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Live Well & Dance with Parkinson's

Live Well & Dance with Parkinson’s is the first major project within People Dancing’s new strategic programme for dance and wellbeing, Live Well & Dance. It will bring teaching dance artists and the community of individuals with lived experience of Parkinson’s together to dance - to be creative and curious, to have fun and even some frivolity, to celebrate equality and inclusion.

Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, Live Well & Dance with Parkinson’s, will take place in locations across England from 2020 – 2024: Birmingham, Bristol, Carlisle, Leicester, Manchester and Newcastle.

We’ll be working with a broad range of partners including English National Ballet, Fresh Arts at North Bristol NHS Trust, Original Spinners, Susie Tate Projects, University Hospitals Leicester, Attenborough Arts Centre, Universities of Carlisle, Durham and Manchester, Parkinson’s EQUIP and Parkinson’s UK.
As well as acting as a catalyst for expanded opportunities in dance with people living with Parkinson’s, this project will aim to expand the national network of artists and dancers leading and taking part, acting as an advocate for the value and impact dance can have on living well with Parkinson’s.

We are delighted that Paul Mayhew-Archer has agreed to be our patron for this new project. Paul says:  
“I’ve never been able to dance. To me an American Smooth was a drink, Fourth Position was in the Karma Sutra and salsa came with bread. Then I got Parkinson’s and discovered that dancing is a terrific treatment.
At my first class our teacher, Kate said something wonderful. She said “and starting off on the left foot... or the right, it doesn’t really matter.” I tell you, for someone who cannot tell which is which those words filled me with relief. A smile spread across my face, but don’t ask me from which direction. ?
With this new project more people with Parkinson’s will experience the benefits of music and dance, so I am thrilled to be a patron of this wonderful cause. Mind you, my dancing is still dreadful so it’s a bit akin to a howling dog being patron of the Vienna Boys Choir.”

We would like to thank the Baring Foundation, whose generous funding of the Dance for Parkinson’s Partnership at People Dancing in 2015-2019, played a key role in resourcing and encouraging us to develop this specialist area of dance practice, enabling us to develop our ambition and commitment to the power and value of living well with dance.

Dance can support people living with Parkinson's to develop confidence, strength and provide the opportunity for creativity and self-expression, whilst also temporarily relieving some participants of symptoms in everyday life.

"...I've identified about eight or ten words to describe what we’re doing: imagination, creativity, language, colour, music, rhythm. And I’ve not come across anything, anything in my diverse life, which combines all those things. The breadth and depth of what is going on downstairs [in the studio] is significant."

"I feel released from the Parkinson’s, in more control of my body and with friends."

Participant quotes: English National Ballet, Dance for Parkinson’s: An Investigative Study 2 - A report on a three-year mixed methods research study by Dr. Sara Houston and Ashley McGill MSc, April, 2015 with Prof. Raymond Lee, Katherine Watkins MCSP and Cameron Donald and Pavilion Dance South West, Parkinson’s Dance class feedback 2015/2016.

Why dance?

There’s an increasing appetite for dance these days and the broad ways it benefits our health and wellbeing. This is felt by people of all ages and physical abilities. One group that now attaches particular value to taking part in dance is that of people living with Parkinson’s.

A growing body of evidence points to the real physical, mental and social benefits experienced by people living with Parkinson’s when they dance. For example, research into English National Ballet’s (ENB) dance and Parkinson’s programme, published in 2015 by Dr Sara Houston of Roehampton University, concluded that dance as a group activity can:
  • Encourage feelings of inclusion and positive social interaction
  • Promote a sense of community that is particularly meaningful, motivating and energising for people living with Parkinson’s
  • Aid fluency of movement
  • Help people with Parkinson’s communicate and express themselves.
Next event:
Wednesday 28 April 2021, 14:00 – 16:00

Perspectives on Practice: online adventures in dancing with Parkinson’s

for artists and practitioners working in the field of dancing with Parkinson's to share ideas, challenges and opportunities

Join us for the 4th in our series of online events for artists and practitioners working in the field of dancing with Parkinson’s.


In this practical session Dr Melanie Brierley offers her commitment to connective practice - an exploration of dance as a sensate experience which supports the feeling of physical, emotional, cognitive, and social connection between people in dance and Parkinson's classes.

The session will incorporate time to reflect and will end with a discussion of issues and ideas raised in the session.

What you will need:

  • A sturdy chair
  • Water
  • Comfortable (and warm) clothing
  • Paper and pens/pencils.

This event is free of charge to People Dancing Members and £5.00 for non-members. Presented as part of the Live Well & Dance with Parkinson’s programme.

Book your place here

Booking deadline: Thursday 22 April 2021.


About the artist

Dr Melanie Brierley: With her practice embedded in the arts in community health, Melanie works as a dance artist, researcher, and trainer at Conscious Bodies. Following a 25-year career in dance education, she has spent the last decade as an independent dance artist, researcher, and ISMETA registered somatic movement educator/therapist. Her specialism is dance for people living with Parkinson’s, with Melanie working in this area for 12 years. She is interested in using somatic dance and movement practices with people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds and currently, her focus is on people who live with neurological conditions (Parkinson’s, Dementia, Stroke, and Muscular Dystrophy) in their homes, community groups, residential/nursing homes, and outdoor spaces. Through her doctoral research (University of Roehampton, 2020), Melanie investigated somatically informed, one to one, co-creative, and home-based dance practice as a unique response to supporting health and self-care in the Parkinson’s community.

Photo credit: Dr Melanie Brierley, People Dancing International Conference, Glasgow. Photographer: Rachel Cherry.

Tango in lockdown: The tango effect

The Tango Effect: Parkinson’s and the Healing Power of Dance explores the remarkable impact of Argentine tango on the experience of living with Parkinson’s. The book was published during the COVID-19 pandemic, shortly after the country went into lockdown.

Here, we are pleased to share recordings with you that were made by the author, Kate Swindlehurst, from March - July 2020:

“The months that followed, strange for all of us and fraught with challenge and grief for many, were thrown into sharp relief for me by the month-by-month structure of The Tango Effect. I thought it might be interesting to share extracts from the book for the key months of the crisis: a kind of Tango Lockdown Story.”


Please note: these recording are available to both People Dancing Members AND non-members and will be published weekly from 26 August 2020.

Find out more

Dance with Parkinson’s roundtable discussion

This 90-minute roundtable discussion is co-curated and facilitated by Cheryl McChesney (Freelance Dance Artist) and co-curated and chaired by Kiki Gale (Project Director, Living Well with Parkinson’s).

The conversation with artists, producers and dancers brings together a range of perspectives on dance with people with lived experience of Parkinson's during lockdown.  

Contributors share personal stories, give honest and insightful accounts of their experiences, speak candidly about the loss and challenges posed by life in lockdown, and consider some of the positive possibilities and joys brought about in these changing times.

To accompany this recording there are also some additional signposts to films and resources that you may find useful.

Please note: this film is available to both People Dancing Members AND non-members.

View here

The freedom that dancing can offer

Dr. Sara Houston has led prize winning research, speaks internationally on the subject and has just published a book, 'Dancing with Parkinson's' where she illustrates the freedom that dancing can offer to people

Read Sara's blog here 

Pepperland and beyond

Dance artist and writer Kate Swindlehurst reflects upon her experience of the opening night of Mark Morris Dance Group’s UK Pepperland tour and the next day Dance for people living with Parkinson's - Looking ahead: a one-day interactive symposium at Sadler’s Wells, London in March 2019 

Read Kate's blog here

A film exploring Parkinson's and dance

Dancer, choreographer and PD Movement Lab creator Pamela Quinn
has produced a new short dance film featuring a duet she choreographed for David Leventhal and herself.
Online Learning Programme

People Dancing and Dance for PD® have, with the assistance of the Dance for Parkinson’s Network UK, created an online learning programme designed to help dance practitioners gain some of the background knowledge needed before embarking on practical learning associated with the safe delivery of dance sessions for people with Parkinson's.

Comprised of eight units, the course gives learners essential information about Dance for Parkinson’s core principles, the medical condition, and the effects of symptoms and medication on dance class participants.

It provides specific, expert guidance on conducting a risk assessment, cultivating safe practice, establishing inclusive class structure and design, incorporating adaptations and embodying effective teaching techniques. The interactive programme includes video clips and research reports, as well as text and audio resources that make it engaging and fun to do.

Read More


English National Ballet, Dance for Parkinson's: An investigative study

English National Ballet and Dr Sara Houston and Ashley McGill of Roehampton University.

Read the report