Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 30 November 2020

Who is Marta C Gonzalez? Former ballerina with Alzheimer's goes viral after dancing to 'Swan Lake'

The Spanish dancer appeared to remember decades-old choreography as she listened to Tchaikovsky’s classic score

A video that purports to show a former ballet dancer with Alzheimer's gracefully moving to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is touching hearts around the world.

Since it was uploaded online on October 30 by Asociacion Musica para Despertar, a Spanish organisation that promotes music therapy, the clip been viewed more than 1.2 million times to date.

The dancer, Marta C Gonzalez, suffers from memory loss which makes her dance all the more poignant, as she remembers decades-old choreography thanks to the power of music. However, questions have been raised about the video, which is interspersed with archival clips of a dancer which many had assumed was Gonzalez, but is actually a different performer.

Alastair Macaulay, a former dance critic for The New York Times, has delved into the dancer's history, and is sharing his findings on Instagram.

When it was posted, Asociacion Musica para Despertar revealed the video was taken in Valencia, Spain in 2019, and that Gonzalez has since died.

While the video claims she was a ballerina with the New York Ballet in the 1960s, Macaulay has pointed out that no company exists by that name and the New York City Ballet doesn’t list Gonzalez as an alumnus.

He reveals the archival footage showing a younger dancer is actually of a different ballerina named Ulyana Lopatkina and she's dancing to The Dying Swan rather than Swan Lake.

Macaulay has also shared a post that shows Gonzalez in December 2019 on a visit to the students and faculty of Masters Ballet Alcoi in Spain.

“All the photographs posted by this Alcoi Ballet School on Facebook are wonderfully touching. It’s good to think of these dancers making this connection with Gonzalez at the end of her life,” he wrote.

However, even though there’s little information about which dance organisation Gonzalez belonged to or even her personal background, Macaulay concludes that perhaps people should only take the video for what it is.

"A great deal of projection has been going on nonetheless about the original video. It’s interesting that several people need to believe she was a very important Odette, on minimal evidence apart from the misleading footage of Ulyana Lopatkina in The Dying Swan," he writes.

"If you’re moved by the video, as many are, then it’s actually more marvellous to find this glimpse of dance inspiration amid the dementia of a largely unknown dancer."

Updated: November 12, 2020 11:38 AM

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