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National College for Community Dance

DANCE, HEALTH AND WELLBEING Pathway to practice for dance leaders working in health and care settings

By Miranda Tufnell

Handbook published by Foundation for Community Dance for people leading dance in community settings and contexts.

!"#$%#$&' Foreword




About Miranda




()*$'"#%'!"#$%+$' A guide for dancers working in health 1 My story


2 Background thoughts on health


()*$'$,"'(*)-$.-%'/#",0%12%'' 1 The body as movement



What kind of dance?



What can movement bring to health?



Setting up a project



Establishing a group



Working one-to-one



Getting going



Choosing what to do in a session



Finding a voice: movement, metaphor and story


10 The need for stillness


11 Combining movement with other arts: a multi-sensory approach


12 Meeting a variety of needs


13 Skills for practitioners


14 Evaluation


15 Funding


16 Appendix 1: Sample questionnaire


17 Appendix 2: National policy issues - statements from Kate Gant, Mark Webster and Mike White


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!"#$%$&#''%!#"($)('% Case Studies 1 Poem by Sue Field


2 Lucinda Jarrett: Moving into being


3 Lisa Dowler: Working with children in hospital wards


4 Amanda Fogg: Movement sessions for people with Parkinson’s Disease


5 Richard Coaten: Working with older people with Dementia


6 Kate Flatt: Working with bereavement counsellors


7 Jasmine Pasch: Working in a school for children on the autistic spectrum


8 Cath Hawkins: Working with children in an Oncology ward


9 Lucia Walker: Working with children dealing with the death or terminal illness of a parent 84 10 Karen Adcock Doyle: Working with children and families affected by trauma and abuse


11 Jeannie Donald-McKim: Moving imagination workshops with people with Multiple Sclerosis


12 Joe Moran: Working with dance, health and wellbeing












!"#$%&"'%(")*+,),(&"-./(0"&*"$,%1&$2"" " W hen we are not well, the body becom es

concern is not ‘cure’, but bringing about easier

som ething unpredictable and som etim es

conditions in body and soul. Listening to the

feared for how it m ay react: violent

body-as-movement opens a door into

shaking, dizziness, sudden spasm s of

constellations of memory, feeling, story and

pain, inability to breathe. Then there is

dream, the wider field of our experience, at play

the sham e of not being able to cope with

within our tissues that can transform how we

everyday tasks, of being easily and often

feel and bring us back to feeling at home in

suddenly overwhelm ed. The rawness of

ourselves. It is this expanding of attention

living with chronic pain can stress the

beyond illness that the arts brings about. In this

body so utterly that the only way to cope

they strengthen our capacity to meet and adapt

is to narrow focus and lock bodily

to change.

attention. Moving the body moves the mind, so that we see Most of us feel at a loss when we are ill. Despite

and feel differently. Having an alive, creative

living in a culture in many ways obsessed with

relationship to our bodies opens a door into

‘the body’, we tend to live on automatic pilot,

unseen and often neglected aspects of who we

ignoring how the body feels and taking its

are. Movement, sourced from inside – through

functioning for granted. Only when we lose our

breath, sensation, impulse, memory and story –

health do we realise that we are strangers to our

can enable a body in pain to gain a measure of

physical selves, confused and fearful of

control and thus of more ease. It offers a way of

unfamiliar sensations of pain or discomfort.

becoming more perceptually active in sensing our selves both physically and emotionally.

The arts cannot solve our problems, but they invite us to question, to explore and thereby to

In engaging our senses and imagination, dance

discover other aspects of who we are.

evokes images and metaphors that in turn open

Dance/movement has the capacity to bring us

up the stories we tell of ourselves. Dance can

into a more personal and imaginative

move us from the passivity of being a ‘patient’

relationship with our bodies (whatever state we

into active participation in restoring our own

are in). In this as dancers working in health, our



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and concerns as this is human work as much as it is dance work, and grows from a mutuality of

Tim e and trust lie at the heart of this work. As an artist, taking tim e to tune to another’s story, their ‘body-story’ beneath the words, feeling for the direction in which a session m ay need to go, is a delicate and challenging process requiring every tool in your im proviser’s

seeing together, sharing the art of living! Feeling recognised, a sense of being ‘seen’, underpins the success or failure of a session and this is something we as artists are uniquely placed to do. Keeping in touch with your own creative self is vital if you are to find the means to support another person to find theirs.

box. It calls for bodily empathy and the capacity to


identify imaginatively with a wide range of individuals – also the utmost sensitivity to their

Touch is also a precious skill in giving support to

fears and vulnerabilities. It also calls for joy, wit,

those who have very restricted movement.

humour and trust in the process of life itself in

Touch is the most fundamental of our senses

order to listen through the pain for clues as to

and thus it is vital that we, as dancers, familiar

how to draw another person into a creative

with touch, are sensitive to another’s

space. All this requires going slowly, carefully,

boundaries. What comforts one person may feel

listening deeply with every cell of your own body,

intrusive to another. Touch, like movement, is a

and yet keeping the field of your attention wide,

language, it can stimulate fears, shame and

gentle, spacious – listening for response in

uncomfortable memories.

whatever form it comes to guide your process – above all, taking time.

We need to listen, and read the signs of what is appropriate, and where possible engage another with both permission and a choice of where and


how they would like touch.

Each of us has a unique blend of skills that we


bring to our work. It is helpful to stay connected


to the wider field of your own interests, passions

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A Foundation for Community Dance Publication

The Foundation for Community Dance is the professional organisation for anyone involved in creating opportunities for people to experience and participate in dance. The National College for Community Dance is FCDâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s home for professional development pathways for people delivering dance in community settings and contexts. It delivers courses, seminars, flexible online learning opportunities and advocates for professional development opportunities UK wide and internationally for dance leadership in the community.

Foundation for Community Dance LCB Depot, 31, Rutland Street, Leicester, LE1 1RE Tel: +44 (0)116 253 3453 E-mail: Web: Company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales no. 2415458 Registered Charity no. 328392

Dance, health and wellbeing  

Dance, health and wellbeing by Miranda Tufnell

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