Hiten Mistry | Working in Lockdown

Aug 17, 2020

Our Learning and Participation artists have shown sheer dedication and an unimaginable amount of flexibility in supporting us to continue taking dance to older people and young children with autism, even during the lockdown. We can’t thank them enough!

We commissioned the Dance Well artists to develop and produce bespoke digital dance activities for their individual participant groups, as well as devising professional development opportunities for them to enhance both their practice and the programme itself. Through a combination of creating, reading, discussing, planning and online learning, we’ve tried to ensure that when our classes start again, in whatever the ‘new normal’ looks like, we’re ready to inspire even more older people to Dance Well.

We asked our Dance Well artists to reflect on their experiences of working differently during lockdown. Below you can read how Hiten has taken on these challenges. The other artists’ blog posts can be found here.

I found this lockdown very challenging as I hardly ever work from home. I have only ever majorly done my dance training and regular practice outside of the home environment. I often struggled to get the work done. As dance artists we are so used to working outside of our home that trying to be productive in the home environment has been a huge learning process.

Having to navigate through the house and my family members, to negotiate timings with them to film Dance Well sessions for older adults, trying and testing filming spaces at home and finding the right angles etc. was difficult. What was most surprising was having to see myself in teaching mode while replaying the films, sometimes it was a feeling of “Oh my god – is that I how look whilst instructing movement? No wonder the participants find me hilarious..!” and other times it was just utter horror of how different I looked on film than in person. This was both fun and time consuming but prepared me for a new normal that we are all gearing towards. 

“As dance artists we are so used to working outside of our home that trying to be productive in the home environment has been a huge learning process.”

It has been an unusual experience, and something I haven’t done before, to plan an entire 6-week unit of sessions. It was challenging as we had to try and assume the developments trajectory of the sessions and incorporate new ideas into the unit based on these assumptions. Working with fellow colleagues and speaking with them has since helped me to develop the units further.

Apart from this, taking the online UCL Dementia and the Arts course has been really enlightening and educative, it has given me valuable insights into the many kinds of Dementia. I learnt about how to work with people living with Dementia and their families, and different modalities of going about this. I also got to learn about several real-life examples from working professionals in healthcare settings which made this a very special experience.  It reinforced that teaching is not just a one-sided activity and how experiential knowledge can complement it.

I attended the first team tea which Akademi had organised. After weeks of being in the lockdown, it was so wonderful to see fellow colleagues and senior artists of the Akademi team. It really was a sociable, fun and insightful experience. How I wish we could all be able to giggle, hug and dance in person but at least this was a really great way of bringing us all together. This connection was important for me as we all shared and exchanged ideas and experiences of creating lesson plans and filming the sessions for our new Dance Well units. It was not all work and no play, we also had a silly giggle about mundane normal things, which we haven’t been able to have in weeks. I am awaiting the next Team Tea by Akademi.

“After weeks of being in the lockdown, it was so wonderful to connect with  fellow artists and Akademi team at the ‘Team Teas’. It was important for me as we all exchanged ideas and experiences of creating lesson plans and filming the Dance Well sessions.”

If these blogs have piqued your interest, then you can learn more about…

…our Dance Well programme here
… ​the Dance Well digital resources here
The Body Keeps The Score, by Bessel van der Kolk here
… the UCL Future Learn Dementia and The Arts online course here