National Dance Company Wales (NDCWales) and English National Ballet will be providing more opportunities for people with Parkinson’s to take part in its high-quality dance programme online and eventually at two new venues in North Wales.

NDCWales’ Dance for Parkinson’s class for people living with Parkinson’s, their family, friends and carers has been running since 2015 as an affiliated hub of English National Ballet’s Dance for Parkinson’s programme.

The first class was launched at the Dance House (Wales Millennium Centre) Cardiff 2015, and the second from Blackwood Miners Institute in Caerphilly County Borough in 2018.

During the 2020 pandemic lockdown, many of its participants had to shield. NDCWales continued to provide support and engagement with online sessions to connect with its loyal participants.

In 2021, NDCWales and ENB will continue to offer live online versions of its classes and will also be creating two pilot hubs in North Wales, Pontio (Bangor) and Coleg Cambria (Wrexham).

NDCWales are also working in partnership with Digital Communities Wales during the pandemic to give all participants the confidence and skills to use their laptops and tablets to access classes online.

In Wales, there are estimated to be around 6,000 people living with Parkinson’s – with the majority aged over 50.  Dancing has been shown to support people with Parkinson’s to develop confidence and strength, whilst temporarily relieving some participants of these symptoms in everyday life. The Dance for Parkinson’s Classes are expressive, creative and promote feelings of freedom from the physical and social constraints of having Parkinson’s.

Dance for Parkinson’s classes focuses on one English National Ballet or National Dance Company Wales production and explores the themes and ideas around the movements of that dance piece.

The classes this Spring will be focusing on two dance films from English National Ballet’s recent digital season, ‘Senseless Kindness’ by Yuri Possokhov first, then followed by Arielle Smith’s ‘Jolly Folly’.

Last term, the theme was inspired by NDCWales’ production of Ed Myhill’s Clapping?! which uses rhythm as a driving force and was reimagined online during lockdown. A short film, Ed & Flow, has been produced of the class and is available to view below.

NDCWales and their partners are putting plans in place to continue to start the interactive Zoom online sessions again, but when it’s safe to do so, offer the classes in person at all four hubs.

One existing Dance for Parkinson’s participant said, “The lockdown has been very hard, as I was no longer able to see people and my family.  I felt isolated and my speech was suffering.  I found the Zoom sessions helped me reconnect and it was lovely to see the teachers and all the participants of our group. The sessions were very uplifting for me and I always looked forward to them.”

Regular Dance for Parkinson’s attendees, Angela Harrison said, “It makes me feel I can cope better; I can walk better… it’s the best medicine. I come in feeling like a little old lady”, but I leave here feeling quite tall.”

Guy O’Donnell, NDCWales’ Participation Producer said, “We are really pleased to be able to work in partnership with Pontio and Coleg Cambria and provide this support in North Wales. We have seen the benefits of this programme and the impact it has had on our regular attendees here in South Wales.

“While we are unable to be in person together at the moment the ability to connect online has enabled existing attenders to take part from the comfort of their own home and stay connected to people sociably. The feedback we’ve had so far from our loyal Dance for Parkinson’s participants is that they wanted to still feel connected and still continue to feel the benefit of the programme on their health. They were keen and wanted to be adventurous and learn about technology, and fortunately with the continued support from Digital Communities Wales we have been able to do this.”

As well as encouraging new participants to take part in Dance for Parkinson’s, NDCWales is continuing to look for volunteers to help support participants in the programme.

If you would like further information and to sign up to the programme as participant or a volunteer please contact Guy O’Donnell, Learning and Participation Producer – or 07305 534 981.

Dance for Parkinson’s is supported by the Moondance Foundation, the Hodge Foundation, The Austin and Hope Pilkington Trust, and Western Power Distribution.

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