It is through the body that we meet the world and grow our knowledge of it. Dance is a powerful, sensitive and expressive means of exploring issues around health and wellbeing.
In recent years I have developed a number of projects in collaboration with health and social services, and initiatives for social regeneration.
I have frequently collaborated with dancer and author Miranda Tufnell. Our series of Body Stories projects were established in partnership with NHS Health Action Zones and local health centres in Cumbria and Northumberland with support from the Northern Rock Foundation. Our aim was to establish supportive and informal workshop settings where there was time for people suffering from various kinds of mental and physical distress to come together and discover a more positive and creative relationship to themselves, their bodies and their lives. We compiled an account of this work in our self-published book “When I open my eyes”.
There are also times when not only individuals but whole communities are struggling with often insurmountable difficulties. Wansbeck Council commissioned me to address issues of poor community esteem in an ex-mining village that had experienced high incidence of coronary heart disease and respiratory illnesses, fast diminishing local resources, closed shops and low levels of community provision. I was told by many local people that the heart had gone out of the village in the absence of the industry that had sustained life there. People felt cut off from the rest of the world. Through talking and listening to people I developed an incremental two-year project, working with the body both physically and as a metaphor for the community in terms of its heartbeat, respiration and circulation. A series of themed activities developed and took place.