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

It goes without saying that the past few months have been a period of huge change for us all. As a dance artist who works a lot in the community, if you had asked me back in March what my new working life would look like, I couldn’t have guessed. Some of my teaching went online but I couldn’t see how my Dance Well hospital sessions could be transferred to an online format. It would require a huge amount of support from health professionals already working at capacity, especially since the usual visitors and relatives would not be there to support participants. 

Very luckily for me, I work with Akademi. The team have been unbelievable throughout and have been working tirelessly to find ways to continue to develop and deliver our practice through lockdown in a way that both supports our development as artists and benefits participants. Some artists have been creating digital content while others of us have been completing CPD courses and planning new Dance Well sessions focussed on bringing groups back together after what could be months of solitude. We also had a mini book club over virtual ‘team teas’ where we discussed the brilliant The Body Keeps The Score (which I would highly recommend). 

“My alternative work plans have given me the valuable opportunity to delve deeper into areas of my Dance Well practice, something I never have as much time for as I would like in ‘normal’ life.”

My alternative work plans have given me the valuable opportunity to delve deeper into areas of my Dance Well practice, something I never have as much time for as I would like in ‘normal’ life. The online CPD course that I completed back in April was a perfect way to focus this review and encouraged me to begin by revisiting and deepening my Dementia and the Arts training. As well as the thorough and well curated content, the course offered a space to engage with other artists working in similar areas and share thoughts, methods and wider resources. My notes and reflections made up such a chunky document that I felt bad sending it in for the lovely L&P team to read!

An area of my recent work that I found particularly rich and exciting was devising a new set of Dance Well sessions that aim to reconnect communities and support people to re-engage in group activities after lockdown. Many of our regular participants may well have been almost entirely isolated over the past months and my planning aims to ease the stress that this might cause when they find themselves back amongst a group of people in a movement session! I looked at where moments of connection could be offered and encouraged in low-pressure ways and worked on keeping sessions as accessible as possible by including plenty of guided improvisation and imagination-based tasks.

Another concern that struck me during our team tea meetings was the wider environment that we will be returning to and how that will have shifted during our time away. The worlds of the doctors and nurses who we work with on a weekly basis will be radically different. We discussed how we can prepare for this, be sensitive to the change and what we can do to support them upon our return. I can’t wait to be back.

“An area of my recent work that I found particularly rich and exciting was devising a new set of Dance Well sessions that aim to reconnect communities and support people to re-engage in group activities after lockdown.”

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