Ballet Dancer With Alzheimer's Remembers Swan Lake In Emotional Video

by Cassandra Stone

Marta C González was a prima ballerina in the 1960s in the New York Ballet

Alzheimer’s is a vicious disease that has ravaged many, many families around the world by stealing the most precious part of the person who has it: their memory. A viral video of a former prima ballerina is making everyone just completely lose it on social media, because watching her listen to Tchaikovsky and remember the choreography of her old performance is utterly captivating.

Marta C González was a prima ballerina with the New York Ballet in the 1960s. While there, she landed the lead role in many ballets, including Swan Lake — where she danced for audiences as Odette. González died from Alzheimer’s in 2019, but a video captured by the Spanish charity Asociación Música para Desperta is now going viral. The staff of the charity played the famous number, “Swan Theme,” by Tchaikovsky, and what happened when González heard the familiar notes of the music will have you reaching for the nearest box of tissues.

As the music began to play, González instantly recognized the melody and began to move her arms in sync with the original choreography — a true ballerina, through and through.

“Her dancing is an example of procedural memory, which are your memories for motor skills,” Katelyn Frey, Ph.D. student and instructor in the Adult Development and Aging program at the University of Akron, tells Scary Mommy. “These types of memories often remain intact in individuals with dementia. Musical memories can be procedural too, since music and dancing tend to go hand-in-hand, as does music and the motor skills necessary for playing an instrument. Music and music therapy are invaluable for individuals with dementia.”

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time. It typically begins with dementia symptoms that gradually worsen over a number of years. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s is currently the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

When the video began making the rounds on Twitter, many people shared how moved they were from watching.

Pepe Olmedo, psychologist, musician and director of Música para Despertar, is the man who appears alongside Marta in the video. He told HuffPost UK that being with González in that moment was one of “the most impressive moments” he’s ever experienced in his life.

″[I was] absolutely excited to be able to see her response, and to be able to accompany and facilitate this moment, so that she could fully enjoy it.”