Over 50,000 people in the Netherlands live with Parkinson’s disease. Although the disorder tends to affect older people, the youngest sufferer is only 8 years old. For those diagnosed with Parkinson’s, daily life can be a challenge. Others are often unaware that their physical impairments are caused by a disorder; their loss of balance and stumbling is often mistaken for drunkenness or lethargy, and people tell them to get out of the way. The charity Dance for Health uses dance to enhance the physical and mental wellbeing of people with Parkinson’s. For BRAND, the challenge was to bring the power of dance to a greater number of Parkinson’s patients and care professionals. While, at the same time, encouraging awareness of the disease among a larger segment of the population, and improving overall understanding of and empathy with people with Parkinson’s.
In 2015, the VPRA and industry journal ‘Communicatie’ awarded the campaign concept the Dutch PR MVO-Award for the best and most original PR idea for a social project. BRAND communicatie used the allocated implementation budget to develop the concept ‘May I Have this Dance’ on behalf of, and with Dance for Health, to show how dance helps Parkinson’s sufferers rediscover the joy of mobility. The campaign emphasized the benefits of weekly dancing lessons for participants. Dance helps them regain freedom through movement, uplifting them both mentally and physically.
“I feel like a human being again, not a patient”. – Martin Giling
The campaign was built around crowdsourcing. In late January 2016, a promotional film went out across the globe asking people to dance with the Parkinson’s dancers by sending in their own dance clip. The promo was shared on a large, world-wide network of partner organisations and dance-lovers. Over forty videos were submitted from around the world, and edited to create an amazing virtual dance performance. The film premiered on World Parkinson’s Day on April 11 in the Rotterdamse Schouwburg [Rotterdam Theatre], and is currently touring the world. The special dance event was accompanied by remarkable performances by Scapino Ballet Rotterdam and the audience – over 200 people – participated in a dance workshop led by ballet master Andrew Greenwood. Everyone, with or without Parkinson’s, was welcome.
“I’m no longer a patient, I’m a dancer.” Yolande Andeweg
With the live event and virtual dance performance, we aimed to convince as many Parkinson’s sufferers as possible to sign up for Dance for Health classes.
The promo film was viewed over 100,000 times and gained hundreds of shares. Inspired by the power of social sharing, people throughout the world submitted more than forty dance videos for the compilation film – crowdsourcing at its best. The project received coverage in local, regional and national press, and public media and professional media in the dance and care sectors. The number of social media followers grew by almost 60%. The number of participants in the dance lessons rose by over 25%.
But, most importantly, the project finally showed people affected by Parkinson’s in a positive way, as individuals in their own right.