Momentum, a Dance Group for Parkinson’s

Inspired by the work of English National Ballet, and research conducted by Dr Sara Houston at the University of Roehampton, www.ballet.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/English-National-Ballet-Dance-for-Parkinsons-research-report.pdf Fresh Arts offers weekly tailored dance sessions for people with Parkinson’s at Southmead Hospital.

Part of the national Dance for Parkinson’s network, our weekly sessions bring people together to enjoy movement, music and self-expression in a non-judgmental environment.

Anyone with Parkinson's can attend the sessions every Friday from 10.30am until midday, finishing with a cuppa; they’re welcome to bring along carers, relatives or friends (as long as they join in too!).

North Bristol NHS Trust is a leading centre for neurosciences and Parkinson's care and treatment.

Working with the clinical teams, Dance for Parkinson’s is providing further support for patients who are under the care of the hospital and members of the local Parkinson's UK branch.

Dance for Parkinson’s aims to boost physical wellbeing in the following ways:

  • Maintain cognitive function
  • Reduce cardio risk
  • Reduce risk of falls
  • Develop co-ordination, balance, motor skills and body and spatial awareness
  • Increase exercise undertaken outside of the class

Rachael James is the experienced dance facilitator leading the sessions who understands how to push movement, whilst respecting the limitations of participants.

In collaboration with Bristol City Council culture team and Dance for Parkinson’s UK, bespoke training has been provided for other dance practitioners to understand how Parkinson’s manifests itself in the body and to deliver this beneficial programme.

As well as improving the physical side, the dancing also contributes positively to the mental wellbeing of people taking part. The sessions offer a welcoming, friendly and fun social space where participants can meet others with Parkinson's over a cup of tea.

Learning new skills and making new friends in a supportive environment increases confidence and improves mood and self-esteem.

Thanks to all the partners who have made this project possible: Bristol City Council, Parkinson’s UK, the Bristol and District Parkinson’s Group and Dance for Parkinson's UK. 

Research findings

The research report by Dr Sara Houston at the University of Roehampton concluded that as well as physical benefits the social & mental activity was very positive for patients.

“The main benefits of dancing with Parkinson’s are in the mental activity it provides and in emotional and social health and well-being. Scales and focus groups that looked at non-motor activity, such as cognitive functioning, psychological health, relationships and participant interaction indicated that the dance programme was providing particularly strong support for participants.

We can conclude that dancing is a good and challenging mental workout for people with Parkinson’s and allows some participants to cope better with symptoms and disability. It offers a positive environment where there is a community of support through dance, allowing participants to nurture positive attitudes to the future and a sense of independence. Dancing is a meaningful activity to participants and is valued highly by them. It was also evident that the dance class was a place to experience freedom and capability in spite of what was happening in participants’ daily lives, but which had the potential to expand into everyday life.

The sessions incorporate a range of movements and a combination of seated, standing or walking dances so that everyone can join in, at a level that suits them.”