The UK development organisation and membership
body for community and participatory dance
You are here:> Home > Developing Practice > Live Well & Dance with Parkinson's
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.
Paid Professional Development Opportunity: Live Well & Dance with Parkinson's

Are you someone interested in or already working in socially engaged dance practice and committed to developing the agency and artistic expression of all who participate?

People Dancing is looking for experienced, curious, creative dance teaching artists/practitioners who are interested in extending their skills and practice in leading dance for people living with Parkinson’s.

Timescale: July – September 2021. A fee of £300.00 is offered to participate. This  opportunity is open to teaching artists and practitioners living/working in Birmingham, Bristol, Cumbria, Leicester, Greater Manchester and Newcastle/North East. It is part of the Live Well & Dance with Parkinson’s programme made possible through a new collaboration between People Dancing, English National Ballet and six local partnerships.

Further information

Next event:
Friday 11 June 2021, 10:00 - 12:00

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

Bringing the outside in - nurturing a creative practice with nature

Within this session Julie Symmonds and Jen Cunningham will offer an insight into what influences their creative practice with content exploring interactions and observations with the natural world. 
Julie will draw on inspiration from South Africa, her homeland, using rhythm, body percussion and storytelling – engaging the dancers' senses to create an embodied experience. 
Jen will share elements of her work based upon somatic practice, spoken word and movement created in direct response to time spent in specific environments. Jen will offer approaches to enliven creativity and foster sensory connections between natural elements and movement - bringing the outside in. 

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.

Bookings for this event are now closed 

Booking deadline: Wednesday 09 June 2021.

Photo credits: Left - Julie Symmonds, photographer: Laurette van der Merwe. Right - Jen Cunningham, photographer: Amy Sinead.

About the artists

Julie Symmonds is a freelance dance teacher and a Certified Dance for PD® teacher. Julie operated a successful dance studio in South Africa until 2019 when she and her family relocated to Scotland.

Julie is one of a select group of practitioners who are authorised to train dance teachers in the Dance for PD® programme. She was honoured with the Stanley J. Wertheimer Fellowship in 2016, awarded by David Leventhal.

Jen Cunningham is a dance artist, originally from Somerset and now based in Edinburgh and has been involved in delivering dance for people living with Parkinson’s since 2012 and is currently lead dance artist for the Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland programme, based at Dance Base, Scotland. Jen leads weekly classes, training, and provides support and mentoring to fellow dance artists with the network across Scotland. 

Jen’s creative practise is lead by her love of the outdoors; exploring the intricacies of that which connects us all together, nature within her practise she hopes to spread awareness and ignite curiosity of our relationship with natural environments. 

Monday 5 July 2021, 13:00 - 15:00

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 5th in our series of online events for artists and practitioners working in the field of dancing with Parkinson’s


The Original Spinners. Photo: Rachael James.

The Original Spinners ‘The Good Ship Zoom’

Join The Original Spinners for a viewing of their short dance film ‘The Good Ship Zoom’ created with their ‘Fresh Arts’ Dance for Parkinson’s group. This will be followed by a practical workshop that explores methods and approaches to creating choreography and recording movement and song for a zoom film .

The film includes voice work, dance, choreography and demonstrates the learning, creativity, connection, hope and possibility that arose from the challenge of adapting our class to an online environment. Join us for a playful journey through our creative endeavours. We will ride the high seas, dive underwater, watch aquariums come to life and sing Sea Shanties all to a great soundtrack! The session will be led by Rachael James along with Sophie Turner and Rachael Walsh.

You will need:

  • A sturdy chair
  • Water
  • Comfortable (and warm) clothing
  • A wooden spoon
  • 2 x large feathers if you have them, if not then something else that you can use as a prop that creates an extension of the arm, so that you feel like you have wings!

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.

Save the date - bookings open Monday 21 June.

Booking deadline: Thursday 1 July 2021.

>   About The Original Spinners and the artists

The Original Spinners/Rachael James

Rachael James is a community dance artist and founder and lead artist of The Original Spinners, a community dance company that creates playful participatory performance and workshops for all ages and communities. I work collaboratively with other artists to deliver company projects and workshops.

At the heart of my practice, and consequently The Original Spinners, is a love of the feeling of freedom that dancing brings and the belief that with the right environment, permission and influences, we can all dance.

Whilst my work is influenced by elements of contemporary dance, ballet and clowning, the core of my practice is dance improvisation. Music is a very important element of my work and sessions are done to carefully curated soundtracks that encourage freedom in movement.

Since 2010 The Original Spinners have created happenings and walkabouts, large-scale, intergenerational and care home performances and community engagement projects. We have a specific interest in Dance for Health and currently lead Dance for Parkinson's sessions for Fresh Arts at Southmead Hospital, and at the Trinity Centre. We also deliver weekly movement sessions for adults with learning disabilities from Misfits CIO and deliver ward-based dance for the elderly and people living with dementia at Southmead Hospital.

Rachael will be leading the warm-up and creative improvisation exercises throughout the session.

Rachael Walsh

Rachael Walsh is a community dance artist and performer, based in Bristol. She trained at London Contemporary Dance School, Dartington College of Arts and DanceVoice Therapy Centre. Taking part in The Original Spinners’ short course in 2012 reignited her joy and passion for dance and she has been working alongside Rachael James since 2013, assisting in the delivery of projects and workshops and teaching our choreographed work. She has been assisting in the delivery of Dance for Parkinson’s since March 2017. Rachael will be teaching one of the choreographies that appears in the film and leading you in a ‘Zoom’ flocking exercise.

Sophie Turner

Sophie Turner is a creative arts practitioner, dancer and drama therapist who specialises in arts and health. She regularly collaborates with The Original Spinners and has been delivering the ‘Face and Voice’ section of our weekly Fresh Arts Dance for Parkinson’s workshop since 2017. During the session Sophie will be leading you through facial and vocal warm-ups and teaching the Sea Shanties that appear in the film.

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