Brighton-based arts charity connecting with community through dance

Brighton-based arts charity South East Dance has been helping to keep the community moving during lockdown.

Luan with one of the Brook Mead residents Joan
Luan with one of the Brook Mead residents Joan

Spokeswoman Chloe Barker said: “South East Dance is working creatively with the city’s community organisations to bring dance, movement and a feeling of connectedness to those who need it most during lockdown.

“Part of The Welcome Project, a three-year programme designed to get more people dancing in the run-up to the opening of the city’s new home for dance The Dance Space, South East Dance during social isolation is taking its work to residents of a care home, a community nursery and an unemployed families project in new ways.

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“Prior to lockdown Luan Taylor, assistant producer at South East Dance, had been running weekly social sessions for people living with dementia at Brook Mead Extra Care Facility, with the help of dance artist Louisa Petts.

“With the help of four older dance volunteers, Luan’s weekly Dance to your own Tune sessions, combined dance and movement, music, film, quizzes and reminiscing to offer the regular group of nine participants aged 78-plus a vital moment of social connectedness.

“Now face to face contact isn’t possible, yet those moments of feeling connected are more important than ever. Luan has been anxious to make sure the residents know they haven’t been forgotten and to support carers with ideas for simple movement exercises.”

Luan said: “While social distancing may have relaxed for some, care homes around the country are still shielding their residents so I’ve replaced our sessions with weekly dance-themed care packages instead.”

The first week Luan made everybody a handmade card with a picture of her on the inside, so they would recognise who it was from. She added magazine articles about dance, and poems that she thought they may be interested to read. The following week she introduced safe movement and chair-based exercises to help keep the group moving.

“I included photographs of us dancing together at previous sessions, smiling, laughing and moving as group,” Luan added. “And I knitted a little heart for each resident to keep, and hopefully raise a smile until we can be together again face-to-face."

South East Dance is also offering free online dance classes to Puffin Community Nursery and Brighton Unemployed Centre’s Families Project.

In her weekly online class for under five-year-olds and their carers, choreographer and performance maker Amy Toner uses simple props such as sock puppets to encourage little ones to get moving whilst building coordination and confidence along the way.

If the classes are a hit, South East Dance intends to explore how they might make them available as a resource to other nurseries and early years settings in the area.

Before lockdown, as part of South East Dance’s The Welcome Project, dance artist Federico Bedoya had been working with a group of regular participants from Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project (BUCFP). Now that he can’t be in the room with the group, he’s presenting online classes to keep people moving, motivated and having fun.

As well as the sessions being shared with Federico’s regular group, the link to the classes will also be distributed via emergency food parcels being delivered from BUCFP to over 100 people in the Tarner area. BMEPC Centre, a resource centre which champions and supports the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community in Brighton & Hove, will also be sharing a link to the classes through their food bank service.

Luan added says: “Dancing is food for the soul so we’re sure people will really enjoy these weekly classes. Then we can look forward to the time when we can all dance together in person again.”


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