At a health conference at Feakle Community Center on Tuesday, a group of Irish and Italian people with Parkinson's disease performed a few reels of Irish set dancing for a crowded room.
The conference in Co Clare took place three years after Irish set dancing was discovered to provide therapeutic effects on those who have been diagnosed with the degenerative neurological disorder.
The Irish Examiner reports that Italian neurologist Dr. Daniele Volpe made this discovery when he was in Feakle in 2010 playing guitar in a session in Pepper's Pub. He noticed that a man who had struggled to walk engaged in set dancing without any impediment.
After making this discovery, Volpe returned to Venice and established the Black Sheep group for Irish set dancing, studying its effects on Parkinson's patients. The number of Black Sheep dancers has increased from 8 to 35 in the past three years.
The teacher for the class, Romano Baratella says that "Over the past three years, we have seen big progress for our dancers. They are better with their equilibrium and they are also a little bit happier."
Dr. Timothy Lynch, consultant neurologist on the group, said that the pilot study's findings are intriguing. A wider study conducted in collaboration with the University of Limerick is scheduled to start next month.