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Irish dancing proving the right step for Parkinson's

THE rhythm, beat and discipline of traditional Irish dancing are proving to be just the medicine for Parkinson's disease patients.

A leading neurologist made a chance discovery of the therapeutic benefits of Irish dancing on those with the progressive disorder.

The Italian doctor – Prof Daniele Volpe – explained that he made his discovery when playing guitar in Pepper's pub in Feakle, Co Clare, in 2010 and noticed a man who earlier had struggled to walk set dance without any difficulty.

The academic then returned to Venice to examine the therapeutic effects for patients.

Prof Volpe announced yesterday that a wider study is to commence next month in collaboration with the University of Limerick.

Irish and Italian people with Parkinson's yesterday took part in a set-dancing event to demonstrate the benefits of Irish dancing to a packed Feakle Community Centre.

Dance teacher Romano Baratella said: "Over the past three years, we have seen big progress for our dancers. They are better with their movement and equilibrium and they are also a little bit happier."

Prof Volpe, director of Neurological Rehabilitation at St Raffaele Arcangelo Hospital in Venice, said yesterday that the conclusions of his preliminary study into the therapeutic effects of set dancing have found that it is superior to traditional physiotherapy.

Today, there are an estimated 9,000 Parkinson's patients in Ireland.