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Pioneering Dance On programme launches a new toolkit 

Tue 17 October 2023
Part of: Dance On
Project image: Boogie Wonderland 2023 © David Lindsay

Since 2018 Yorkshire Dance has run over three and half thousand Dance On sessions for more than 1,200 older adults across Leeds and Bradford. 

This ambitious programme is a partnership with darts and One Dance UK supported by researchers at the University of Leeds. This month the team behind Dance On launched a brand new Toolkit to share their pioneering approach to increasing health and wellbeing through dance.  

Dance On participants report that sessions improve their physical health as well as how happy and connected they feel to others, saying: 

“I have more mobility, more flexibility. I feel fitter and healthier.” 

“I am 89 and feel younger with dance.” 

“I feel I can walk upstairs easier since coming here. I don’t stop halfway.” 

“I have limited mobility, use a wheelchair and have COPD. However, the dance moves and exercise help with my mobility and give me a sense of freedom of movement.” 

“Mentally I feel better because I tend to worry a lot, and while I’m dancing it takes my mind off things. It relieves stress, it’s really beneficial.” 

This is backed up by a study undertaken by Dr Sarah Astill, Associate Professor in Motor Control in the School of Biomedical Sciences at University of Leeds. Dr Astill’s research team found that Dance On is an effective way of reducing the risk of falls and preventing the downward spiral into frailty. The programme encourages regular physical activity for maintaining fitness and activity levels in a more subtle way than traditional physical activity programmes. Many people attend for social opportunities and so noted improvements to their mental as well as physical health through social interaction. 

Dr Astill said:

“Dance On and the toolkit are the result of more than seven years of collaborative work between the University of Leeds, darts and Yorkshire Dance. 

Dance is a fantastic way to stay active, connect with others and promote good mental health. The toolkit offers dance artists, the third sector and local councils an accessible reference point to start designing and implementing local dance programmes for their communities. It also draws on the work we have carried out in care homes, widening the reach of dance as a means of promoting health benefits and improving overall wellbeing among care-home residents.

This project highlights the impact of research – and how it can make a positive difference – when Universities and their partners collaborate on projects that serve their local communities.”

The new Dance On Toolkit is a free, downloadable resource exploring the essential ingredients for developing a dance programme. From sourcing the right venue to choosing motivating music, from developing community ambassadors to writing risk assessments. The Toolkit provides bite sized ideas, case studies and templates for anyone looking to develop their own dance programme for older people, or for dancers or care staff to improve their practice. The toolkit can be downloaded here.

The launch of this toolkit comes at a pivotal moment for the programme. Yorkshire Dance have secured a new grant from National Lottery Community Fund alongside continued financial support from Leeds Public Health, Bradford District Council and all our regular donors. The Reaching Communities grant will make a significant contribution towards the Dance On programme for the next 3 years helping to secure the future of the 24 weekly dance sessions across Leeds and Bradford. 

Hannah Robertshaw Creative Director of Yorkshire Dance explains: 

“Dance On is one of Yorkshire Dance’s biggest projects and one we are incredibly proud of. It exists thanks to the ongoing support of our partners, donors, participants and funders. Over the last 7 years we’ve really seen how dance can build communities and have a life changing impact. This was never more obvious than during the pandemic when our Dance On participants met over zoom and on doorsteps to dance, socialise and offer support to each other.  

With the rising cost of living it’s been a challenging year for many in our communities. Our Dance On programme is needed more than ever to provide fun, friendships and wellbeing. So we’re delighted to announce this long-term support from National Lottery Reaching Communities Fund.”   

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