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This article discusses the movement disorder known as dystonia and includes a case study in which dance was used as a medium to heal and regain movement. Dancing is often a forgotten medicine that is the most natural way for the body to reground itself and feel whole. Dance therapy for dystonia.

Dystonia and the Story of Federico Bitti

Federico Bitti is an Italian journalist living in Toronto. Mr. Bitti has a movement disorder that is known as dystonia, which causes involuntary contractions of different muscle groups in the body. Think of your head glancing in one direction, but a force is pushing it in the opposite direction. People with dystonia experience similar feelings of non-stop tremors and spasms. Furthermore, dystonia can even cause ill effects all the way down the spine, causing the body’s natural alignment to shift, which can affect people with their day-to-day tasks.

Dance therapy for dystonia.

Dystonia branches out into three categories:

  • Focal
  • Segmental
  • General

Focal dystonia affects one part of the body. Segmental dystonia affects two or more adjacent parts, and general dystonia affects all parts of the body. The cause of dystonia is not known; however, there is a suggestion that it is related to a disorder in the body’s sensory input mechanisms. A possible cure is also not concrete; however, surgery and botox injections are ways to regulate the symptoms.

dance therapy for dystonia

Another treatment can be useful, and that is movement therapy, to be more specific – using movement to straighten and strengthen muscles that are not being used due to deconditioning. Such movement exercises include stretching and walking as well as physical activities that involve coordination.

Treating Dystonia with Dance

In Federico Bitti’s case, he was introduced to movement therapy through Dr. Joaquin Farias. Dr. Farias’ approach integrated neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to rewire itself for movement to be restored. His focus was to use motion to control sensory and motor signals. Mr. Bitti was essentially relearning how to control his own body by practicing repetitive movements, such as nodding yes and no and lowering his shoulders.

Then one day, Federico was walking down the street, “Vogue” by Madonna playing in his ears. And he was walking to the beat. Suddenly, he was making new movements with his body, movements he wasn’t able to make before. Dr. Joaquin then suggested that Federico continue to practice dancing daily to restore his movement.

“It made me feel that I could do it, and maybe for a second, and that second became two, and then three, and then four, and I could do it.” – Federico Bitti

Easy Inspirations to Dance at Home – The Cha Cha Slide

The beautiful thing about dancing is that it can be done anywhere at any time! A simple song can kick in the momentum and your feel-good chemicals will uplift your day. The video below is an easy demonstration of the Cha Cha Slide!



Happy Dancing!