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Robin Daly: Hello, welcome to the Yes to Life show here on the UK Health Radio, my name is Robin Daly and besides being your host for the show, I am also the founder of Yes to Life, the UK’s Integrative Cancer Care Charity that supports people with cancer in investigating the ways in which integrative medicine would benefit them. Over the last five years, the Yes to Life show has showcased many diverse topics such as the nature of integrative medicine, but today is a first as I am going to be talking to Emily Jenkins, founder of Move Dance Feel, about the potential of dance to aid the recovery of women with cancer and those close to them. This is a fascinating and far reaching territory that I cannot claim to know anything much about. I am talking to Emily over the internet.
Hi Emily a real pleasure to have you on the show.
Emily Jenkins: Pleasure to be here thank you for the invite.
Robin Daly: So I have done well over 250 interviews, but this is a first talking about dance in the specific context of people with cancer. Nowadays there is not really much mileage in arguing against the idea that exercise is good for people with cancer. Although we are still a very long way from a situation where all cancer patients are being recommended an exercise program, but in a nutshell, the short answer, what would you say are the features of dance that make it a worthy option for consideration from what is a huge array of choices out there, you know Yoga, Tochigi, or swimming, all the walking, all the usual things. What would you say are the particular virtues that dance can bring?
Emily Jenkins: I think first of all, we need to recognise that it very much is a form of physical activity, but it is a holistic form of physical activity that also takes into consideration people’s mental, physical, emotional, spiritual wellbeing and dance actually goes beyond physical activity in terms of the value that is associated with self-expression creative exchange. No more than anything dance is a social art form and whereas I very much advocate for yoga, it is quite an individual movement task, whereas dance facilitates exchange; there is a joy that comes from engaging with creative tasks and ideas. That joy is enhanced when it is shared with others and dance very much creates an environment, perhaps different to other forms of physical activity where that joy is enhanced I think by sharing experience with others.
Robin Daly: Right so there is a lot in what you just said
Emily Jenkins: A lot of the feedback from the women that take part encapsulates the sense of dance forces people to move in new ways and discover new movement patterns. Some forms of exercise can often feel a little bit laborious, a little bit repetitive, whereas dance not only incorporates the whole body, from initial toes to the top of your head, to your nose, to your shoulders, to your abdomen. But it actually encourages you to move in lots of different ways around your body around other people and through the space that you are dancing it.
Robin Daly: Interesting, so I had a look around your website of course and you have got quotes from participants there and one of them struck a chord with me. It said ‘when you have cancer, you lose touch with your body it becomes unfamiliar; even worse, it starts to feel as if it is an enemy’. So I think there is a lot in that statement, not least the cultural narrative that has been built up around what cancer is, which of course it is just that it is a narrative and one that could be wrong or could change or one that we could change for ourselves. Would you talk a bit about this loss of connection, and about the effects of an artificial divide between self and body?
Emily Jenkins: Yes one of the testimonies on the website talks about mind-body connection and really the mind and the body works in connection all the time. But our awareness of how it is working is somewhat diminished when we are faced with a serious health challenge and that is particularly because when you are in those medical settings, health and challenges with your body can be compartmentalised. So that is why I would go back to the kind of holistic sense and the physical activity, but I do not feel I am equipped to talk generally about how women might feel disconnected to their body for the cancer diagnosis, because it might feel very different for each person.
But I think what dance does is put you immediately in the present moment and connects you there and then with the breath, with the sensations in the body, particularly the practice and the methodology that is behind Move Dance Feel and I think that cannot be underestimated when so many people affected by cancer are thinking about; what has been, the information they have received, the appointments that might be coming up, what to do tomorrow, how to get from A to B on public transport surrounded by other people. When they are considering debilitating side effects like fatigue and pain, they are not often in the present moment because they cannot quite afford to be there. There are high levels of anxiety and worry that come up with a diagnosis. So I think being in the present moment, you should just stop and feel the body and feel the pleasure in moving the body.
The sessions that we offer are focused very much on a longer cool down and relaxation to really attune to what is happening in the body and, help people recognise how was I feeling two hours ago and how am I feeling now as a consequence of dance activity and importantly, dance activity that is shared with others that we just talked about.
Robin Daly: Yes that is interesting, because when it comes to connection, this program obviously works both on the inner and the outer really sort of reconnecting people with themselves, maybe in their bodies, but also it is a group activity and a shared activity with other people in similar situations which obviously works against the sense of isolation that is so common with people with cancer.
Emily Jenkins: Yes I think this word connection is very much what my artistic practice is centered around, and it is a connection to the self through dance and a connection to others. But going back to that original testimony you shared about the body feeling like anatomy, I think dance actually offers us an opportunity to reconnect to the body in terms of taking back some control. I think with the diagnosis and the following treatment, you kind of have to put your life in the hands of doctors and health professionals, because there is an element that you just cannot control, but you can control which direction you want to move your body in a dance class. You can control whether you are going to move with a strong movement or a soft movement. You can control who you are going to interact with in that space and what choices you are going to make in response to the invitations to move that the dance artists offers and I think the more you do that, the more you find a sense of ownership over the movement choices you are making in your body in general and that for many women Move Dance Feel has led to quite significant, empowering outcomes and confidence and that is confidence, not just in the body but mental confidence in terms of walking a bit taller and perhaps verbalising things that were previously difficult because they might have been a bit locked in the body in terms of the emotion or the tension that comes with their cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Robin Daly: Interesting I was just thinking then it would be difficult to imagine us even having this conversation 10 years ago would it not have?
Emily Jenkins: You have missed the first time we have talked about dance and I am actually surprised we have been running for four years now, which is quite remarkable considering we started so small and I am sure there are many people who might listen to this who still are not aware of the benefit that dance brings in context from cancer. But really this project came to me, I think in 2014 at 15 and when I started researching as to the benefits of physical activity or what kind of physical activity, which I have seen research was scarcely documented. I was just gobsmacked, I know I am using very British words, as to why dance was not being offered because it is also incredibly adaptable.
We can invite women to dance whether they are standing or seated in terms of the speed of movement, the pace, the rhythm we use, we can meet people where they are at. But that is also very subject to the ethos we have at Move Dance Feel dance artist and the type of dance we offer. So this is something that is coming up a lot that dance and health is quite a big movement if you are in the dance, arts, or health sector.
There is a wealth of growing body of evidence to show positive effects of dance in health settings. But often in these really academic research phases where they say, yes 10 weeks of dance or six months of dance well of what dance that is really important. What type of dance is it a contemporary dance versus tango which is a partner based dance it going to probably feel very different participants and might retrieve different outcomes. So the Move Dance Feel, methodology if it is appropriate to talk a little bit about it now is very much centred around connection as I have talked about we always have two dance artists, at least two dance artists media activity. We have one mainly there to support artists to offer a more individual support to someone who wants it or can as I say adapt material to see each other for doing something standing or vice versa and to just give that more individual one on one attention. And over the four years, I have actually documented elements of practice of dance practice that are effective in this context.
For example, one of the things you were talking about connecting to the body was why it is women only, I am sure we will get to that, it is the use of touch. I was noticing from my original research, that tension is so obvious in this context that how do we ease people into another session and how do we ease people into their body?
Because it could be quite confronting moving the body in new ways and so how can we support people to give tips to them? What type of touch is it sensory? Is it more of a massage? You know what pressure we are using and how might we exchange touch with one another.
So there were elements of practice area talked about relaxation at the end and the use of breath, but ways that you are introducing dance ideas so everyone in the room can access that material is quite enough when I recruit for this project. I am very specific of whom I am looking for and the values they have in their dance to feel practice.
Robin Daly: Very interesting, you know what you say about from your point of view four years ago, was it something very obvious that this is something that would benefit people with cancer?
It is not obvious to most people of course and you know, in this your actually being very pioneering and, the work that you have done in the last four years to find out, what works and who it works for, and why it works and all that kind of stuff is setting the foundation for others to go forward on it which is fantastic.
Emily Jenkins: Well, absolutely because it is just much needed work but I mean one of the motivations for setting up was realising that although I do not like using the term survivor, but cancer survivorship rates are increasing the quality of life for those with anxiety are decreasing. In 2015, the statistic was I think 70% that reported negative emotional or physical challenges, after cancer treatment and that could be up to 10 years of treatment and the thought imagine you have had a diagnosis you have had your treatment five; eight, 10 years and you are still living with the consequences pain on a regular basis or weight changes or low body confidence, or really social isolation which goes back to dance going beyond the physical activity, because it brings in so many other really necessary social and mental health benefits as well.
Robin Daly: Absolutely, what you are saying that it points to the fact that after treatment, some people have things that the physically difficult to deal with and that will last 10 years easily.
Of course all the physical help should be made available to make that as bearable as possible. But when people spend 10 years suffering the psychological and emotional effects of cancer, that is a kind of neglect basically that I am sure that many of those could benefit from the right kind of support.
Emily Jenkins: Yes I confess I was quite surprised when I delivered the pilot project in early 2016, and on the registration form there are various sections where people choose how much information they want to share or not. And one of them is about medication and I think almost 60%, if not 70%, of the women who were taking part in that pilot were on antidepressants. In some ways it is not surprising you have faced mortality. You have been through a probably quite challenging and traumatising cancer experience and many of them treatment that was then ongoing, but to just put people on antidepressants, in my opinion is not the answer.
Robin Daly: When you look at the fact that actually a significant number of people can go through cancer and they can actually gain from it after the time and I often have people on this show who talk about it, funnily enough, as being the best thing that ever happened to them because of the way that they have actually grown and changed through having cancer, antidepressants that seems like just sort of numbing you out so as you do not ever find that out or ever encompass it and move on.
Emily Jenkins: Yes I would agree. On that note, one of the most rewarding things about leading this project is the women I come into contact with. There is a beautiful quote that resonated with me quite early on in the project by a legendary figure called Anna Halprin, who has worked in community dance for a long time and she actually had her own cancer diagnosis in the eighties and documented. She was the only person I could find when I started this project as to who had already explored the relationship between dancing cancer. One of the things she said was that ‘those who face death gain insight into life’ and has rung true and continues to ring true across the whole mood dance project and I am really inspired by the resilience that is demonstrated by the women who take part there as I say, although cancer can be in many ways quite difficult optically experienced the sessions are centred around enjoying ourselves, enjoying our bodies, and celebrating through movement with others and community something positive through our bodies without this.
That is not to say there are not tears and there are really difficult weeks and months but overall women are owning it. It is a really empowering environment because the advices that they then share between one another or the outlooks they then have on life and how they want to live that life and it just quite remarkable.
Robin Daly: I think that is what people report is that basically that it was an opportunity for them to step right back and reassess their lives and how they engaged with them and really set off in the new direction.
Emily Jenkins: There are even some women referred to Move Dance Feel say for example maybe one term, 10 weeks, or a couple of months in the interim between finishing treatment and potentially go back to work they come to a session. They say, you know what, I am actually so lucky I would have to be working right now and then I get to dance every month it is best in one, and actually when they might go back to work, they might negotiate with their employers as to keeping protecting those mornings and evenings in which they dance.
And even if not going back to work, you know, for some women they are involved in the project and they have a cancer recurrence, and that brings out a lot of emotional feeling from the past and kind of reactivate past traumas and then they might go negotiate with oncologists or the health professionals talking about their treatment plan, they say I will have it on any day of the week, apart from Thursday, and they will make sure and that is all that is important to them. Robin Daly: I can believe it, fantastic. On your website you described dance as a form of communication. Can you say more about this and tell us why this is important?
Emily Jenkins: Yes, I think this is really one of the nuggets of why dance belongs in this context so I know times exchanging and many cancer care services are offering kind of alternative ways of supporting. But when I started a lot of the research I did as to what was available support group wise so much of it was we have a discussion group come in and have a cup of tea and talk about your cancer experience.
And for so many people that was just not possible where they did not want to as we spoke about before, there are a lot of emotions and feelings that come up that are quite difficult to articulate to name and more than anything through Move Dance Feel project I recognised the importance of establishing a safe space and a comfortable space. People are not feeling comfortable they are not going to want to move, and they are not going to want to dance it can be quite exposing to dance in the same room with others and I thought that applies again to sitting around a kitchen table and talking about your cancer experience with a bunch of strangers.
That is not really accessible to a lot of people and I find then a lot of people might come to Move Dance Feel, particularly the first week or the first few weeks of attendance. It might be very quiet observance and I relate to that as often a quiet observer myself. But you notice as the weeks go on and the more sessions they attend their nonverbal communication skills pick up. They might make more eye contact. They might feel more comfortable standing very close to someone else as previously they were not and assimilate the joke. They allow their laughter to be heard, and then eventually they stop making comments and jokes themselves and it is just opening up and you might have seen from other testimonies on the website there are freeing outcomes and then that is not just freeing the body to perhaps find a bit more ease or flexibility, but there is freeing of the mind and freeing of the waist you know moving the body in a way that allows us to perhaps bring to the surface things that we previously could not speak about or mention out loud, not because we were deliberately pushing them down we just could not process them enough to voice them.
Robin Daly: I can imagine watching that slow, delicate process is extremely rewarding for you.
Emily Jenkins: Absolutely and the other artists. So just want to acknowledge that in four years we have grown to be an artist pool and they are valuable to the success of the project and I think all our hearts and minds are very much in it for the reasons I just spoke about it is incredibly rewarding.
Robin Daly: Okay so we have spoken about reconnection a bit in that there is a kind of implicit understanding that connection is a good thing. I would actually like to pick that apart a bit, not to make any assumptions about it being obvious and to ask the question, well why you would say it is a good thing.
Emily Jenkins: I think because connection gives rise to a sense of belonging and if we do not feel we belong anywhere, you become more and more isolated and our ability, you know, that phase kind of lose touch. We lose touch with the world, but I think in some ways we lose touch with ourselves and I appreciate that there are introverts and extroverts and again, I kind of love my own company I love it as much as I love being with others but I am a firm believer in that to lead purposeful life where you are motivated to dance to take part in physical activity, to look after your wellbeing in one of a kind of movement based practice, and also receive a sense of worth to contribute to the communities in which you belong. You have to have a sense of connection otherwise why we here and what are we doing It for.
Robin Daly: Sorry if it is not this question, but I just think it is good to sort of put these things out because it is not necessarily so obvious to some people who are maybe feeling that they just want to do things their own way quietly on their own and they maybe do not realize what they are missing and so it is worth talking about I think. There is also the kind of arena of the factor that is spoken about much more in all sorts of material ways these days is of our actual connectedness that we are connected, whether we like it or not and that to live in a way that expresses that we are more in touch with who we actually are.
Emily Jenkins: Yes going back to your first point absolutely I recognise there are people who might retreat having been given a cancer diagnosis and then kind of deal with it individually and that is totally fine, everybody is different . I still think they are possibly going through the motions of connecting to something and there is that as we were talking about how that connection to research to find out what they can do for themselves too and there is some stuff in food and nutrition and connect to a subject that might be new that is then thinking about giving them a sense of ownership or purpose.
So when I talk about connection I think it is sense of purpose and I think that is easier to achieve often alongside others who have an unspoken understanding of the current situation you are in. I think it can be very difficult to find that sense of purpose and belonging without others.
There is a real peer support element to the voltage, the new dancer project, but in terms of being connected all the time to everything if I interpret what you are saying correctly is more on the kind of spirit, everyone and everything is connected and kind of universal level. And we could get into a long philosophical debate but I would be and I think there are elements of dance that go beyond verbal processing that go beyond reflection when you watch performance and you are just moved by it and you cannot say why you are moved by it is just a feeling. And similarly can say nothing to someone but have an eye contact exchange or gestural exchange, and there is so much meaning loaded in that exchange.
You can not necessarily name it, it is just a sixth sense and instinct so I do think that is present in everyday life but I think for many people the distractions of 21st century living digital distractions, and then on the news and media, this project was born in London and it’s a very busy place just the normal levels in London, crossing through London the amount of information that comes out really we try and shut that out to kind of survive. And then look after her and shutting that out. But in shutting that out, we talked a bit about numbing earlier, you numb yourself to feeding, to sensing being, and although we shut out the bad we may also shut out some of the good the things that actually make us feel alive.
Robin Daly: Good comment, I find it very interesting the way that what was largely seen as a rather esoteric idea of connection to each other and to everything is emerging more and more into the absolutely obvious arena, both through science and through the environment, all these ways in which we are runners in that to act in a way that were separate is destructive in the end we will not sustain ourselves.
Emily Jenkins: But it is still on a daily basis. It can be quite challenging to maintain what ways we are connected. For example, I talked a little bit about the breath, which again is a big part of my practice and every session, no matter who I am working with whether it was in the Move Dance Feel context, or with adults and stroke rehabilitation, or adults with dementia or children, I will start with the breath.
Breath, oxygenates the body know, have we connected to our breath today? Where is it at? Can we link to the breath? I think it might some of the sessions start at 5pm in the evening and the people arrive and we talk about the breath and then we start moving with the breath and they say oh, I do not think I have breathed properly all day. I said yeah that might be the same for the whole week or the whole month or whatever many months we were running around and not focusing on it. I think it is just bringing those very important factors of being in the body, noticing the breath, moving in the body and in a way that is comfortable with ease that joint expression to people’s attention.
Robin Daly: You talk about the link between creativity and wellbeing. It is a very interesting area and a link that not everyone understands or even experienced, particularly. Would you expand on this?
Emily Jenkins: In its simplest form it is a mode of expression and I think a word that always comes up for me when I talk about creativity is play and we often associate play with children and yet when we get to a secondary school, for some reason, it is beaten out of us through various academic systems or we just become teenage and a bit self-conscious and then when we are adult particularly women, we can be very self-conscious. So it is this freedom to play but play without inhibitions.
I think to do that again coming back to the type of dance and the type of creative ideas we invite within dance, they can be quite intellectual ideas that people do not feel patronising in any way. That can be quite conceptual if we are getting more of an improvisation basis or that can be quite challenging, but good challenges from there really moving with the rhythm and the synchronizing with each other. And all these things kind of create vibrations in the body and hours of body that you kind of send it towards others and creativity is that live moment that we were talking about where you think anything is possible. There is no right, there is no wrong you were just being quite authentic with allowing movement come from the body and again, and talking about the approach that we use on the dance floor we do not really have a command style. We more lead from the side flattening any sense of hierarchy. So although we might create a framework and offer a framework in which to move in and have kind of structure with them, what ideas we are moving through.
We would like people to make it their own nobody is the same and therefore no one’s individual range of expression is going to be the same we can walk with a particular direction or particular movement and it might look synchronize and look the same but it is a celebration of the individual within that.
And so creativity is kind of helping people discover what is it in your body that you want to express? How does it feel when you are expressing it lean into the good within that?
How can we enlarge that? How can we do more of that?
And I think creativity I think to quote Mya Angelo is ‘the more you use it, the more you have’. And again, when you look at new track participants who across months that you just see them becoming much expressive in their range of motion, and they ideas that they explore but that is so parallel with the mass space that they take up in the room and the confidence that is building in them at the same time. So creativity is a foundation I think that the more we interrogate it the more it can enhance all areas of our lives.
Robin Daly: That was what was coming to me through talking to her I was just thinking how incredible how an seemingly simple thing could have such broad reaching effects on the way that you live and the way you relate to other people in your life in your work and wherever just by building this much more of an inner core of who you are and feeling free to express that.
Emily Jenkins: Yeah there is a woman who has been coming to Move Dance Feel for a long time and this particular element was something that she found very fascinating. And one of her pieces of feedback on the first survey we did she said, “I think moving in new ways that are not necessarily patterns or her habitual has helped to create new what she feels, new brain pathways in the way that she then views and situations in life”. She suddenly sees it from lots of different angles and perspectives and can approach different situations I guess within her personal professional life in new ways and she said it really has given me a new way of seeing as well as feeling you know as a bodily experience so again, I think we cannot underestimate dance is very multidimensional.
Robin Daly: That is huge what you were just saying, one other thing that popped out at me from your website I mean some people understand they like the science they want to be a bit of evidence to show that this is not just all made up and just a nice idea. But you have got three statistics on your website which are pretty remarkable do you have those at your fingertips to be able to just run us through them?
Emily Jenkins: I do not have them at my fingertips but I believe I can remember them so you are talking about the research and we have actually done two research studies to date and there is a third one underway or they are currently on hold because of coronavirus. The first study ways very qualitative and I really wanted to explore the notion of wellbeing because that is quite contested in the context of health as to how you measure wellbeing. And there are lots of different it was out there within the medical sphere as to how you measure participant’s wellbeing. But it was quite a quantitative study that elicited really remarkable results. I am just telling you this because it is relevant to the next stage of research that you have asked me about and they were things like physical relationships that are very different to what I would call normal relationships, where you might go meet someone for coffee and have a quick hello but then sit and chat you do not continue to explore the physicality of yourself and the other person continuously through dance session a sense of freedom movement, a sense of reinventing themselves. Positive emotion, which in the context of role being was actually most closely aligned with Martin Seligman’s permit theory, which is a model of wellbeing situation and positive psychology and Seligman actually now prefers to use the word flourishing as opposed to wellbeing and there is a flourishing scale which we have adopted into the Move Dance Feel evaluation process. It was created by Ed Dyna and it is a seven point scale where people numerically kind of indicate where they are.
And as far as in scale and within that there is positive emotion, accomplishment, connection, which we used we subbed in instead of relationships getting it more akin to the artistic practice, and then self-expression, and creativity which you have just talked about. So alongside flourishing and wellbeing with the second study that took place 2018-19 I was really interested to also explore what a dance could use the word combat.
I think it is some of the negative side effects that I was seeing with women who affected by cancer and these are things like fatigue. I am really debilitating fatigue, low body confidence, feelings of stress, and anxiety, and then also kind of exploring the sense of support and connection. You know, how people might experience support in this group in different ways to other support groups that are out there. The result coming back to your original question I think with the wellbeing scale we had 42 or 46% increase and then 54% stabilisation. Although that might seem like there was no effect actually across 12 months, this study was to see a stabilisation in people’s wellbeing where often people who come out of cancer treatment have a significant decline in their sense of wellbeing was still a really interesting statistics that came out of it.
There was an 86% alleviation of positive effects of dancing on alleviating people’s feelings of stress, and anxiety and I think there was a 40, also kind of 45% positive effect in people’s body confidence and what was really interesting I worked with an evaluator called Kate Weakling who is brilliant.
When we were going through or she was going through the data connected to body confidence she was saying across these three terms, 12 months it is not that people are viewing that body as stronger or fitter but they have changed. There is a change in perception of body image people are more accepting of the body in its current condition and more grateful for the positive elements of their body, as opposed to focused on what is not going right in their body and the negative. So that was really a change in the way people view their body.
Robin Daly: Well, look they are fantastic results and I mean the headline one of 86%, extremely positive change in feelings of stress and anxiety when you put that in the context of the number of people who suffer from stress and anxiety around cancer for many years after they have been given the all clear as well it is a fantastic thing and I hope a lot of people get interested just from that.
Emily Jenkins: I hope and I say we are now on to taking a third phase and partnership with the Penny Brohn National Centre in Bristol. Yeah and were building on the research outcomes that we have already worked on using some of the qualitative and quantitative measures but they were also using the tool called the Michael tool which is measure your concerns and wellbeing that was specifically designed between Penny Brohn and Bristol University to kind of measure effect of provision in this context. And that said anyone listening on the health side the kind of University or academic side and wants to fund or partner on the research side we would really welcome because I think to get big pots of money, which we need to make this project sustainable lots of people talk about a randomized controlled trial.
To have them to venture you are going to see the intention to use medical terms but they cost a lot of money and we have done as much as we can on this small budgets that we have received. The research side is really quite fascinating last year I presented in Montreal, the International Association of Dance, Medicine, and Science.
There is going to be later this year, I think in September an online replay of that presentation so anyone who is interested can tune in and access that if you connect with (IADMS) is the abbreviation.
Robin Daly: Well you are obviously doing great things to push the science of this forward but it is all credit to you. So look we have just got a few minutes left one question you had to give me the short answer to because of the time I do want to ask you mentioned it earlier on have you ever considered or tried working with men?
Emily Jenkins: Yes, I have considered it I would love to it is kind of come down to a question of resources and time and the amount of energy it has taken just to keep this project going. I have consulted with women involved as to whether they would like a mixed group or how they feel about it. I have to say, I think 9 out of 10 for example would rather it stayed the same sex and I believe that might be the same for a men’s group because different things come up for different genders. Yes I am open to it and it is never off the cards.
Robin Daly: As you are, because of course the complimentary medicine and the whole arena of lifestyle medicine, it is still largely by women for women and of course, men suffer from fatigue, stress, anxiety every bit as much as women probably and when it comes to disconnectedness arguably more so I would love to see more out there in that way.
Emily Jenkins: Yes the other configuration just briefly this project was born in East London and there is a big Muslim population in London and I was very aware that for women to be involved they would not exercise in the same room as men. So that was another reason I am thinking about diversity at the type of women engaged with the project just taking those considerations to not unconsciously create boundaries.
Robin Daly: I can see that I mean there is definitely an argument for single-sex things. Thank you for that. So do you want to do a round up at the end?
We have not really talked about your organisation, do you want to just tell us what it is? I mean is it what it says on the tin kind of thing, Move Dance Feel, but what kind of organisation is it? Who is involved?
Emily Jenkins: So the best place to go is www.movedancefeel.com and we have been running for four years but this year I think it was in January actually, we registered as a community interest company. It was born in East London and then quite quickly spread across London we offer provision in Central and Southwest London as well and then last year expanded to Bristol. So on the website; you will see who we partner with and if you go on the take part section you can see the venues we work with we always work in partnership with the cancer support organization and deliver activity on site. So yes explore the website there is a mailing list. I am leading the project with the establishment of community Interest Company. I am the director along with two others and we have a small pool of dance artists we have engaged maybe over 600 women in the four years that we have been running as well as probably at least 300 friends and family members of those women.
We are hosting an online event tonight to launch the website because it is new and that is very much a public event because although we restrict the sessions to women only, I am conscious that there is a community of supporters who have donated to the project who are very interested in it like yourself, but do not often have a chance to talk to as artists or the women themselves who are benefiting. I also thought to say that although the project it is somewhat exclusive that it is for women only it is for women with any type of cancer.
A common misconception is that it is just for women with breast cancer and that is just not true any type of cancer at any stage in there cancer experience, whether they have just been diagnosed, undergoing treatment, and post-treatment and kind of what we talked about it might be years post treatment are welcome to allow them to access it. And it is also for women who are supporting someone with cancer, maybe a partner or a child.
We have also had a couple of women join who have been supporting someone with cancer and sadly the person has passed away and, you know, and in their grieving process they also need love and support and to move and to dance. So absolutely they are welcome to, so we are trying to be as open, as inclusive as possible whilst remaining under the women only umbrella. Robin Daly: Well, thanks for making that all clear so there is basically no prerequisites in terms of your cancer or your absolute beginners, never danced before.
Emily Jenkins: Lots of people say that oh I cannot dance but you can, and you will, we can guide you into that process we appreciate it. It takes a confident person to walk into a dance space, hence works in cancer for organizations and we have very experienced artists who are familiar with all the nerves that come with dancing as a beginner. But we also layer in different options into delivery so even if you are not a beginner and you love to dance there is hopefully some artistic challenges in there as well that is satisfying.
Robin Daly: Just to go over you described it as a community interests organisation, so this is not a charity, it would be what you described as a not for profit. Would that be fair?
Emily Jenkins: Yes it is kind of a not for profit in the sense that any money we raise goes into provision and often okay we might have a few thousand pounds and then how many sessions can we offer in the community for how long? There is a little bit for maybe flyering and marketing those sessions and administration time but, any money we generate goes back into the project we do not make any profit we do not even have a full time member of staff we look around the clock and a lot of it is voluntarily. But obviously being a CIC now we are trying to ensure that we can sustain ourselves moving forward.
Robin Daly: Okay, what effects has the COVID-19 had on your programs and your future plans?
Emily Jenkins: It was quite a big hindrance as I think everyone has experienced around the globe literally overnight the cancer support centers that we were situated in closed before the government instructed to do so and this is very much because those diagnosed with cancer are deemed the more at risk percentage of the population. A lot of people who have been through treatment are immunocompromised and many of the women in the Move Dance Feel community were instructed by the government to shield.
So a large proportion of them have been at home alone and totally dependent on neighbors, kind of bring them food that potentially lifesaving operations, or monitoring, and treatment plans have been stopped. And as we were talking about mental health, this can on top of perhaps a population that were already prone to feeling anxious this is caused kind of unimaginable mental stress.
So quite quickly the project online, but very responsible to keep the groups connected, and provide online sessions that have been running once weekly since the end of March. I think there have been loads of benefits. We are no longer restricted by geographical location, so we are connecting women not only across the different sites across London and Bristol, but we have opened it out.
So anyone anywhere in the UK and we also had some people join from different parts of Europe can connect with us online from their own homes. Obviously we have adapted the sessions they are no longer two hours but they are two lots of forty five minutes. So we have a movement only session and then we have a mini social session and a dance film discussion each week. I am sending out suggested dance films to watch and that has been a joy for a lot of women who perhaps have never been to see a dance show or rarely went due to financial barriers or geographical restrictions. So we are allowed to critique dance films and relate what we are seeing on stage or through dance film as to the ideas that we explore in the sessions, and just kind of solidify our understanding of movement as creatives as artists as dancers. So the sessions are running, at the moment they are running to the beginning of August. Then I might have a break as it has been quite intense to ship the thing online. But we are fundraising to try and develop a Move Dance Feel online offer. There is not going to replace the live sessions whenever we can get back to delivering live sessions.
There is definitely a need to run it parallel we are reaching women and we were locations and in places that we had not previously been able to get into I should say that we kind of have moved Move Dance Feel kind of online now and when we are allowed to return to live sessions there is weekly sessions happening in London, but the Penny Brohn Senator as it is residential is hosting weekend courses and they are happening every two months. So women from anywhere in the UK can go and stay there it is all for free. We will provisionally offer this for free or pay by donation to really get an immersive experience if they are unable to attend live weekly sessions or there now we have online, who knows where it might go.
Robin Daly: Right. Well, it has brought out a lot of creativity, this COVID-19 and definitely has turned out to be some silver linings there and we have experienced exactly the same as you at Yes to Life. That actually we put stuff online cause we had to, and actually we broadened our reach and we will certainly not be stopping those things once we get to the end of the pandemic. That is it for time, thanks so much for coming on the show today, Emily I have loved hearing about your inspiring work and it is great to be able to share all of this with our listeners.
Emily Jenkins: You are very welcome it was wonderful to have a platform to share it, if anyone is listening, please spread the word share the website. I think the more people who are made aware of the benefits of dance in this context the better.
Robin Daly: Fantastic Thank you bye.
Well, what an extraordinarily thoughtful, insightful, creative and passionate person Emily is. To have created such a novel and productive platform for healing as well as some of the science to back it up in just four years is a stunning achievement, well worth further investigation. I want to once more bring your attention to Yes to Life’s upgraded searchable life directory of providers and therapies. The directory has always been a feature of the site, but this latest incarnation really is a significant step forward.
You can access it by going to YestoLife.org.uk scrolling down the homepage and clicking the box headed therapist and providers. Once there, you can either plunge straight in maybe entering your location into the ‘what is nearby’ search feature and instantly finding out what resources are within a given distance of your home.
Or you may prefer to start by watching the short video, explaining all the features of the directory and how to get the most from it. Either way, do take a moment to check it out as it has the potential to be an extraordinarily useful tool to support you. Many thanks for listening today and please listen again next week to the next edition of the Yes to Life show here on UK Health Radio. Goodbye.
Radio show transcript edited by Jade Higgins, Literary Transcript Editor
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