Anyone who knows or has met a person with cerebral palsy (CP) is likely to be immediately aware of the challenges faced by those with this condition. Depending on the severity of their disability, a person with mild CP may have an odd gait while serious cases may require a wheelchair. This is because the brain signals that control movement do not work properly, usually due to brain damage during birth or early in a person’s life.
While there is no known cure for CP, Gregg Mozgala, an actor in his 30s with the disability, didn’t let that stop him from learning how to dance. Profiled in the New York Times, Gregg and his choreographer Tamar Rogoff worked on a dance routine for Gregg that dramatically changed Gregg’s body and his ability to move.
Learning to Dance
In the article, Gregg says that even before his dance project, his condition was less severe than most. He could walk after 12 years of physical therapy as a child. However, his posture and gait remained abnormal, and his upper body deformed itself in an attempt to counterbalance the problems with his legs.
The Theater Breaking Through Barriers is a performance group based around bringing together actors with disabilities and those without. Gregg was playing the lead male role in “Romeo and Juliet” when Tamar discovered him. They soon began working together, unsure of what to expect because of Gregg’s CP and Tamar’s ambitions as a choreographer.
It proved to be a great match. The dance routine Tamar created for Gregg forced him to break out of the routines his body had established due to CP. As a choreographer, Tamar’s understanding of human anatomy helped her design a dance that would both incorporate Gregg’s CP while challenging him to move beyond it. She introduced Gregg to a tension-releasing shaking technique and it had immediate results. Gregg said after doing it for 20-30 minutes, he could stand up and put his feet flat on the ground. Previously, CP had Gregg walking on the balls of his feet.
As the routine progressed – and grew from 10 minutes to over an hour with three new cast members – Tamar helped Gregg discover specific muscles, bones and tendons he formerly had little to no control over. Gregg developed his ability to connect his brain with the rest of his body and his dance routine improved – as well as his function off the stage. Gregg says with concentration, he’s now able to walk without people noticing his disability, which it has given a tremendous boost to his self-confidence.
Neuroplasticity: A Cure For Cerebral Palsy?
Scientists attribute this reconnection between brain and body to neuroplasticity, an emerging field of research studying how the brain is able to develop, or redevelop, pathways of muscle control. Previously, this was not considered possible and while research is ongoing, stories like Gregg’s are reason for optimism.
If you or someone you love has cerebral palsy, don’t give up hope. Contact our experienced attorneys today. You may be entitled to compensation, and we offer a free consultation to help you determine your best course of action to get the help you need.