In Scotland, there are estimated to be 10,000 people who live with Parkinson’s, and this number is set to increase over the next 25 years. Dance can help people with Parkinson's physically, mentally and socially, aiding mobility and improving overall feelings of wellbeing.

Established in 2016, the Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland programme supports those with Parkinson’s to experience the benefits of dance and creativity - improving balance, spatial awareness, confidence and fluidity in movement. Every week, around 75 participants take part in sessions delivered by Scottish Ballet in Glasgow and Dance Base in Edinburgh.

This new grant of £295,000 from Paul Hamlyn Foundation will enable Scottish Ballet and Dance Base to expand the ground-breaking Dance for Parkinson’s programme across Scotland. The three-year funding will broaden access to people living with Parkinson’s and their caregivers nationwide.

Scottish Ballet and Dance Base are establishing new regional hubs in five locations, working with local partners including Aberdeen Performing Arts and City Moves, Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock, the NHS, Centre Stage and east Ayrshire Council in Kilmarnock, Eden Court in Inverness and Shaper Caper and The Space in Dundee. There are plans for three further regional hubs to be developed in eighteen months’ time, bringing the total number to ten across Scotland.

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‘We are delighted to extend our partnership with Dance Base to offer dance classes for people with Parkinson's across Scotland, providing participants with a range of unique and tangible benefits. It is deeply rewarding to see the difference this is making to people’s lives, as well as their growing sense of connection to Scottish Ballet. We look forward to delivering Dance for Parkinson’s in collaboration with our new partners in Greenock, Kilmarnock, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness.’

Catherine Cassidy, Director of Engagement, Scottish Ballet

Both Dance Base and Scottish Ballet are recognised as leaders in the dance field. The approach of Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland has been acknowledged by leading artists, scientists and health professionals across the world. Research conducted across Europe and the United States demonstrates that participants participating in this programme may experience Parkinson's-specific physical improvements as well as confidence and social inclusion as part of their participation.

The Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland classes feature elements of ballet and contemporary dance, usually rooted in Scottish Ballet repertoire, and often with a movement vocabulary inspired by the participants themselves. Scottish Ballet and Dance Base practitioners lead participants to develop movement skills with particular focus on fluidity of movement, balance, coordination, expression, posture and rhythm. The classes also include activities focused on problem solving, improvisation, vocal skills, and repetition from memory and multi-tasking, which are all key areas for people with Parkinson's.

‘All members of the team have been so welcoming and friendly, we really look forward to Mondays. The time spent in class allows us to concentrate on the movements, find out how our bodies cope with new challenges and, hopefully, overcome difficulties with movement which can make such a difference in everyday life. The encouragement coupled with a light-hearted approach helps us to gain confidence both in doing the movements and participating with others. Meeting other people between classes is a welcome addition as I find that since chatting to others at this time and getting to know them we are all opening up gradually and are happy to discuss everyday problems of living with Parkinson’s.’

Evie Gillies, Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland participant

Building on the evidence from a study undertaken by English National Ballet and Roehampton University in 2010, Dance Base and Scottish Ballet will continue to undertake rigorous evaluation and provide regular updates to partners around the UK and internationally. Extending the programme’s reach across Scotland to more communities will help to deepen knowledge about this specialised area.

‘Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland signifies the commitment made by both organisations to facilitate high quality dance experiences with an inclusive ethos and makes a demonstrable difference to the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s, their partners, and spouses.’

Dr Bethany Whiteside, Research Fellow at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
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