Saturday, 18 December 2010

Dance and Health

On Thursday 2nd December I was delighted to attend a seminar organised by the Department of Health and Dance South West. The event was held at the Jurys Inn and was designed to be an educational day looking at the benefits of dance and how dance practitioners can reach more people. The event was also a great opportunity to network with other like-minded individuals and it is the first time in 6 years that I have sat in a room with a bunch of professionals who did not turn their noses up when I told them I teach pole dancing!

The morning started with a DVD presentation about dance being used in different ways to promote better physical and mental well-being and focused in particular on a piece of work where dance practitioners went into a children's hospital ward and created dance pieces with the kids, the dance pieces ranged from group work to simpler pieces where a child would dance with the practitioner by the bed-side.  It was truly beautiful to see the response from the kids as they expressed themselves through dance.

Next up was Ken Bartlett, Creative Director, Foundation of Community Dance who spoke about why we should use dance to tackle health issues and came up with some very interesting arguments that bode well for the future of dance in the UK.  Ken argued that dance can be more inclusive than sport as it does not always aim to be competitive, in sport we are always looking for the best for the team whereas in dance there is more freedom for everyone to be the best. With the Olympics approaching and many talented individuals having their skills nurtured it is important that we also develop more person centred planning for those who do not excel in mainstream sports but could excel through dance and similar opportunities.

Ken mentioned research that proved the 'Power of Dance' through improving social cohesion and increasing mobility, flexibility, endurance and cardiovascular ability, he also shared research that showed how dance resulted in significant improvements for individuals suffering with Diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.  

As well as looking at current attitudes towards dance Ken mentioned the history of dance and used a quote from Barbara Ehrenreich's book 'Dancing in the Streets', Barbara talks about the suppression of dance throughout modern history and in particular the Christian's approach to the  'dance of the devil'  a term used for all dance genres but more recently used for the argentine tango, salsa and, of course, pole dancing! Luckily attitudes are changing and the government is now recognising the huge benefits dance can bring not only to individuals but to the whole society.

At present Sport England only recognises 2 genres of dance, Ballet and Contemporary, but the Department of Health understands that there are many more genres that are equally beneficial to health and just as valuable as their more traditional cousins. The government wants to encourage opportunities for dance practitioners to work with health professionals and for both parties to recognise each other skills.

After Ken's informative and eloquent talk we were introduced to Kitrina Douglas, an independent researcher from Bristol University, who has just carried out a large piece of research recordng data from recent dance events organised through the governments change 4 life campaign. Kitrina's evidence looked at 4 events and how they encouraged increased participation in dance as well as their ability to attract new people to dance. The events Kitrina focused on were new ways of getting people into exercise rather than simply asking them to go to a gym. I, personally, love the idea of taking dance to the people through flash mobs, community festivals and street parties, this is such a great way of introducing people to dance, encouraging exercise and enhancing social cohesion.
After Kitrina's fabulous talk we participated in a short piece by Lois Taylor (The Works), a practitioner working with the elderly and focusing on arm-chair based dance, we were all invited to look at the number of ways in which we can dance whilst seated and we were all amazed at exactly how much you do whilst sat as well as how vigorous he exercise could be.  The piece demonstrated how those with decreased mobility could still partake in dance and could reap the benefits of such participation.

Just before we retired for lunch we were treated to a fabulous dance demonstration from member of Attik Dance and Attik 360. I was moved by the performance and hope that I may be able to do some work with Attik 360 in the near future.

After lunch it was time for us to get our brains back into gear and to develop ideas on how we can target individuals and groups to encourage them to participate in dance. Our ideas have now been submitted to the department of health and the full results from the 4 seminars held across the UK will be evaluated and sent back to us, I will post the findings as soon as I receive them.

For me the seminar has given me new hope for the art of dance in 2011, pole dancing s finally being recognised as a great way to keep fit, socialise and ave fun. At long last I am being recogniseded as a performing artist and a dance practitioner rather than being seen as glorified stripper (nothing wrong with strippers but that is not what I practice or teach!).

So watch this space for details of the art of dance's appearance at the International Women's day, The Attik dance strictly collaborative event (Devonport Guildhall - 19th March) and the BA7 fringe festival (commences Sept 17th). Perhaps 2011 will be the year that the art of dance receives some much needed funding to enable it to target new groups and do more comunity projects. Watch this space.....

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

1 comment:

slp said...

great article sam and you never know if sport england stick around through these cuts they made add another dance genre to their list!!