We're sometimes struck by how TBWA\Paris can go from childlike and surreal to poignant without ever distracting us from the insight at the heart of their stories. This is the first thing we thought when we saw its latest work for France Parkinson, an organizaton dedicated to fighting Parkinson's disease.
Most of what we know about Parkinson's can be summed up by having grown up alongside the rise, fall and steady revival of the career of actor Michael J. Fox, who's combatted the disease for the last 31 years. But in France specifically, one adult in 250 live with the disease, though just 16 percent of French people are aware of its prevalence; 83 percent consider it rare, though it is the second-highest neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's worldwide.
TBWA's goal was to use interpretive dance to expose this "most unknown of all known diseases." The work is directed by Norman Bates.
La Chica's "Oasis" is a nice choice of track. Its gentle lilting provides a lot for the dancers to play with, but the mere concept of an oasis feels like something from which the main character is drifting—the oasis of her own body, interrupted by an invisible dance partner who acts on her like a malevolent puppeteer.
The relationship begins subtly. The woman dances alone before finding she is not quite alone anymore. And as the dance progresses, her new partner becomes more aggressive, pulling her out of alignment with the sense of tacit trust she has in her ability to manage her movements.
It's hard not to watch this and not think of an abusive relationship. But the insidious force imposing control on your movements is inside you, maybe even part of you. It feels like betrayal. And it feels exhausting.
"In France, 200,000 people have to share their lives with Parkinson's," the ad concludes, followed by a call to donate.
In addition to being a poetic choice, there were a number of practical reasons to use dance as the medium to change our sensibilities about Parkinson's disease. One is the belief (among 77 percent of the French population) that the most common symptom is tremors, but the symptoms are far more diverse. Knowing this is critical; focusing on tremors specifically results in people belittling manifestations of the disease among older sufferers.
Slow motion affects nearly 99 percent of patients, though it was cited by just 34 percent of respondents to France Parkinson's Opinion Way survey with AAPlus this year. Some 85 percent of patients experience stiffness, and 40 percent of respondents observe symptoms that tend to be more associated with Alzheimer's than Parkinson's, like disorientation in time and space, and loss of memory.
It's hard to remember all this if it doesn't feel immediately relevant, which makes the choice of interpretive dance so smart. Sensations of stiffness come to mind when you watch the woman struggling to move across the floor while "Parkinson's" clutches at her ankles, resisting her with full bodily weight. The moments when he seizes her hands, rendering her movements sluggish and imprecise, leave strong imprints that may come to mind when evidence of slow motion appears in a loved one.
As for the similarities between Parkinson's and Alzheimer's … the way this work entered us reminded us of The Caretaker's "Everywhere at the End of Time" project from 2019. The six-and-a-half-hour continuous album is designed to reflect the six stages of Alzheimer's. It is alternately nostalgic and terrifying at different intervals, sometimes one after the other, both for reasons that are hard to cohesively grasp.
These moments, when a work turns abstract knowledge into sensory body-knowledge, creates an ability to relate to the unknown that doesn't quite happen when you're just being told a sad story, then asked to open your wallet. They teach us something of what it might feel like to lose cherished functions we take for granted.
Client : France Parkinson
Agency : TBWA\Paris
Client Managers : Aurélie CAMM CHAPEL & Amandine LAGARDE & Didier ROBILLARD & Valentin RIBERA
Agency Managers : Jonathan SEROG, Julia MONTAGU, Nina FERNANDES
Executive Creative Directors : Benjamin MARCHAL & Faustin CLAVERIE (who gave us this unforgettably weird interview)
Art Directors : Morgane ALEXANDRE & Sébastien SKRZYPCZAK
Strategic Planner : Léa RIVOIRE
Head of Production : Maxime BOIRON
TV Prod : Amer ZOGHBI
Production : BADASS FILMS
Producer : Blaise IZARD
Head of Production : Manuel HENOQUE
Director : Norman BATES
Post Prod : \Else
Post Producer : Éléonore GIRARD
Soundtrack : \Else
Head of Music & Sound : Olivier LEFEBVRE
Sound Director : Ambroise CABRY
Music Art Director : Ferdinand HUET
Music Credits : "OASIS" La Chica