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Parkinson’s set-dancing Gathering

An Italian doctor’s chance discovery of the therapeutic effects of Irish set dancing in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease (PD) will be the subject of an international gathering of musicians and minds next month.

Tying in with the Feakle International Festival of Traditional Music, which runs from August 7 to 12, a conference will reveal the results of research into the benefits of the Irish set to PD patients.

Dr Daniel Volpe, director of neurological rehabilitation at St Raffaele Arcangelo Hospital in Venice will present his research work confirming the benefits of set dancing in the rehabilitative therapy for people with Parkinson’s. 
The conference will feature a series of lectures, workshops, set dancing, sean-nós dancing and a Céilí. Other confirmed speakers at the conference include Professor Timothy Lynch, a consultant ­neurologist and clinical director of the Dublin Neurological Institute at the Mater ­University Hospital; Dr Amanda Clifford, lecturer in the University of Limerick and Joanne Shanahan, MSc research student and dance tutor at the University of Limerick.

Lending their support to the conference is world renowned Irish traditional musicians Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill who will provide the musical accompaniment for a demonstration of Irish set dancing involving PD patients from Italy and Ireland. Furthermore, there will be a workshop of set dancing in Parkinson’s for set dancing tutors and people with the disease.

Commenting on the ­background to Dr Volpe’s ­research, event spokesperson, Councillor Pat Hayes said, “During one of his regular visits to County Clare to play with his traditional Irish music band, Dr Volpe watched as a man he recognised as ­suffering from Parkinson’s disease walked into the room. Dr Volpe later watched in astonishment as the man who earlier had struggled to walk, took part in the festivities and set danced without any difficulty.”

Councillor Hayes added that afterwards Dr Volpe, who works in developing physiotherapy for people with Parkinson’s disease, took it upon himself to learn a bit more about the reel step.
“He conducted a study that found Irish dancing does, indeed, have positive effects for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

“There will be worldwide interest in this event, given the links Dr Volpe has with the physiotherapy departments of two major universities in Ireland and Australia. We are delighted to be hosting this unique event and have no doubt that it will focus in on the value of Irish music and dance,” Councillor Hayes concluded.

The upcoming event is one of more than 170 Gathering events taking place throughout Clare during 2013. For more information on the therapeutic effects of Irish set dancing in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, see www.feaklefestival.ie.

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