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Community dance champion shares a life’s work in print
Date posted: 19 September 2016
A dancer who started her own dance classes for children 30 years ago has put her experience into a new book for others to share.
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A dancer who started her own dance classes for children when she moved to Oxford as a young mother 30 years ago has put her experience of teaching and dancing over these years into a new book for others to share.

Cecilia Macfarlane, celebrated in a recent Radio 4 documentary called ‘Dance Your Life Away,’ has teamed up with fellow independent dance artist and collaborator Ruth Pethybridge, Cecilia’s ‘midwife to my words’, to produce Any Age. Any Body. Any Dance, published by People Dancing, the development organisation and membership body for community and participatory dance.  

With accompanying music provided by the renowned dance music composer Christopher Benstead, and stylish illustrations from multimedia artist and dancer Roland Carline, the book presents dance ideas for everyone, drawn from Cecilia’s lifelong passion for and creative practice in dance for the community.

The five sections of the book pick up on Cecilia’s dance emphasis on our bodies (more than dance technique or choreography alone), focusing on Breath, Skin, Muscle, Bone and Joints. If dance began for Cecilia in the womb, she has also said her last dance will be her last blink.

“These themes offer the most immediate connection to the moving body while also accessing metaphor and imagination,” explains Cecilia, founding director of Oxford Youth Dance, DugOut Adult Community Dance and Crossover Intergenerational Dance Company.

“Each section or theme could be used as a structure for a class but only as a starting point, to be taken on and developed, depending on the group, the dancer and the moment – the sections could also be used to help create a new piece of choreography,” she adds.

The book shares Cecilia’s ideas and practice developed during her career to help inspire and inform dancers of all ages and experiences to discover their own dancing journeys. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to dance or teach dance.

“Cecilia’s motivation has always been about providing access to as many people as possible who want to dance, changing perceptions about what dance can be, who can do it and sharing her love of the art form,” says Ruth Pethybridge who, alongside her research into participatory dance, has taught in many community contexts, not least with Cecilia at Oxford Youth Dance.

“Life for Cecilia is a dance, a dance that can express many different aspects of being a human… this is inclusive dance as part of everyday life.”

People Dancing Chair Dr Sara Houston said: “As the foundation for community dance, People Dancing is delighted to have been able to help bring Cecilia’s impressive, pioneering knowledge and experience to a wider audience so that we can all draw on the inspiration she has brought to our world of community dance.

“Cecilia is a true champion of our sector and I’m sure Any Age. Any Body. Any Dance will prove an inspiration and be hugely valuable to those who dance and those who teach dance, communicating in such an easy to follow and enjoyable way.”

Where to buy...

Copies of Any Age. Any Body. Any Dance are available for purchase from the People Dancing online shop - priced £20 (£15 for members of People Dancing), price excludes postage and packaging costs.

For further information, please contact Jeremy Waterfield on 0116 253 3453 or 07864 313 455 or

Notes to editors:

Cecilia Macfarlane

Cecilia trained as a dancer at the London School of Contemporary Dance. She taught at the Royal Academy of Dance and was Senior Lecturer in Arts in the Community at Coventry University for nine years. The BBC Radio 4 documentary on Cecilia (‘Dance Your Life Away’), first aired in March this year, took its name from the words of the Head Mistress at Cecilia’s convent school, in Bath, when Cecilia told her she was going to be a dancer.

Ruth Pethybridge

Ruth is a dance artist and researcher. She has delivered dance in diverse settings while making her own choreographic performance work, including with Cecilia Macfarlane and Oxford Youth Dance and its many spin offs. Ruth has applied her skills in the roles of rehearsal director and dramaturge for large scale site specific work in London and Cornwall. In 2012 Ruth’s writing was published in a chapter of Diane Amans’ book Age and Dancing and, in 2014, by the Journal for Dance and Somatic Practices. Ruth is a lecturer in Dance at Falmouth University.