Alzheimer’s struggle shared through dance


By Heather Collins

Michael Haas said if he had to use one word to describe Alzheimer’s disease, it’s silence.

The Carmel resident’s story was recently told through interpretive dance during “Sharing My Story: Still Connected,” at the Arthur M. Glick JCC Laikin Auditorium.

Haas’ story explored his frustrations with Alzheimer’s disease. They included forgetting his usual drink size at Starbucks: A ‘venti’ that he’s ordered hundreds of times; standing in the kitchen and forgetting what utensil he’s holding in his hand; sitting at the Christmas dinner table with his children and grandchildren and forgetting stories about his own childhood Christmases.

The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter partnered with Dance Kaleidoscope to tell 10 personal stories, written by local Alzheimer’s Association Early-Stage Program participants, through interpretive dance. Dance Kaleidoscope choreographed and performed the diverse stories. Some of the early-stage program participants, including Haas, went onstage to read their stories prior to the performance.

Haas’ wife and caretaker, Mollie, described the event as wonderful, inspiring and therapeutic.

“It was intense,” Mollie said. “It really let us see our experience in a fresh way.”

Michael and Mollie attend several of the Alzheimer’s Association Early-Stage Program events throughout the year, including plays at The Tarkington and previous Dance Kaleidoscope performances.

The couple moved from New Hampshire, where they both taught at Franklin Pierce University, to Carmel in 2014 to live with their son, Roy, and grandson, Tim. In New Hampshire, Michael taught Comparative Religion at Franklin Pierce University and was an Episcopal priest.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and predicts 16 million will have the disease in 2050.

“Sharing My Story: Still Connected” is part of the Alzheimer’s Association Early-Stage Program and Dance Kaleidoscope’s Turning Points program, a collaborative program that creates a safe environment for individuals to share their stories through narratives and dance performances.

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“When we get home, I am standing silently in the kitchen between the sink and the stove. I look at the object in my hand. What is it and where does it go? I can’t think of the words to ask. Wait. I just took it out of the drawer. On the cutting board in a random heap: carrots, leafy celery, a papery onion. The holy trinity of my cooking for more than 50 years. I will use this implement in my hand to chop them finely, uniformly. I transform that heap of vegetables into the symmetrical gold, white and green of the Irish fla . I may not know what to do next, but I am still connected with my vegetables. And the vegetables connect me with my family. They love to eat what I help to cook.”


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