Move, Dance, Feel offers weekly dance sessions to women affected by cancer, including those who are supporting someone with cancer.
Founder Emily Jenkins took part in Creativity and Wellbeing Week 2019 in many different ways. Firstly she delivered a talk at Royal Marsden Hospital to share the research findings around Move Dance Feel – detailing in what ways dance can combat some of the negative side effects associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment. She was also part of our showcase during the ‘Making it Mainstream’ event with some of the women from Move Dance Feel and attended our Artists Practising Well’ event. As a freelance artist working in community and health contexts, Emily often faces emotional, organisational and health system complexities alone – without peer or professional support. With the rapid growth in arts and health initiatives, Emily believes that there needs to be systems in place that provide effective solutions to these challenges, in order to prevent artist burnout.
The research revealed during the week last year showed that Move Dance Feel enhances participant wellbeing, alleviates feelings of stress and anxiety, improves body confidence and reduces levels of fatigue. The self expressive element of dance generates lots of positive emotion, and by using the body to creatively communicate participants form close and supportive friendships. In an all female environment this has led to empowering outcomes.
Here are some of the women who have taken part in Move, Dance, Feel classes.
Participant A has been in and out of cancer treatment for 8 years and joined Move Dance Feel in early 2018 when she was in a particularly low period, beginning to feel defeated. Here she explains how her life has changed since she’s been dancing:
“Before I came to this class I had just stopped. I walked and talked and breathed. And I ate a lot of junk food. But I had stopped. And this group has turned everything around. It’s made me active in so many ways. I’m so busy now! I’ve gone from fatigue to exhaustion! But they are very different! It’s given me more of a purpose.”
Participant B has a long history of health challenges, and the consequences of her cancer treatment means that she now lives with pain every single day. Despite this, she has been attending Move Dance Feel for a year, and below explains why:
“It’s helping me to walk taller. I had my eyes down before. I was always looking at my feet.” “When I first came I didn’t think I’d get through two hours but now I always can. I can feel my muscles working. It’s improving my strength over time.”
“I have a real sense of belonging at Paul’s (Cancer Support Centre) since I joined this group. I didn’t used to feel that. I just came to individual things but now I really feel a part of it.”
Participant C joined the project because she felt very stressed caring for her partner and due to the strain she was under, her own health and wellbeing became compromised. After two terms of attending Move Dance Feel she spoke about the impact it had had on her and her family:
“I had become very rigid physically and now I’m less rigid… It’s made me realise I am strong and I am weak too and it has opened my heart a bit more – that life can be difficult but there’s hope and there’s movement.” “There’s something about using the space here. You take up a small space at home: you’re trying to fix everyone. And I’m now so much more open. I’m making more space for myself everywhere.” “My family notice when I‘ve been here – I’m more playful, more present, more loving. Because people are loving here.
Founder Emily Jenkins spoke before the week in 2019.
‘I personally feel very excited by the current momentum surrounding arts and health initiatives. There are many artists working tirelessly to highlight the interrelationship between creativity and wellbeing, and I find it really rewarding to see greater recognition in this field – it motivates me to keep going, especially in knowing how it’s influencing change in both national and international public health policies. The downside however is that demand increases faster than resources and both the arts and health sectors are battling major budget cuts, making it increasingly more difficult to secure funding and deliver sustainable projects.’