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Living Well with Parkinson's

Living Well with Parkinson’s is the first major project within People Dancing’s new strategic programme for dance and wellbeing, Living Well Through 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, Living Well 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.
The Centre for Dance Research at Coventry University, Midlands4Cities and People Dancing

Collaborative Doctoral Award Project - Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University and People Dancing

The Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University is inviting applications for a Midlands4Cities (M4C) Collaborative Doctoral Award project, supervised by Professor Sarah Whatley in collaboration with People Dancing.

This project will explore the formation of ‘Living Well Hubs’ on a national level, which will be able to supercharge the contribution of dance to those living with long-term health conditions, by situating dance as art at the forefront of discourse and practice, to explore what changes/influences could be achieved.

Further information

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