Here at Green Candle Dance Company we have been working with older people in dance for nearly 30 years, and over the past five years we have raised the profile of high quality artistic dance activities for people with dementia. Through creative, inspiring and uplifting dance projects we bring together people with dementia through music and dance, with proven benefits to participants’ active daily living, socialisation, mental and physical health and wellbeing. We believe that everyone has the right to access dance and that public interest and demonstration of our work can help to break down preconceptions of dementia and attitudes towards the visibility of older people in our society.
Remember to Dance is our flagship dance and dementia programme – launched in 2013 as a two stranded project, Remember to Dance in the community, taking place weekly during term time at Oxford House in Bethnal Green, and Remember to Dance in Hospital, taking place twice weekly in the assessment unit for patients with acute dementia at Mile End Hospital.
Following a rigorous research process by the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christ Church University, alongside the initial two year programme, the report, Remember to Dance: Evaluating the impact of dance activities for different stages of dementia, was released in February 2016 and can be found at http://www.greencandledance.com/participation/reports/
The research demonstrates that dance has the potential to help address choice and control in decision making, development and maintenance of relationships, physical and mental health, wellbeing and engagement and contribution to their community for people at different stages of dementia.
Continuing on from this two year process, with the evidence of results from ground-breaking research, we continue to run weekly Remember to Dance classes at Oxford House for people with dementia, their family and carers, who gather together to enjoy the uplifting experience of dance, live music, social interaction, artistry and creativity which stimulates the imagination and promotes overall wellbeing.
We spoke to the wife and principal carer of one of our regular participants, who reminded us that Remember to Dance provides an important opportunity for carers as well as participants with dementia:
Remember to Dance is a giggle, it is a place where my husband is able to keep active and, personally, it meets a need to unwind. It’s a place to form friendships and let down my hair, but most importantly it allows me to laugh!
Whether the participant has dementia or not is not of importance; through Remember to Dance, every participant shares in the laughter, enjoyment and pleasure.
Everybody knows somebody with dementia. To make those people aware of the pleasure gained and the laughter shared through Remember to Dance is vital. The environment created is very social and relaxed, there’s a sense of freedom; everyone involved is of equal importance and endless opportunities are offered for participants to excel in their movement. This equality needs to be shared with the public.
– Wife of participant with dementia, Remember to Dance weekly classes
Last year, as part of Dementia Awareness Week 2016, participants of Remember to Dance shared their experience in a public workshop for the first time at an interactive sharing event in Walthamstow. Members of the Remember to Dance group took part in a performance at Walthamstow Town Square in the event ‘All Together Now’, enabling the general public, friends and family to celebrate the achievements of the group members, and raise awareness of the importance of arts activities for people with dementia.
Fergus Early, Artistic Director of Green Candle, reflected on the significance of the public presentation:
One of the more surprising results from the research is that, using a standard ACEIII cognitive test, the mean score for the community group rose from 50.8 at the start of the project to 55.3, out of a possible maximum of 100, after 2 years. On another level, I was very aware of a marked improvement shown by the group as a whole over the 2 years – their range of movement, their ability to remember sequences and their skills in recognising and executing expressive movement were all far better – if nothing else, this strengthens my belief that dementia shouldn’t be seen as just a slow retreat down an ever darker corridor, but we should recognise that people living with the condition can learn, gain skills and retain a valued and valuable place in society. I was very proud of our public appearance and particularly delighted when a good number of the audience jumped up and joined us on stage!
Members of the Remember to Dance group were overwhelmed by the experience and the amplified energy that the public demonstration gave to the group.
… the pleasure both the participants and audience members received was enormous! Carer, Remember to Dance
The benefits of programmes such as Remember to Dance find recognition through public demonstrations such as this; most significantly, these opportunities give participants an added chance to demonstrate their learning and achievements. In addition Green Candle Dance Company believes that everyone, regardless of age or ability, has a right to dance, and public demonstrations of our work can begin to change public perception and attitudes towards dementia and the artistic value of dance with older people #unitedagainstdementia #DAW2017