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Guest blog: Move Dance Feel - An Innovative Dance Project for Women Affected by Cancer

 
 

Guest blog: Move Dance Feel - An Innovative Dance Project for Women Affected by Cancer

 
 

Initiated in 2016 by Emily Jenkins, Move Dance Feel offers free, weekly dance sessions centred around artistic practice, where women come together to dance instead of talk about their cancer experience.

The project was designed to explore what dance could offer in the context of cancer diagnosis and recovery, and to address a recognised need for post-treatment support. Evidence shows that 70% of people struggle with physical and emotional side effects between one and ten years after cancer treatment (Macmillan 2013). Reported side effects include tension, weight changes, pain, restricted movement, severe fatigue, stress, anxiety, depression, fear, low self-esteem, disturbances in body image, and many more ill health factors.

Now in its third year, Move Dance Feel is proving to be extremely beneficial for the women involved, aiding recovery by increasing wellbeing and body confidence, alleviating feelings of stress and anxiety, and combating cancer related fatigue. The all female environment has led to feelings of empowerment and enabled strong social relationships to form - helping women to better manage the challenges they face. 

“This is such a beautiful, embracing experience and is so crucial to my feeling of wellbeing. Joyful, enlivening and relaxing all at once.’’ - participant

As a physically expressive art form, dance provides an alternative means through which to communicate. Via group movement explorations and collaborative tasks, participants build ‘physical relationships’ which gives rise to feelings of acceptance towards themselves and others, appreciating their body as others acknowledge it as a source of inspiration and pleasure.

“This is a mix of connecting with myself, others, mind and body, a sense of some tightness unbinding.” - participant

When going through cancer treatment the body is surrendered, handed over to doctors and controlled by the cancer itself. This can cause a degree of trauma to the body, whereby sensory and emotional connections to it become damaged and in some cases severed. What dance offers in this context is a means of returning to the body and reclaiming control, taking back ownership and in the process reigniting lost connections.

Cancer really affects your sense of confidence and your body image. The class restores that sense of body confidence. It makes you less angry at your body.” - participant

Alongside artistic delivery, project evaluators have been measuring the impact of Move Dance Feel on participants and have retrieved remarkable results. Findings will be presented in Autumn 2019 in Montreal, at the ‘International Association of Dance Medicine and Science’ annual conference, and in Bristol at Penny Brohn UK's ‘Because I Need More than Medicine’ conference.

You can watch a short documentary about Move Dance Feel here: https://vimeo.com/327721229

Summer 2019 sees an exciting new development of Move Dance Feel with the launch of a performance project. This has been established to bring a sense of visibility to women who are living well during and after cancer – in the hope of inspiring others to dance.

Move Dance Feel is currently situated at Maggie’s Barts  in the City of London and Paul's Cancer Support Centre in South West London. Sessions are open to adult women (aged 18 and above) with any type of cancer, and also welcomes those who are supporting someone with cancer.

To find out more and take part please contact the Centres directly. You can also connect with Move Dance Feel on facebook www.facebook.com/MoveDanceFeel or twitter @MoveDanceFeel.

For all other enquiries, especially surrounding project research, e-mail: movedancefeel@gmail.com

Photography by Camilla Greenwell

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