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.
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4, 5, 6, 7. The remarkable sleuth Olivier Gay has found these photographs of Marta Cinta González Saldaña in December 2019, presumably very close to the time of her death, on a visit of the students and faculty of Ballet Masters Alcoi (in Spain, near Alicante) to the Alcoy Wall Asylum. (Here too we read the erroneous information that she was a dancer with New York City Ballet.( All the photographs posted by this Alcoi Ballet School on Facebook are wonderfully touching. It’s good to think of these dancers making this connection with González at the end of her life. A great deal of projection has been going on nonetheless about the original video. It’s interesting that several people need to believe she was a very important Odette on minimal evidence apart from the misleading footage of Ulyana/Yuliana Lopatkina in “The Dying Swan” (different ballet, different dancer, different training, different music) If you’re moved by the video, as many are, then it’s actually more marvellous to find this glimpse of dance inspiration amid the dementia of a largely unknown dancer. Tuesday 10 November
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.