Japanese expressive dance to help people with dementia tune in to memories and emotions

The Power of Totsu-Totsu Dance: Connecting People with Dementia

Living with dementia can be incredibly isolating, as the progression of cognitive decline often leads to a sense of disconnection from the world, loved ones, and even one’s own identity. However, there is hope in the form of Totsu-totsu dance, an experimental therapy that stimulates emotional connections between individuals with dementia and their caregivers, even in those who have lost the ability to speak.

The Essence of Totsu-Totsu Dance

Totsu-totsu dance is not your typical dance form that aims for perfection. It is a unique experiment in day-to-day bodily communication, characterized by slow, wavering, and hesitant moves. Choreographer Osamu Jareo, the mastermind behind Totsu-totsu dance, believes that despite its simplicity, this form of dance holds immense potential in fostering meaningful connections.

Expressing Without Words

In Totsu-totsu dance, words are unnecessary. Instead, individuals learn to convey their favorite memories, everyday stories, emotions, and even subconscious thoughts through expressive movements. Dementia Singapore has partnered with Mr. Jareo, a Japanese experimental dance choreographer, to introduce this new dance therapy initiative.

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Bringing Totsu-Totsu Dance to Singapore

Mr. Jareo conducted an introductory session in August for staff and volunteers from the social service charity. He also held workshops for people with dementia and their caregivers. Recently, he returned to Singapore to conduct a session at Our Tampines Hub with four participants who had previously engaged in Dementia Singapore’s arts-based programs.

The Empowering Effects of Dance

Expressive dance has the ability to draw people with dementia out of their isolation. Through unrefined and spontaneous bursts of movement, individuals can release pent-up frustrations. Mr. Jareo first developed Totsu-totsu dance in 2009 when he initiated dance workshops and performances for elderly residents of Graceville Maizuru, a nursing home in Kyoto, Japan.

The Therapeutic Potential

According to Dr. Hong Liyue, a geriatrician from Alexandra Hospital, individuals with dementia often struggle to find the right words to express themselves, leading to frustration and agitation. However, music and dance provide a platform for them to express their emotions and recall memories associated with specific pieces of music or movements. Dr. Kalyani Mehta, a gerontology researcher, believes that engaging in group activities like dance can uplift the spirits of individuals with dementia, reduce stress and anxiety, and make them more manageable throughout the day.