Contemporary dance enters the homes of Porto to fight against loneliness and suffering

Mirka, 87, Deolinda Ribeiro, 100, José Ferreira de Macedo, 90, Jerónimo Santos, 66 and many other elderly people who suffer from various pathologies such as schizophrenia, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease , strokes, among others, others have been participating for a year in the special project "Tsugi Porto", which combines contemporary dance with the inclusion of third and fourth ages.

The class begins with the class stretching their arms and shoulders to the sound of “Quand elle se lève”, by Ajeet Kaur, an international artist who creates ancestral melodies capable of transporting dancers into spaces of meditation.

Some sit in a wheelchair, others stand, but in the bright room of Lar de Atães (Porto), everyone builds a creative dance with the help of Rafael Alvarez, choreographer and presenter of contemporary dance sessions for seniors .

"Now, let's draw with our hands," asks the choreographer, kneeling in front of centenarian Deolinda Ribeiro, to the sound of the song "The Lines of My Hand," by singer and composer Pierre Lapointe.

The fingers of the hands move in the air and draw imaginary circles and "play the piano" on everyone's face, as if they were writing pieces of life itself. The soft way, sometimes imposing more energy.

"Let's follow the movement of the storm", calls out the choreographer, making certain elderly people raise their arms and wave them as if the wind were stirring tree branches.

Rafael Alvarez asks, in the middle of the dance session, the special dancers to try to make a “small hole” with their foot on the ground and then to lift and stretch their leg in front. “As if we were on the beach,” he explains, suggesting that they clap their hands.

Mirka, a former opera singer who has graced the stages of concert halls around the world, joined the activity because she enjoys dancing and exercising her independence.

“These courses give me years of life,” he sums up.

Next to him is 90-year-old José Macedo. The nonagenarian says that after exercising his muscles for 45 minutes, he feels “cool, because his joints hurt less.

"After making this change [para o lar de idosos] there is not much joy", admits José Macedo, but the activity "is worth a lot", mainly to relieve the pain of those who were once wineries. wine, employees of the Chamber of Porto, Renault and the company that built the Foguete, a fast rail service that linked Lisbon and Porto.

Jerónimo Santos, 66, with an easy smile, says he feels “love in his heart” and “a lot of joy” when he takes a dance class.

“After class, I feel relieved in my body. They give me strength in my legs and arms. It's a joy to do gymnastics for the whole body,” says Jerónimo Santos.

The dance classes are part of the "Tsugi Porto" project, created by Rafael Alvarez, which through dance tries to humanize the relationship with one's own body, but also with the context of life in a home.

"The pleasure of dancing is stimulated, but then there are several results that can be perceived throughout the sessions, such as greater control of autonomy, control of the body", explains the choreographer, pointing out that the idea of ​​the project is also to perceive aging as a “creative process” of reinventing oneself and tracing the path of life.

It is an 'inclusive but not exclusive dance', as the aim is to invite people to 'travel out of this context of home' through their bodies, celebrating the dance and celebrating the experience of life in the present time.

"Now all you have to do is rotate your hands, outward and inward, and stretch again, looking at the ceiling."

Finally, they all dance together in a circle. Some standing. Others, in wheelchairs, reach out, intertwining their hands with Rafael Alvarez.

“You just have to stretch, breathe deeply and feel your breath,” asks the choreographer.

The joy of the users of the Atães house has increased the level of bodily mobility and creativity itself is stimulated, explains Sónia Lopes, technical director of this institution.

“The benefits have been immense. In addition to mobility, the effects on the emotional level have also been very scalable. They have evolved a lot in terms of creativity, movements, gestures. This allows them to travel outside these four walls.

“Tsugi Porto” covers about 90 elderly people from retirement homes and day centers in Porto, most of whom are women, and has been developing inclusive dance for a year in Lar de Atães, Centro de Dia Latino Coelho, Lar Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia, Memory of Me/Delegação Norte Alzheimer Portugal Day Center and Casa de Lordelo — Day Center.

The project is funded by the Belmiro de Azevedo Foundation.


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