STEP UP FOR PARKINSON’S – NATALIE MUSCHAMP

Who is Natalie Muschamp in the eyes of Natalie Muschamp?

Natalie Muschamp is a young woman who has a lot of passion who knows her purpose in life and who will continuously try and improve herself in order to be able to help others.

Can you recall the first time you experienced dance?

I believe I was dancing before I was walking! I definitely can recall the first time being on stage, and thinking ‘wow, this is amazing’. I was in awe of how you can give people something – a feeling, laughter – You can connect in a way. Performing is one of the greatest pleasures I’ve ever known.

You’re a graduate of Dance Studies from the University of Malta. How do cerebral and physical intelligence overlap to you as a performer?

I believe that they overlap completely; they are one. As dancers, you translate through movements the story or the impact that the choreographer has created. Depending on what kind of work and choreographer, there’s a rehearsal period which either has creative tasks to create the work together with the choreographer, or sometimes you just simply have to learn the piece. It’s our job then to go deeper into the material, to think, to feel, to train intently, to be able to give the best performance. As a performer, you always want to master the work that is given. You want to embody the material as good as possible, and then go even further. For me, once I’m on stage, passion and emotion fuel every movement.

Image credit: Sarinah Photography

Through Step Up for Parkinson’s, you provide dance therapy to a number of patients. Could you tell us a bit more about this initiative?

I decided to continue my studies at the dance department here in Malta after a period in which I had walked away from dancing due to the loss of my father. I was in a period of my life in which I realised that I cannot live without dance, and that I wanted to use this incredible passion that I have for it to learn more, and with more knowledge, be able to help people through dance. Almost two years ago Francesca Tranter from the dance department had shown me a video on dance classes for people with Parkinson’s, and as soon as I watched it, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. In 2010, my aunt walked a pilgrimage from Amsterdam to Rome to raise money for the Dutch Parkinson’s Foundation, as she had lost her partner to this disease. Ineke raised €13,000 and published a little book about the experience. So when I saw that video, I instantly knew that this was what I wanted to do. I contacted the Maltese Parkinson’s Disease Association and started collaborating with them. They funded me last year to go to the University of Plymouth to be trained by Dance for PD and People Dancing UK to be able to teach a class specialised for people with Parkinson’s.

Image credit: Sarinah Photography

 

These dance classes started 15 years ago in the US, and ever since, case studies have proven that these do improve balance, motoric ability and quality of life. With these classes, my intention is to also give the participants methods to cope with their disease in their daily lives. Now I have my own voluntary organisation where I work with an incredible team whom I cannot thank enough for their support. Step Up for Parkinson’s is based out of the University of Malta TakeOff incubator facility on the university campus. The aim of the organisation is to keep on giving dance classes to people with Parkinson’s, to raise international awareness about Parkinson’s and how dance can be beneficial. We want to continue researching the benefits of dance for people with Parkinson’s.

You’ve inspired and made a difference to so many of your patients. How have they made a difference to you? What have you learnt from the process?

To be honest, they keep on inspiring me! It’s more than wonderful knowing that I can make people smile and happy, and help them forget even just for a moment about their disease. This process has taught me so many things about myself, life, love and connection. We live in a world where we hardly really connect, and there are unfortunately a lot of people who live in isolation. This often occurs to people with Parkinson’s disease. So I believe it’s our duty to look after each other, to be kind to each other, to judge less and love more. As long as I have the possibilities and the breath in me to help other people through dance, I will. This is just a single step of an incredible journey.

Image credit: Sarinah Photography

 

Aside from the continuous evolution of dance therapy, where do you think dance as an art form is heading?

I believe dance becomes more and more interdisciplinary, and as an art form more accessible to a larger audience. Looking at Malta, dance has grown enormously over the last few years, and it’ll keep on growing especially now with the national company ŻfinMalta, the Junior Dance Company, and the growing Department of Dance at the University of Malta. Valletta being Capital of Culture in 2018 will definitely give added value to dance as an art form.