Dance work­shops stroke of ge­nius

The Northland Age - - Local News - By Denise Piper

A new form of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is be­ing of­fered in Kaitaia for peo­ple who have had a stroke, with a new se­ries of dance work­shops.

Dance ther­a­pist Zsuzsanna Love will run the weekly dance ses­sions, af­ter Arts Far North gained fund­ing from Creative New Zea­land.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Lois Stather-Dunn, a for­mer doc­tor, had a stroke when she was just 42. From per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, she knew there was lit­tle avail­able in the com­mu­nity for peo­ple re­cov­er­ing from stroke or other neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der.

“As a re­tired doc­tor, and hav­ing had a stroke my­self some 20 years ago, I am very aware that there is lit­tle out there in the com­mu­nity in the way of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion or arts ac­tiv­i­ties which are suit­able for peo­ple who have had their lives dev­as­tat­ingly al­tered by a stroke.

“This is par­tic­u­larly true where there has been a loss of mo­bil­ity, per­haps ne­ces­si­tat­ing wheel­chair or walker use, or loss of com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills,” she said.

Dance of­fered ben­e­fits for those strug­gling with mo­bil­ity, in the same way some stroke vic­tims who could not talk were able to sing, Dr Stather-Dunn said.

“Some­times the brain might be able to re­mem­ber some­thing in the con­text of dance that they can’t nor­mally,” she said.

The dance ses­sions would also in­crease so­cial­i­sa­tion and help com­bat de­pres­sion, two com­mon is­sues af­ter a stroke, Dr Stather-Dunn said.

Arts Far North used the ex­am­ple of the suc­cess­ful “At a Stroke” fine arts group for peo­ple who had a stroke, tu­tored by Jen Gay on Fri­days.

“Hav­ing been go­ing to the group for a few years, I’ve no­ticed im­prove­ments in all of the peo­ple. I’ve no­ticed im­prove­ments in my­self and peo­ple who are much more dis­abled as well,” Dr Stather-Dunn said.

The plas­tic­ity of the hu­man brain meant im­prove­ments could hap­pen decades af­ter the stroke, she said.

“The hu­man brain is plas­tic — it re­tains an abil­ity to re­wire it­self, to find a way around a prob­lem. You won’t get the ex­act same nerves com­ing back be­cause they’ve been de­stroyed but an­other route may de­velop.”

The new dance work­shops will use mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion tech­niques. There was no ex­pec­ta­tion of par­tic­u­lar lev­els of abil­ity or dis­abil­ity, she said.

“The ses­sions will be very friendly and won’t fol­low a par­tic­u­lar chore­og­ra­phy.”

The hall was wheel­chair-friendly and the ses­sions would also be suit­able for those with walk­ers.

Dr Stather-Dunn said car­ers — who were also im­pacted by the stroke of their loved one — might want to join in for some fun.

The dance work­shops, at the Hope Chris­tian Cen­tre, Com­merce St, will run at 10.30am on Mon­days from March 25 for 16 weeks. Con­tact Lois on (09) 408-3360 for more in­for­ma­tion.

The “At a Stroke” art group is held on Fri­day morn­ings at 10.30am dur­ing term time at the IDEA Ser­vices garage on Te Reinga St. Con­tact Jen on 021-0588-890 for more in­for­ma­tion.


Lois Stather-Dunn shows lit­tle out­ward ev­i­dence of her stroke 20 years ago, but she hopes a dance work­shop will help her and other stroke vic­tims.

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