Dance for Parkinsons - Oxford. Photo: Rachel Cherry
Today is World Parkinson’s Awareness Day: Laura Harvey, Head of Creative Programmes at English National Ballet, talks about their highly successful Dance for Parkinson’s programme.
English National Ballet (ENB) has been running dance classes for people living with Parkinson’s and their carers since 2010. Part of my role is to develop this programme – both in terms of geographical spread but also in terms of content.
ENB's Dance for Parkinson’s (DfP) model is delivered in London, and nationally in collaboration with regional hub partners: National Dance Company Wales based in Cardiff, DanceEast in Ipswich, MDI in Liverpool and Oxford City Council.
Our classes offer a happy, positive atmosphere and incorporate dance, vocal work and live music. Artistry is at the heart of the programme and all classes are specifically designed for with people living with Parkinson’s. At ENB we know that dancing is a great activity: no matter how you move, dancing resonates deeply on intellectual, social and emotional levels. It really enriches lives!
We keep the classes interesting by linking them to the repertoire our Company’s dancers are performing. So for example, this spring, they are inspired by Jerome Robbins' The Cage, which our dancers are performing at Sadler’s Wells from this week. The female dancers are like predators and move like insects: we’ve taken this as inspiration and explored the distinct style of that choreography. Our groups are also invited to the theatre see the company perform and some of our dancers even drop into the DfP class to join in!
The feedback from participants is always very positive. Living with Parkinson’s does not only affect people physically: it can have a huge impact emotionally on their self-esteem, confidence or ability to complete everyday tasks. When they come to our class, we want our participants to focus on the artistic experience, to have a sense of community and importantly to feel free from the constraints of their condition.
“I have hope for the future I recognise that I lead my life with the cards I’m dealt rather than wallow in self-pity. It’s rewarding for me to see me do what I’m doing. You need to know there is a future and you need to know there’s people who’ve got talents and ability to help you and to give you hope. The dancing is enhancing and enriching.”
We worked with Roehampton University on a six year investigative study on the impact of our classes on participants. Findings revealed that the programme is proven to support people living with Parkinson’s in developing confidence and strength, whilst temporarily relieving some participants of symptoms in everyday life.
In the words of Ron, who comes to our classes in Oxford,“it’s good for you. It gives you a clear heard and you forget your problems!”.
Today (11 April), for World Parkinson’s Awareness Day, English National Ballet dance artists, musicians and dancers from the London class will participate in an open workshop in the atrium at Guys and St Thomas’s Hospital in association with Breathe Arts Health Research. Breathe Arts focus on ‘the individual’ and taking a ‘creative and holistic approach to healthcare’. This is very much aligned with the aims of ENB’s Dance for Parkinson’s classes which focus on a person-centred approach. The workshop will be open to everyone to join in and will be framed around engaging in a high-quality, artistic experience.
You can visit our website to learn more about our Dance for Parkinson’s programme and how you can donate.