National Dance Company Wales: Dance for Parkinson’s Project in collaboration with English National Ballet

National Dance Company Wales

Dance for Parkinson’s, a project piloted by NDCWales in 2014 and continued since, forms the backbone of the Company’s commitment to participation in dance to support health and well-being for those most in need. Created in partnership with English National Ballet who piloted their scheme in 2011, and inspired by the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group Dance for PD programme in New York, Dance for Parkinson’s invites people with Parkinson’s and their carers/ family to take part in a termly course, three times a year in the professional dance studio at NDCWales’ Dance House in Cardiff Bay. Participants engage in weekly sessions, incorporating live music, dance, rhythm and voice. This provides a framework for the participants to explore narrative, characters, themes, concepts and music which in turn promote freedom of expression.
The main objectives for the Dance for Parkinson’s Wales project are:

  • To create an innovative project in Wales that helps to improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s, as sufferers and carers
  • To reduce feelings of isolation and reduce exclusion through the development of self-esteem and confidence gained by the participants through the shared experience of the project
  • To offer a participatory project of excellence both in terms of delivery and experience for the participants
  • To further develop the Dance for Parkinson’s project across Wales by training new dance leaders, thus enabling more people to benefit
  • To give participants a vocabulary of physical and vocal exercises that they can use on a day to day basis to ease they various symptoms

In 2011, ENB received funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to build on the success of their own Dance for Parkinson’s pilot programme by rolling out the model nationally with four hub partners: Oxford City Council, National Dance Company Wales, Merseyside Dance Initiative (MDI) and DanceEast in Ipswich and inspired by the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group Dance for PD programme in New York, Dance for Parkinson’s invites people with Parkinson’s and their carers/ family to take part in a termly course, three times a year in the professional dance studio at NDCWales’ Dance House in Cardiff Bay. Participants engage in weekly sessions, incorporating live music, dance, rhythm and voice. This provides a framework for the participants to explore narrative, characters, themes, concepts and music which in turn promote freedom of expression.
The main objectives for the Dance for Parkinson’s Wales project are:

  • To create an innovative project in Wales that helps to improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s, as sufferers and carers
  • To reduce feelings of isolation and reduce exclusion through the development of self-esteem and confidence gained by the participants through the shared experience of the project
  • To offer a participatory project of excellence both in terms of delivery and experience for the participants
  • To further develop the Dance for Parkinson’s project across Wales by training new dance leaders, thus enabling more people to benefit
  • To give participants a vocabulary of physical and vocal exercises that they can use on a day to day basis to ease they various symptoms

In 2011, ENB received funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to build on the success of their own Dance for Parkinson’s pilot programme by rolling out the model nationally with four hub partners: Oxford City Council, National Dance Company Wales, Merseyside Dance Initiative (MDI) and DanceEast in Ipswich.

Following ENB’s model, 2014 saw the successful pilot of the project at the Cardiff hub with many participants benefitting in South East Wales. Thanks to funding this year, the project now runs for three terms annually (spring, summer and autumn), with 6-10 sessions in each at £3.50 a class plus an arts related outing for the participants to see a culmination of the music and dance they have been exploring.  Led by a specially trained Associate Dance Artist and live musicians and supported by NDCWales staff and volunteers, each class lasts approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, followed by time afterwards for socialising and refreshments, giving participants the chance to get to know like-minded people in a relaxed and friendly environment. This is another strong contributing factor for attendance. Currently, NDCWales has thirty eight people signed up to the next autumn term and the demand is ever increasing. Looking forward to 2017 and beyond, NDCWales hopes to expand the programme across Wales, creating more classes and training opportunities, with the Dance House eventually becoming a central training hub.
As a national dance company NDCWales has been able to use its unique position to raise the public profile of Parkinson’s in Wales and to give access to, and advocate the benefits of high quality, artistic dance and cultural activities for people suffering with Parkinson’s. On a regular basis, NDCWales has received enquiries from hospitals, hospices and community groups who all offer occasional movement therapy sessions for Parkinson’s sufferers.  The Company works with these groups to attract potential beneficiaries to the Dance for Parkinson’s project as part of their ongoing physical well-being. We are also in contact with the local Parkinson’s UK branch and request that our project information is included in their newsletters.
The average age of a Parkinson’s diagnosis is between 60 and 62 and the majority of NDCWales’ current participants sit within and beyond this bracket but all ages are welcome. If an individual is diagnosed with Parkinson’s prior to age 50, then the disorder is called Young-Onset Parkinson’s disease. Whilst symptoms are the same, sufferers will experience the disease differently as they are at a different stage in their lives. Thus, the long term goal would be to run a second class for early onset sufferers.

Evaluation methods and findings

 

As part of ENB’s pilot project, they commissioned Roehampton University to conduct research into the effects of dancing with Parkinson’s.  The research concluded that dancing, as seen within the Dance for Parkinson’s project:

  • Aids people with Parkinson’s physically, mentally and socially
  • Does not help with physical development in a uniform or linear fashion, but can help with mobility in the short term, particularly when there is musical accompaniment
  • Gives participants the tools to increase body awareness and to increase confidence in order to use the mobility they have, but may not have had the courage to use
  • Provides tools to help with activities in everyday life
  • Gives participants the opportunity to experience different qualities and ways of moving
  • Can loosen up the spinal area and help with stability and posture
  • Can encourage a greater reach, focus and projection
  • Precipitates feelings of well-being, determination and achievement
  • Provides opportunities to create movement and stimulate the imagination
  • Provides an event for people with Parkinson’s that is about art, rather than about disease
  • Provides an enjoyable way for participants to exercise as a group in a structured environment
  • Allows participants to enjoy the excitement of being a part of the goings-on of a professional ballet company  

We have also collated testaments from the participants themselves, which support the research carried out and demonstrate the impact of the project:
 ‘My husband has deteriorated considerably. However, in the sessions he smiles again, which is difficult for Parkinson’s patients. It’s a joy to watch him’
-Participant
 ‘The project has opened us up to what we can do, rather than focussing on what we can’t. We have recognised that we can do more and are encouraged to try something new that will exercise our bodies and minds.
-Participant
 ‘What a wonderful session and interesting concept for all working, living and dealing with people with Parkinson's. I am so glad I was able to attend. It inspired me to feel I would like to pursue dance more with people living with this condition.’
-
-Participant, Parkinson's Specialist Nurse, Cardiff
Thanks to this project, participants have not only gained a deeper understanding of dance and of the work of ENB and NDCWales but they have also developed friendships which support their ability to attend classes as well as creating lasting relationships which have improved their confidence and reduced isolation. This happens alongside the main benefit of an involvement in physical activity that helps sufferers cope with their symptoms and learn to understand the level of movement their bodies are still able to achieve. We hope that this project will continue to develop over the next three years into a sustainable model across the whole of Wales.

 

Dance for Parkinson's is a highly rewarding and valuable project that National Dance Company Wales runs in partnership with English National Ballet. It brings a unique opportunity for people with Parkinson's in Cardiff, Newport and the surrounding areas to engage with high quality dance classes in the professional environment of the dance studio.

Carers, friends and family are also invited to join in with weekly artistic and creative dance classes which have the added benefits of improved mental and physical health and wellbeing, the chance for social interaction with like-minded people and most importantly, provide a fun and energising activity suitable for all.
 
Classes run over 3 terms (between 6 – 8 sessions per term) on Thursdays from 2.00pm – 4.00pm (the dance class from 2pm – 3.15pm with coffees and teas afterwards). For more details and term dates, please visit www.ndcwales.co.uk or contact us on 02920635600

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England