As someone dipping my toes into the Dance & Health world, Ailish Claffey’s programme offers a huge opportunity – to learn, to question and to reflect on shared experiences. I come with an open mind, knowing that my background – as a dancer and arts manager turned physiotherapist – is a very particular one.
I am curious about the journeys both artists and health care professionals have taken in their understanding and creation of roles for dance in healthcare. I’m as interested in the projects or ideas that didn’t turn out as expected as the ones that were lauded and applauded. What can we learn from both? What does this tell us about the essential qualities or skills that those working in the area of dance and health should strive to develop?
Training as a physiotherapist in recent years has made me appreciate anew the depth and value of the physical knowledge that ‘lives’ in my body thanks to my dance training. I am curious to discover the approaches that the presenting artists and facilitators have developed to access and translate/transmit their embodied knowledge in ways that benefit people whose experience of themselves and their bodies has been affected by illness or disability. More broadly, I wonder what physiotherapists and other rehab professionals could learn from dancers – considering our common interest in developing and training movement?
In a similar vein, I wonder if the artist’s understanding of how to collaborate effectively could inform the health care practitioner’s approach to achieving patient-centred care? What different needs have to be acknowledged and addressed to enable artists, health care practitioners and service users to collaborate comfortably? Can we articulate some of the assumptions or practical barriers that might get in the way of effective collaboration?
In the broader context of healthcare, there are growing opportunities for dance within health promotion, particularly in relation to active ageing. Coming together as a community of interest involving very different disciplines offers a chance to discuss recent projects and research, understand differing points of view and articulate shared goals. What are the steps we need to take to develop the potential of dance in these contexts? How do we best convey the message that dance can help to regain and maintain good health?
These two days of practical work and considered discussion offer the chance to learn much about the current landscape of dance in healthcare – both opportunities and limitations. Our bodies will have the chance to sniff out new ideas and feel what resonates from the approaches of those who have developed their practice over years. I look forward to sharing conversations – physical and verbal – and to exploring the questions above and, no doubt, dozens more next week!
Eleanor is a recently qualified physiotherapist, currently working in Primary Care. She studied at The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Prior to retraining, she enjoyed a career in dance marketing and producing, working with Dublin Dance Festival, Aerowaves: dance across Europe, and several independent choreographers. Her journey in movement started with dance training at The College of Dance, Monkstown and a BA in Dance Studies with Psychology at Roehampton University, London.
Dance & Health seminar is on July 19 & 20 at Loftus Hall Maynooth. Funded under The Arts Council’s Invitation to Collaboration Scheme 2017. This project is a partnership between Kildare, Kerry and Tipperary County Councils, and Dance Ireland. Featuring leading national and international experts, this event is for both dance and healthcare professionals.