Music reawakens memory of former ballerina with Alzheimer's in moving video

It's a remarkable sight when Marta Cinta González Saldaña begins to gracefully dance as if on stage again.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
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González Saldaña seems to feel every nuance of the music as she dances in her wheelchair. 

Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Memory loss is among the first symptoms experienced by those with Alzheimer's. But in a remarkable and moving video, memories visibly awaken in a former ballerina with the disease when she hears the music of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake

The video shows Marta Cinta González Saldaña as she listens to the music through headphones. Sitting in a wheelchair, she instantly begins to move her arms and sway her upper body with the grace and precision of a prima ballerina on stage in her finest hour.  

As the music crescendoes, so do her movements. And her facial expressions reflect a lasting, deeply felt connection to the classic ballet. 

The video was recorded in 2019 and recently shared by the Asociación Música para Despertar, a Spanish organization that promotes music therapy for those with memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

The footage -- which intersperses archival footage of another dancer on stage -- has gone viral in recent days, shared by celebrities including Antonio Banderas. It's no doubt a touch of beauty and inspiration during a challenging year marked by a pandemic, economic strain and political rancor. 

Asociación Música para Despertar says González Saldaña danced with the "New York Ballet" in the 1960s, but as NPR reports, there's no known company by that name and the famed New York City Ballet doesn't list anyone with González Saldaña's name as one of its former dancers. Alastair Macaulay, a former New York Times dance critic, has been investigating González Saldaña's history and posting updates to Instagram. 

Macaulay's most recent update shows photos of the dancer visiting and guiding students and faculty at Spain's Ballet Masters Alcoi in December of last year. 

González Saldaña passed away since the video was recorded. Regardless of who she danced for, like the Tchaikovsky music that moved her on such an instinctual level, her powerful performance lives on.