If you read my newsletter, or follow me on Twitter, you might remember me mentioning Kate Swindlehurst’s “The Tango Effect: Parkinson’s and the healing power of dance”, when it was still crowdfunding on Unbound. I received my copy back in March, just before lockdown started and it’s been a while now that I have wanted to share my thoughts about it.
The book is part personal memoir, as the author takes us on her journey of re-discovering Argentine tango, following her diagnosis with Parkinson’s. It is also an exploration of the dance itself: its culture, history and music. And, as the book’s subtitle suggests, at its heart is a documentation of the positive impact Argentine tango can have on quality of life for someone suffering from Parkinson’s.
The book doesn’t shy away from the dark side of this illness, the loneliness and how Parkinsons chips away at self-esteem and confidence. It has to be said that tango restoring confidence is not something which seems obvious, as the author admits herself, “In tango, surrounded by other, more beautiful, more experienced, younger, able-bodied dancers, where does a dancer with Parkinson’s find the courage?”
But she does, and she finds that the dancefloor is a place which offers “an opportunity for transformation” and “the possibility of grace”. She is supported in this journey by her tango teachers, and the book includes their contributions, as well as the author’s own lesson notes.
While I had heard of music and dance therapy being used as complementary treatments, I had no idea about the incredibly positive impact specifically of Argentine tango for someone suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Detailed notes at the end of the book include references to scientific research, as well as to many tango-related books and articles. The book also includes a short story by the author, a bibliography and a glossary of tango terms.
I learnt a lot from this book, and I really enjoyed reading it. The author brings us into her world, and the world of tango itself, showing us the impact tango has had on her life.
Apart from those who are interested in dance and Parkinson’s, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves tango and wants to learn about its healing potential, as well as to anyone who suffers from chronic illness. An inspirational story about a woman who refuses to be defined by a medical condition, and who sees tango as “an opportunity to aim for the stars.”
Have you read “The Tango Effect”? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!