Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 27 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Vincent de Paul
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Prima ballerina with Alzheimer’s has emotional response to hearing ‘Swan Lake’

Cerith Gardiner - published on 11/11/20

The former dancer's powerful reaction is heartbreaking, yet an important testimony to the power of music.

In 1960, Marta C. Gonzalez stepped out on to the stage in New York as the company’s prima ballerina. During her career with the New York Ballet, the dancer performed various roles, including Odette in Swan Lake in 1967.

Over half a century later, in 2019, Gonzalez succumbed to the progressive disorder of Alzheimer’s, but before she died, she pulled off a final performance that — although emotional to watch — is an incredible testament to the power of music, and the talent behind the elderly ballerina.

In the video posted by Asociacion Musica para Desperta, a Spanish charity that uses music with dementia patients to help give them a boost, you can see Gonzalez’s emotional response to the familiar sound of Tchaikovsky. Her frail hands start to move and the result is transfixing. Incredibly, after all those decades, the former dancer remembers her choreography.

Actor Antonio Banderas responded to the dance with an important message:

53 years ago she was a NYC Ballet dancer. Tchaikovsky’s music managed to triumph over Alzheimer’s. It’s been a year since all of this. Now on the occasion of your passing, receive the dissemination of these images as a well deserved recognition of your art and your passion. RIP Marta C. Gonzalez.

After her final filmed performance, the elderly Gonzalez is visibly moved and shares her emotions with the nursing home staff. Those watching applaud her efforts but her frustration is tangible.

While the video makes for emotional viewing, it is a further demonstration of how powerful music can be in the treatment of dementia. The charity wished to share the video a year after her death to pay homage to the former dancer.


Gladys Wilson and Naomi Feil

Read more:
The beautiful moment when an Alzheimer’s patient responds to Christian hymns

Tags:
ElderlyHealth and WellnessMusic
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
VATICAN LEGOS
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
2
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
3
Tolkien
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
4
PADRE PIO
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
5
Giovanna Binci
He’s autistic, she has Down syndrome, and they’re wonderfully hap...
6
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
7
peace
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.