Störung/הפרעה is a German-Israeli project on movement and movement disorder with dancers, scientists, and people with Parkinson’s. The following text tries to give a synopsis of each of the three perspectives that are a part of our triangular research project: The dancers’ approach, the neuroscience approach and the expertise of the people with Parkinson’s. The last paragraph is an outlook on the final conferences in December 2015 where we want to show some examples of what is unique, innovative and special to our project that we define as an international, inter-field and inter-population research project.
1: The perspective of the dancers / Artistic research
Inspired by the multiple experiences of Dance for Parkinson’s, which was first established in 2001 in the United States and more recently expanded to England, Holland and Italy, the dancers and choreographers Monica Gillette and Mia Haugland Habib developed a unique concept of Dance for Parkinson’s using the tools and teaching methods of a contemporary dance context while in residence at Theater Freiburg. One essential part consisted of a process of artistic research which used the dancer’s/choreographer’s expertise in movement control and movement manipulation as well as the knowledge they possess as movement researchers and choreographers. Reflecting on how their knowledge and tools could have outcomes other than creating a performance, as well as mobilizing the typically “silent” knowledge of a dancer in order to make it relevant for the collaboration with scientific approaches was an initial goal of their contribution. For the Störung/הפרעה Project, Monica Gillette extended this concept and developed together with Yasmeen Godder, Itzik Giuli and Josef Mackert a one year long research program, which adds to the weekly dance classes for people with Parkinson’s regular movement classes for young scientists in Germany and Israel. These dance classes for movement research in both countries are taught by professional dancers who simultaneously share their research process. It is structured through eight leading themes: Balance, Unison, Intention, Identity, Interactivity, Embodiment, Transition and Freedom. Inspired by the outcome of the dialog with the young scientists, dancers have also started to develop a concept of co-teaching classes with scientists. Through these experiences and collaborations with the people with Parkinson’s and the scientists in both countries, dancers and choreographers are constantly reflecting on the outcome of the research process in relationship to their ongoing artistic work, while challenging methods, tools and formats of what is understood as contemporary dance.
2: The perspective of the science / Neuroscientifc approaches
In the neuroscientific research consortium BrainLinks-BrainTools of Freiburg University scientists from the fields of biology, neuroscience, microsystems engineering, computer science and medicine work on movement related topics. The scientists of BrainLinks-BrainTools research on brain-machine interfaces and neurotechnological treatment options, which can help people suffering from neurological diseases or dysfunction like paralysis, epilepsy, stroke or Parkinson’s. The research pursues two main goals: to develop (1) systems that are capable to read out intentions from brain activity and to use them to control external devices like prostheses or communication aids and (2) closed-loop systems in form of autonomous devices implanted in the brain, which record from and stimulate the brain in case of certain neurological conditions, e.g. occurring in Parkinson’s disease. The development of the neurotechnological devices is based on research on the understanding of brain functions and dysfunctions, especially in the motor cortex where movement execution is “located.” BrainLinks-BrainTools has established fruitful collaborations with several internationally renowned academic institutions in Israel (Weizmann Institute of Science, ELSC, Ben-Gurion University, Technion, University of Haifa, Gonda Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center). Scientists from these institutions in Germany and Israel and eight young scientists from both countries are now involved in the Störung/הפרעה Project on many levels. They have access to the dance classes for people with Parkinson’s and they are engaged in regular dance and movement research classes themselves. They have established joint research projects with dancers and their scientific colleagues in both countries, reflecting on their methods and sharing and discussing results and outcomes. The international character of the project is meant to support future research networks between both countries.
3: The perspective of the People with Parkinson’s / The everyday expertise
In their own unique way, people with Parkinson’s have multiple experiences with movement and movement disorder and are experts for what it means to lose control over the movements of one’s body. In the context of medical treatment, they are often reduced to their status as patients and objects of research and medication. In their daily life they have not only to deal with physical restraints, bodily limitations, losses or changes of their abilities to move but also with a radical change of their social life. Their personal identity tends to be only defined by the disease and their social interactions are affected by the dysfunction of their physical abilities. The Störung/הפרעה Project invites people with Parkinson’s to be partners in reflection and considers them as equal members of the project in a joint learning process. The dance for Parkinson’s classes are situated in an artistic environment in which they are neither patients nor objects of treatment or therapy. Here the common abbreviation PD does not stand for Parkinson’s Disease but for Parkinson Dancer. For the time of the dance classes they are invited to see and to feel themselves as dancers and their experiences and observations are an important source of information for the mutual learning process of all the members of the research project. This is why we are speaking of dance classes and not of therapy, even if there are multiple therapeutic impacts of the classes which we welcome and try to better understand. Patients who “have” a disease are often left alone, but in the dance classes, people with Parkinson’s are part of a group and share experiences and impacts that are exclusively coming out of a group energy and a group situation. As well, the public formats “open practice” (in Germany) and “open house” (in Israel) gives them a voice and various opportunities to articulate their perspective – one that helps us to open new and multiple perspectives about how we look at, work with and understand movement disorders from the very personal and private to the societal. This might not only lead to improved (neurotechnological) treatment options but also stimulate the discussion about the body-mind interactions and support a new understanding of how our societies should deal with the concepts of disease, disorder, dysfunction or Störung/הפרעה .
Final Conferences in Israel (7. & 8. December) and Germany (18. & 19. December)
The project sees all participants as experts in their own specific way and aims to discover what can be gained by stepping out of one’s familiar research habits and roles and begins to question their relationship to research, creativity, experimentation and society. It is about what happens when scientific research and artistic research shares perspectives and approaches, and discusses and compares concepts, methods and tools.
In our final conferences in Tel Aviv (Israel) and Freiburg (Germany) we want to focus on the learning process of all sides, which also elucidates the concept of “process” and what happens if a project is not emphasizing outcomes but is an ongoing investigation of how one reflects, analyzes and experiments. In workshops, showings, lectures, talks and presentations we want to show some examples of what can be the outcome if artists and scientists in collaboration with the expertise of the people with Parkinson’s opens their minds and gets curious about their approaches and philosophies.