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Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital (GOSH)
Date posted: 06 November 2019
Kimberley Harvey has performed in a variety of settings and is an artist for Candoco Dance Company. Kimberley was a Dancer in Residence at GOSH 2017-19, which involved dancing in both outpatient clinics and inpatient wards for and with children, their families and hospital staff.

So, 2019 has arrived and this spring will be my last term as a GOSH Arts Dancer-in-Residence at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. I embarked on this two-year programme with fellow dance artist and long-term colleague, Sarah Blanc and I know I speak for both of us when I say that this job is one that we feel very privileged to be doing.

As Dancers-in-Residence, during any of our sessions at the hospital we may find ourselves combining our range of skills as performers, choreographers and facilitators. This could include, but is not limited to, Sarah and I performing a mini duet in Rhino Outpatients to those waiting for their appointments; learning some dance moves from a young person in X-Ray (once they’ve seen the reception staff greet us and have then watched us dance amongst the toys for a bit); or maybe you encounter us on one the wards where we have 1:1 interactions with patients that fancy doing a bit of dancing with us (and sometimes we manage to persuade parents to join in too!)

Now, you might be thinking, 'But these children are in hospital, they are unwell or have a serious condition, surely not many of them feel up to dancing?!'. You wouldn’t be alone in thinking this and of course, it is true, that there will be children in GOSH who aren’t well enough to dance themselves, but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn't like to either talk to us about dancing and/or watch us perform for them; they may even want to choreograph a dance on us.

As dance artists working at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, by engaging children (from babies, all the way up to teenagers) in dance activity in some way, our role could be:

  • To entertain; to bring a smile to someone’s face
  • To offer something fun, enjoyable
  • To distract; take the focus away from being unwell and in hospital
  • To bring contemporary dance into a more unconventional setting
  • To introduce (contemporary) dance to new audiences
  • To offer the opportunity to engage in dance activity to individuals who may have never had it before
  • A chance to be curious, creative, playful and to make your own choices through dancing, making dance or watching dance
  • Encourage discussion about dance (and the arts more widely).

There is also the fact that I am a dancer with a visible disability – I am a wheelchair user – working in a medical setting. Therefore, Sarah and I working and dancing together (with one of us being disabled and the other non-disabled) offers up other possibilities of what dance can look like and who can do it.

Also, what I have seen firsthand over this period is the impact that dance can have on the parents and the staff working at GOSH – many of the above points could also apply to these adults too.

Inclusivity is embedded in my practice as a dance artist, but this setting requires something more that that. The sensitivity and responsiveness needed goes far beyond any training that I have had as a dancer or teacher. Instead it speaks to something far more universal and fundamental – to what it means to be human – the ability to empathise and to find ways to make connections (in this case through dancing).

Working as a GOSH Arts Dancer-in-Residence has made me smile some of my widest smiles and given me insight into the difficult day-to-day realties of children and young people in hospital. I’m incredibly grateful for this experience – getting to meet some wonderful children and discovering new ways of bringing dance to more people with awareness, compassion and artistic passion and integrity (I hope!)