Dancing, Healthcare, Belfast

Ann, Jenny and I after getting interviewed by BCC Northern Island
Earlier this month I, along with colleague Ann Berhands, went to Belfast to work with Jenny Eliot exploring dance in health care settings. Ann and I both work at Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown Hospital working with cancer patients, their families, nurses, and administrative staff. We go into individual patients' rooms to get them moving, work with people in the waiting rooms, staff at their desks, I teach a weekly dance class and we direct creative projects. Jenny, in Belfast, is an artist in resident at a psychiatric hospital as well as other facilities. We were in Belfast exchanging and learning with Jenny about the potentials for dance in health care.

Jenny is an amazing artist and teacher who runs a dance company for men who have suffered traumatic brain injury, works with a group of mentally challenged adults and recently started a senior dance company whose average age is over 90 years old. She also has created a training program for health practitioners in how to integrate dance into their daily work as well as teaching special workshops to a variety of populations. While in Belfast Ann and I followed her around for a week watching, learning, participating and teaching.

It was immensely useful to work with Jenny in the different settings in which she works, but equally useful was talking with her about bringing dance, and the arts in general, into health care. She is, as Ann and I are, very clear she is not doing dance therapy. But, instead, she is a dancer and choreographer who is engaging with people so they can participate in the culture of which they are apart of. She talks about creating an atmosphere in which dance is a recognized part of what happens in these health care settings, in which people have a right to participate in their culture - both as viewers and producers - and, in which these activities are not unusual.

I look forward to moving ahead with my work at Lombardi and figuring out ways in which dance can become an accepted, assumed part of what happens at a hospital. One of the things that I have noticed is though hospitals are a place for healing the body, the people who work there are often disconnected from their own bodies. And, at the same time, people who come into the hospital have their body examined as parts and pieces without attention to the whole. Dance and dancers have something to share with hospitals and the health care world about the wholeness of one’s body. So, I am going to stage an insurgency to integrate dance into Lombardi and the Georgetown U Hospital (big announcements coming in next month or so). Wish me luck.

1 comment:

  1. Great work, Dan. Very exciting and important.