A new form of rehabilitation is being offered in Kaitaia for people who have had a stroke, with a new series of dance workshops.

Dance therapist Zsuzsanna Love will run the weekly dance sessions, after Arts Far North gained funding from Creative New Zealand.

Committee member Lois Stather-Dunn, a former doctor, had a stroke when she was just 42. From personal experience, she knew there was little available in the community for people recovering from stroke or other neurological disorder.

"As a retired doctor, and having had a stroke myself some 20 years ago, I am very aware that there is little out there in the community in the way of rehabilitation or arts activities which are suitable for people who have had their lives devastatingly altered by a stroke.


"This is particularly true where there has been a loss of mobility, perhaps necessitating wheelchair or walker use, or loss of communication skills," she said.

Dance offered benefits for those struggling with mobility, in the same way some stroke victims who could not talk were able to sing, Dr Stather-Dunn said.

"Sometimes the brain might be able to remember something in the context of dance that they can't normally," she said.

The dance sessions would also increase socialisation and help combat depression, two common issues after a stroke, Dr Stather-Dunn said.

Arts Far North used the example of the successful "At a Stroke" fine arts group for people who had a stroke, tutored by Jen Gay on Fridays.

"Having been going to the group for a few years, I've noticed improvements in all of the people. I've noticed improvements in myself and people who are much more disabled as well," Dr Stather-Dunn said.

The plasticity of the human brain meant improvements could happen decades after the stroke, she said.

"The human brain is plastic — it retains an ability to rewire itself, to find a way around a problem. You won't get the exact same nerves coming back because they've been destroyed but another route may develop."


The new dance workshops will use mindfulness meditation techniques. There was no expectation of particular levels of ability or disability, she said.

"The sessions will be very friendly and won't follow a particular choreography."

The hall was wheelchair-friendly and the sessions would also be suitable for those with walkers.

Dr Stather-Dunn said carers — who were also impacted by the stroke of their loved one — might want to join in for some fun.

Take the step

The dance workshops, at the Hope Christian Centre, Commerce St, will run at 10.30am on Mondays from March 25 for 16 weeks. Contact Lois on (09) 408-3360 for more information.


The "At a Stroke" art group is held on Friday mornings at 10.30am during term time at the IDEA Services garage on Te Reinga St. Contact Jen on 021-0588-890 for more information.