim to enhance their quality of life. Now, three years down the road, the programme is running in 15 cities across Holland. At present we have an on-going research project, in collaboration with the National Opera and Ballet Amsterdam and Medical University the VU Amsterdam, conducting a medical research on the results of my movement programme Physical Sense, for sufferers with Multiple Sclerosis, on the effect on the neuroplasticity of the brain.
I’m happy and proud to say that all the present classes are held in cultural institutions. It’s an ideal collaboration for both parties; the dancers are proud to dance in such establishments and the programme helps create a better synergy with the local communities creating new audiences.

To spread the programme, it was time for me to develop an education programme, which is called ‘Physical Sense’. I have had the honour and pleasure to educate 30 teachers over the passed two years. We are at present launching the programme in Italy, Germany and Australia. ‘Physical Sense’ is a movement programme, based on a bio-psycho-social movement programme to improve, mental/physical sensory learning, mind and body awareness, for these specific groups Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. I developed ‘Physical Sense’ in order to establish a greater understanding and embodiment of the self.

The programme is enwrapped within a creative context, dance and art in all its diversity.
The classes are designed to be interactive and self-reflective. It’s about practical experience, with identification that drives the discovery of personal behaviour. It can be more than a set of complex sequences of movement patterns: dance can be charged with different forms of meaning sparking memories, imagination and joy.

The National Museum Basson de Grappé Italy

The MS and Parkinson’s patients are always called dancers. When talking to the dancers about their personal experiences, the most pronounced factor I constantly hear is they receive information that they will only be defeated; less freedom, less activity, their circle of friends and community will decline. They will have to stop working and start to readjust their future thinking and dreams and so on. For many of us this means loss of freedom, the freedom of health is the loss of freedom? In many peoples eyes! But I ask you what is health and what is really freedom? I would question if having the freedom to walk in the park were the right definition of freedom? Who sets the standards of what is healthy or not? Everybody has a disability of some form or other, mentally, physically, or spiritually. We all carry something with us. Dance has the power to utilize one’s losses, find new pathways, and add new benefits. Human nature is constructed in such a way; you end up learning more from hardship and setbacks, not only from constant growth and prosperity.

Very often others don’t support the decision that these wonderful people may live normal lives. In the eyes of many, disability punishes them and takes away their independence.

This journey has helped me reshuffle my life priorities. I have learnt a very important lesson from my dancers; the value of time and life is more than caring about something, more than social approval. Care more about testing your personal limits.
At present the National Opera and Ballet Amsterdam facilitate the programme for MS. Dancing in such an establishment gives the dancers the chance to explore, push one’s own boundaries. Such an institution gives room for one to maximize one’s own potential, which is important in all walks of life.
From these experiences, I strongly recommend integrating such programmes into cultural establishments Sustainability in the arts is about adapting to present trends. Art is a powerful medicine and its time to claim this space.”


Congress Creative Wellness in Care, Netherlands

The Forum will be hosted by The Dutch National Ballet and the Education department of the National Opera & Ballet. In a climate where governments, health organizations and health insurers are looking for answers to global epidemics such as Alzheimer’s, obesity and increasing aging populations, the members of The Dance & Creative Wellness Forum uphold that ‘dance’ in all its multi-facets has a significant role to play in the health and wellness of individuals, communities and the general public. Dance is perfectly positioned to support the public health sector, providing proactive, cost effective solutions to such global wellness challenges. The initiators, RESEO Dance coordinator Clare Guss-West and Andrew Greenwood will host the day, 23rd March 2016.