Priyanka Chauhan | 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 Priyanka has taken on these challenges. The other artists’ blog posts can be found here.

I am grateful for Akademi’s dedication to reaching out to our community groups of older adults throughout the lockdown period of COVID-19. Not only did this mean that as a freelance community arts practitioner I was able to continue to work but it also meant that we could soften the abrupt end to the sessions that we and everyone in our classes faced. The group I was working with had a performance planned for 5 April at Tate Modern, which we had been building towards for weeks and were all looking forward to. So, to still be able to reach them online meant that we could fill part of the empty space created from the lockdown.

The Dance Well artists were asked to create a mix of instructional dance videos for their respective groups. I was happy to know that I would be able to reach my group again because we had all built a bond through dancing, creating, and performing together and their wellbeing became one of my concerns at home.

“Continuation of Dance Well during COVID-19 pandemic meant that as a freelance community arts practitioner, I was able to continue to work. It also meant that we could soften the abrupt end to the sessions.”

In the videos, I decided to finish the routines that we had been preparing for our Tate Modern performance. In doing so, I was positively surprised to realise they had worked through so much dance content, a mix of styles and stories. This gave me the confidence to also share new routines with them, knowing that they would embrace the challenge, even though we weren’t in the room together, and that they already knew enough of the basics for a new challenge to not feel overly daunting.

Another part of the continued work with Akademi was to plan a new unit of sessions, with the hope that we could deliver it as we all slowly return to the ‘new normal’. This was a useful activity for me, both practically and reflectively. It made me realise that we have all been through an emotional and physical upheaval, and that we need a safe space for all this to land before we can continue with life as it used to be. It highlighted the need to plan in time and space for the group to reunite, feel safe and feel grounded back in the dance space.

This learning was reinforced through another part of the continued work through Akademi, which was to read a part of the book ‘The Body Keeps The Score’. We only were asked to read a few chapters, but I have not put the book down since. The team discussion on this book was one of the influences that made me start a dedicated Yoga practice in lockdown and, going forward, I will be adding more breath work and sensory/ body awareness activities to my dance sessions.

It’s been a period of fear and uncertainty for so many of us in the arts, with many freelancers feeling forgotten. I’ve felt supported and have really appreciated the opportunities by Akademi to connect, interact and learn with and from the other Dance Well team members.

“Planning delivery during ‘new normal’ made me realise that we have all been through an emotional and physical upheaval, and that we need a safe space for all this to land before we can continue with life as it used to be.”

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