Sharing ideas

We hope to make the Centre of Excellence a real community where people can network and share ideas. In this section you can read Richard’s blog incorporating movement and dance into dementia care.

Richard’s blog

Read Dr Richard Coaten’s blog. Here Richard will share his expertise in the field and details of his most recent work.

November 2017- CDAN’s ‘music and dementia seminar’, Wellcome Foundation, London

The Wellcome Foundation programme offered interesting work from the practitioners using music in their group work. Julian West from ‘Created out of mind’ at the Wellcome hub gave an overview of the innovative projects taking place so far. Please read the article from The Guardian about the project and the people involved.

October 2016 – dancing through dementia Nicosia, Cyprus

What was it?

A five-day residency in close collaboration with the Dancehouse Lefkosia, the Dance Gate Lefkosia Cyprus, and the Association of Dance Movement Psychotherapy Cyprus. It was based at the Dancehouse Lefkosia (25 Parthenonos Street, 1105 Ayios Andreas, Lefkosia) and introduced participants to a range of practical arts-based skills, ideas and theoretical underpinnings to further develop the use of movement and dance work with older people in day and residential care, especially those with dementia and their carers. It also built on work previously carried out in Athens and Istanbul (with financial support from Creative Minds) that had used traditional Greek and Turkish music and dance with people with dementia and their carers, while building teams of people in both cities equipped to build on these ideas.

Who delivered and took part in this?

As you know, I work part-time for the Trust in Calderdale and following my Churchill Fellowship trip to Canada in 2010, including subsequent trips abroad with funding from Creative Minds, I’m a passionate advocate for the benefits of working internationally:

It gives you the confidence not only to understand the importance of working multi-culturally, but in my case to understand that movement and dance transcends language, it requires no verbal translation. For people of Greek Cypriot origin with memory problems and dementia who love traditional singing and dancing, what we achieved over the 5 days was very special indeed.

How did it come about?

It started while on a Creative Minds supported trip to the USA in 2014, where I met a dancer, Maedees Dupres based in Denver, who had the email number of a friend of hers in Nicosia. In April 2014 I sent an email to dancer Arianna Economou first proposing the idea. It was a long time in gestation, however the most time consuming bit was attempting, unsuccessfully in the end, to secure local-authority funding. The tenacity to keep going in spite of setbacks was really important. In the end the solution was to forget outside financial support, market it over Facebook and ask participants to pay 150 Euros to cover my air-fare, accommodation and a per diem for food. Just enough people signed up to cover these costs and flights were booked for me by Dancehouse Lefkosia back in April of 2016.

What was the residency aiming to achieve?

To pilot an idea in Cyprus that had already worked well in Athens and Istanbul. Namely to:
1) Support and develop current movement, dance and somatic practices in Cyprus.
2) Bring some of the latest ideas and practices concerning the use and importance of ‘Person-Centred Care’, from the UK field of best practice in dementia care.
3) Help reduce stigma & fear surrounding the condition.
4) Bridge the worlds of health-care and arts praxis by bringing together practitioners in both fields, to learn from each other.
5) Together train dancers, dance therapists, healthcare workers and volunteers in effective and engaging group and 1:1 based movement and dance skills and approaches.
6) Lay the foundations for further growth and development of this work.

What in fact happened?

Read more with my five day diary including pictures.

April 2016 – Follow up to blog below about Mairead’s call out re a dance & dementia film.

The research team found a researcher at Nottingham University and team, whose work was presented on Episode 1 of ‘How to stay young’, currently running on BBC2. The researches have been published and this is their conclusion which is very significant to the dance & dementia community even though the research was with older people and not those with dementia I think:

“Does dancing in old age afford neuromuscular protection?  – The present findings suggest a reduction of neuromuscular degeneration in older humans as a result of a six-month recreational dancing intervention. Instead, general fitness training based on strength, endurance and flexibility exercises does not seem to produce these benefits. It is not clear how dancing affords this protection but this could be due to a reduction of oxidative stress, inflammation and/or improved neurotrophin levels (Gonzalez-Freire et al. 2014).”

The main contributor/scientist that they worked with on this item was Marco Narici from The University of Nottingham


The most closely related work that he has in the public domain can be found here:

PS. If you’re visiting this site from outside the UK and want to watch this programme from the BBC, I’m very sorry but owing to licensing regulations those not living in the UK will be unable to watch it…sorry about this!!


September 2015 – New BBC Film on Dance & Dance Movement Therapy & Dementia

The BBC are just starting out on the research process for a new film that is to involve Angela Rippon.  This is potentially a very important opportunity to have a light shined on what we do (literally and metaphorically) and as we all know, a high-quality film clearly dealing with dance & dementia, together with other aspects, could not come at a better time for us all. I have been able to point Mairead (BBC Researcher) to a small archive of contemporary films here on the website I co-ordinate (Under Useful Links). Please get in touch with Mairead direct, particularly if you are currently delivering the work, have a story to tell, or have people who would like to have their stories told about the effects of dancing on their lives, relating to: identity ( personhood), memory, communication, movement range, well-being, balance, co-ordination, gait, falls reduction, language recovery etc etc. The benefits are extensive.

Contact details for Mairead are as follows:

Dr. Mairead M. Maclean
Researcher – BBC Science (BBC Scotland)
0141 42(26337)
Zone 3.31, BBC Scotland, 40 Pacific Quay, Glasgow, Scotland, G51 1DA.

July 2015 – APPG meeting

Following an invitation from Alex Coulter to attend the APPG meet on July 6th in Parliament together with Fergus Early and Professors Dawn Brooker and Justine Schneider from TanDem, I think you will find the minutes and Arts and Health Research References in Dementia Care very useful. A particular thank you to Professor Paul Camic, a leading expert in research in arts and health, who produced the Arts and Health Research References for us and who has given permission, as has Alex Coulter, for both minutes and paper to be sent out to you everywhere. I have had communication with Professor Camic about why there was no mention of dance in this document. He kindly reminded me that the first three systematic reviews (Particularly Beard et al) all mention Dance / Dance Movement Therapy and that this document was not meant to be a comprehensive review.



February 2015 – TAnDEM

So much is happening in the field right now I can hardly keep up and now this news today. There is other news in the pipeline but this today trumps everything else!

We are very proud to announce that our doctoral training centre is announced today by the Alzheimer’s Society – one of 8 in the country with a total spend of over £5million form the Alzheimer’s Society to really make a difference in building research capacity in dementia cure and care in the UK

Our joint centre will focus on studying The Arts and Dementia and will be known as TAnDEM. It is a partnership between the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester and the Centre for Dementia, University of Nottingham.

More information is available on the Alzheimer’s Society website.

Am thrilled to bits about this wonderful development. It means so much to all of us who have worked so hard these past years. This is a prestigious partnership that picks up the baton pioneered by Prof Mary Marshall, John K, Kate A & others at Stirling. It is going to significantly increase the levels of research and development in this extraordinarily interesting field. I very much look forward to contributing as best I can to this work over the coming years.

If you are interested in a PhD in this area now or in the future do follow this up.

It’s going national and international, this missive…yet another indicator of the increasing interest being taken in the arts and dementia field at this time. Long may this continue!



February 2015 – Donna’s visit

Donna Newman-Bluestein arrived at our home in Halifax on Wednesday Jan 14th 2015. She stayed till the 20th when she went on to Manchester to give a talk at the Salford Institute before heading up to Edinburgh, then Paris, Amsterdam, the Far East and Australia as part of a world-tour. On the 19th January, Donna and I gave a master class in Dance Movement Psychotherapy & Dementia at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, following one in London at Green Candle dance Company on 12th January – both were really well received by the 40 people who came to both from all parts of the country.

It’s been great having the opportunity to return hospitality and much else besides following my visit to Donna in Boston in the Summer of 2014. Donna is one of the first contributors to a new ADTA blog with a piece on DMP and dementia.

December 2014

Big thank you to Zoe Parker for showing me this Guardian article and to Judith Mackrell for writing her dance blog. This is for all of you working in the dance & dementia and dance & Parkinson’s field. The Centre of Excellence in Movement Dance & Dementia gets a mention in the article too which is great. The Centre of Excellence is  hosted by my employer, South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust – I am its Co-ordinator and it is part of the Trust’s Creative Minds project that won the ‘Compassionate Patient Care’ category at the HSJ Awards. I did not know that dancers are working with doctors to help with empathy and communication – excellent!

This is great and will go international as David Leventhal in New York and those on the Parkinson’s Dance network in the USA will like this too I think.

Thanks to all of you on the network who came to the ‘Moving to Longevity’ Training Day on 28 November in Rotherham with Matt, Orla and myself. Matt played live all day for us while we danced, and Orla joined us towards the end playing a Mbira, with Matt on flute and everyone else moving with chime bars tuned to the pentatonic scale. It was very special indeed. The ‘Homity Pie’, roasted vegetables followed by exquisite chocolate brownies to follow at lunch were something else!

Best wishes,


July 2014

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Arts and Older People / Creative Ageing Travelling Fellowships

Colleagues and friends who have undertaken Churchill Travelling Fellowships in the Arts and Older People Category in recent years are making a huge difference (in my opinion) on returning to the UK from their international travels….bringing back the benefits to their communities. If you are a British Citizen and have not had one of these before, you are working in the field of dance and dementia and you have an idea for how to develop your practise through international travel…please, please consider applying for a 2015 Fellowship. It may not be long before this category is withdrawn. If any of you would like help, advice or ideas just email me (

My Fellowship in 2010 has changed my life in all sorts of positive ways and in 2014 I have visited Sweden, Greece, USA, Turkey and later this year Latvia, for the 1st European Dance Therapy Conference in Riga. I am extremely grateful for ‘Creative Minds Foundation Collective’ funding from South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust who have fully supported international travel and dissemination of my researches and practise. In Jan 2015 I am looking forward to hosting a UK visit by colleague and friend, pioneering Dance Movement Therapist Donna-Newman Bluestein from Boston in the US. I am also looking forward to developments in Greece, Turkey and now Cyprus in relation to the ‘Folkloric Dance & Dementia Project’ (‘Geleneksel’ in Turkish). Also, really pleased to be in communication with David Leventhal from ‘Dance for PD’ following a successful ‘Teleconference Seminar’ on June 2nd this year; how to build on interest that is growing in the US re dance & dementia practise? Also looking forward to training DMP colleagues on a new DMP MA programme in Bucharest, Romania and a possible visit to Ireland. It was successfully completing a Churchill Fellowship that has given me the confidence to be able to up-scale and think, act and work much more internationally and multi-culturally.

This is also to thank all my national and international colleagues for their support, their ideas and for all the many gifts they have given me personally and professionally during and since 2010.

July 2014

Job vacancy- Research Associate (Creative Arts and Dementia) – University of Worcester

Going out on the network as this is such an important development in the field…hooray for Dawn and team at ADS Worcester University and may it attract high calibre applicants to further research in this much needed area…am confident that folk on this network will take note of this excellent opportunity and spread the vacancy on their own.



May 2014

Hi folks

Just to say I am delighted with this invitation that came through yesterday. Thanks to David Leventhal for this invitation which goes out across the US and the network around the world I think for people to take part in the phone seminar. David Leventhal runs ‘Dance for PD’ as part of the portfolio of the Mark Morris Dance Company in New York. It’s work and influence is growing world-wide and I am honoured I can contribute to developing movement and dance work in this important field.

This is one of the many significant outcomes of the ‘Creative Minds’ Foundation Collective Grant I was awarded last year, that has helped put the Trust and its work on more of an international stage. I am also really pleased that here in Calderdale Natalie Speake and Verd de Gris are pioneering its development in Halifax.

Please pass this on to your respective networks,

Many thanks,


May 2014 – Thoughts on the way

Greetings to you all from West Yorkshire….just to say this inspiring YouTube film has recently been released by the ADTA and I have just returned from Boston (& Denver) having spent time with Donna (Newman-Bluestein), sharing thoughts and ideas about her work, participating in one of her groups in a care home all of which was very inspiring. This was all made possible by a grant from the Foundation Collective of ‘Creative Minds‘, a pioneering arts/health/creativity and sports initiative run by the South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and my employer.

I am very grateful indeed for this grant, without which this growing international portfolio of work would not have been possible. I was also able to visit the Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado meeting Senior lecturers on their DMP programmes, discovering how they train, inspire and develop the next generation of Dance Movement Psychotherapists in the US.

Donna is planning to come over to UK in January 2015 and I am helping her put together a programme giving workshops/seminars/interviews, on her own and with me. It would be great if together the network here in the UK could collaborate for how to make the most of Donna’s visit….and help raise the profile of this important work in the UK. So if you have any ideas about where/how Donna could make a difference please let me know? Donna is amongst other things a senior lecturer at Lesley University (Boston) on the DMP MA programme there. She is also a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA), is a leading light in the US for movement and dance work of this kind, which she has been pioneering for many years, and runs a company that sells ‘Octabands‘ all over the world:

Let me know your thoughts when you have a moment.


May 2014 – Asking the Way – a paper by Mike White

I like very much indeed what Mike has written here.  We are seeing the wow factor every day, the gems of ‘Creative Minds’ and its socially engaged arts practise, impacting on individuals in many important ways. Our creating ‘spaces for transformation’, influencing people’s choices, autonomy and their social engagement and the difficulty in garnering evidence that will result in the mainstreaming of what we are doing. How on earth can we compete with the double blinded RCT? The search for longitudinal evidence, building a number of case studies including economic evidence for the return on investment, reduction in medication cost, the social return on investment, the new partnerships created…these are key.

Thank you Mike for taking the debate forward – your paper comes at a good time for us. This paper answers or at least helps us to answer the questions we are asking ourselves and others here in the NHS, giving us some language too of course as well as concepts on which we can frame our thinking better.

Best wishes,


Extract from “Asking the way: Directions & Misdirections in Arts in Health” Mike White, April 2014

Seeking Cultural Value in Cultural Well-being

Read the full paper.

“Cultural well-being’ smacks of flaky coalition thinking, but on a good day. The lack of definition prompts the call for an evidence base, thereby reducing arts in health practice to the inertia that has kept it out of serious policy consideration in the past. The inherent strengths in socially engaged arts have been disqualified for evidence- based health policy, perhaps because the deep immersion conveyed through the testimony of participants in creative activities to improve health is undervalued by the proponents of evidence-based policy whose evaluation criteria ignore the real gems embedded beyond the ‘gold standard’ of clinically proven benefit. The spatial domains of community-based arts in health and their potential for creating spaces for transformation have been overlooked in favour instead of attempting to identify instrumental therapeutic effects, despite community-based projects being more focussed on social than psychological processes. In evaluation studies to date, arts in health projects have frequently been required to demonstrate physiological and mental health benefits whilst neglecting the potential of the arts to help to shape people’s world view, influencing their choices, autonomy and social engagement.
Much thanks, then, to the emergent thinking in medical humanities that is helping us validate phenomenological findings from the experience of illness and recovery and reveal transformational effects in both individuals and communities. If this could be coupled with a search for longitudinal evidence through passionate practice in arts in health we may achieve an evidence base worthy of the inter-disciplinary effort required to amass it. Perhaps we should reflect more on the significance of artifacts like the cocoon and the shed than measuring health outcomes through an ill-fitting evaluation methodology.
The Arts Council’s recent research report offers a rapid review of instrumental impacts of arts engagement across a number of headings including ‘health and wellbeing’, but it tends to assess effects in isolation, overlooking how cross-cutting themes can evolve that are distinctive of the practice I have described above where arts in health may become bound up also with education, citizenship and inclusion. Furthermore, it notes that although some research “confirms that beauty has an impact on wellbeing, it raises questions about the direct impact that public arts interventions with a perceived quality of beauty can have on wellbeing”. It fails, however, to differentiate between public art that is only viewed and participatory art that expresses a collective creativity that is conscious of quality and empowerment – possessing the ‘wow factor’ I refer to earlier. The nature and degree of engagement surely has some bearing on the perceived beauty of the artefact or activity? The Arts Council report appears limited and flawed in its assessment of the evidence base in the arts in health fieldxi, but it at least acknowledges that better understanding through longitudinal study of the experiential or intrinsic aspects of arts engagement is vital to addressing the evidence gaps that arise by focussing primarily on instrumental impacts.
My end point is this; what has been previously enacted as ‘arts in hospitals’ in the golden age of capital redevelopment in the public sector should in these stringent times be re-configured as ‘arts for emotional spaces’, and be sensitively pursued in a more public domain that supports a co-existence of personal and communal rites of passage. Whether the work is in clinical or social settings, these spaces “for the built environment and beyond” can be creative spaces that support our transition to wellness or resilience or…adaptation (where a concept drawn from evolution infuses public health). That way we can shape and express together a different and purposeful aesthetic within healthcare.”

April 2014 – Sara Houston meets Ed Vaizey

Thank you to Sara Houston for taking the time to feed back to us about her meet with Minister for the Arts, Ed Vaizey. Read her experience below:

Dear Richard and all of you who kindly sent comments,

Firstly, thank you very much for taking the time to send me your comments. It was all very useful – and interesting to note the same issues occurring. This is to report back on the meeting I had with Ed Vaizey, Minister for the Arts, at the House of Commons on 7 April.

It was attended by several arts and health academics and representatives from several organisations, including Association of Art Therapies, Painting in Hospitals, Music in Hospitals, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Arts and Minds, Breakthough and Reflections, Ridiculusmus and Sick Festival, We Do, Imperial War Museum, plus a GP from Gloucester, Alan Davey from ACE, Public Health England, Department of Health and three parliamentarians from the APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (Sarah Newton, Paul Burstow and Lord Howarth).

It was useful having Alan Davey there from ACE and he wrote a lot down during the discussion, as did the APPG members.

With so many people there it was difficult to swing it to my agenda all the time, but I managed to get quite a few comments in. Rather than outlining the whole of the meeting, I’ll focus on what the conclusions were.
– That there should be cross- government departmental link up on arts, health and wellbeing and research (so DCMS talk to dept of health, of communities, of BIS).
– That there be a joined up approach from the three relevant research councils on arts and health research.
– That arts organisations shout louder about what they’ve done and its value – ‘raising culture’s voice’ – particularly through engagement with health and wellbeing boards and clinical commissioning groups, as well as to individual health professionals.
– ACE and Public health England to collaborate on a wellbeing agenda
– Researchers and practitioners to come together to talk more
– That partnerships are key to building arts and health

Issues raised, for example, in how we fund to sustain and develop arts practice (away from small finite projects) and how we train artists/care professionals in evaluation was never brought to conclusion, but it was noted by all to be important.

It was also noted that a variety of research methods should be used, including narrative based and other qualitative work, but Dept of health person said he still needs to make a case with putting this into numbers and quantitative data. There was a robust defence of qualitative work but it needed more discussion to get to a conclusion.

I sense there was an appetite from all the delegates to keep talking and to build momentum even though we are in the last year of the present government and a potential move by Ed Vaizey should his boss resign… (he did make a statement that he asked for his Arts job and was committed to it).

Best wishes,

March 2014 – Dementia Reimagined Course Toronto

Dementia Reimagined Course Toronto: sustainability, art and dementia – Thanks to Heather Hill for alerting me to this excellent blog. In re-imagining dementia let’s also not leave out the importance of the body and embodied practices, thus Dance Movement Psychotherapy ‘ an interdisciplinary field: a hybrid of the art of dance and the science of psychology adapted to human service’ (Goodill, 2005) has much to offer. Skilfully used, DMP is able to ‘build bridges of understanding’ between the known and the still-to-be-known, incorporating body action, rhythmic movement, symbolic and metaphoric communications and in my case for the past 26 years…reminiscence, music and song. There have been many benefits that both qualitative and quantitative studies have thrown up, however this pre-amble is meant to address the last but one question here, which is of great interest to me. What are the rewards in re-imagining dementia that go beyond the domain of medicine & beyond health to culture and to what might help us to survive as a species?

Still after so long as a practitioner, every group DMP session I run is utterly unique and its transformative power remains as present and alive as ever, however a strong and powerful zeitgeist has emerged for me. That the rewards of working in this field are no less than a complete and utter change in how I now practise. Alertness to the ‘now’, the ‘unforgiving minute’, the power of being able to live fully in the present moment and what is revealed by way of it, has come to inform and also transform everything I do. This is the personal reward I speak of, but one I also argue has the potential to transform how we see ourselves and others as human-beings. So thank you Peter for the question. The condition called dementia has the power, if we can truly open to what is there; to unlock our inner-resources and our deep abiding humanity, that Professor Tom Kitwood alerted us to in the last page of ‘Dementia Re-considered’ back in 1997…and a vision that Professor Cathy Greenblat has so beautifully and collectively articulated in “Love, Loss & Laughter”.

There is a saying in Depth Psychology that the analyst/psychotherapist will do their most powerful and ultimately transformative healing work, from the place where their own ‘inner-wounds’ lie buried. Dementia has the power to release in us the resources we need not only to live to the fullest extent, but to help understand from a deep and no less human place that the ‘strangeness’, ‘otherness’ and so called ‘difference’ (represented by the condition) are still manifestations of the richness and uniqueness of our abiding humanity.

February 2014 – Congratulations Bisakha!

Bisakha Sarker, Founder and Director of Chaturangan Dance Company in Liverpool (and Churchill Fellow 2013), has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List.

This has made my day and what a great start to the year for Bisakha, and all of us in the field as we continue to bring dance in all its forms to the lives of all in the communities we serve.

September 2013 In Riga Latvia

Read about my recent trip to Latvia where I was sharing my knowledge of dance and movement with a new crowd.

29th July 2013, Exciting developments in the field of dance and Parkinson’s

The following document is devoted to the developments in the field of dance and Parkinson’s [DOC]

1st July 2013, Embodiment and Dementia special journal issue

For those of you interested in the subject of dementia and embodiment you’ll enjoy reading a whole journal issue on ‘Embodiment and Dementia’. From an academic point of view Vol. 12, No 3 ‘Dementia: the international journal of social research and practice’ is a milestone in raising the profile of what we do…at least as far as a social science take on it is concerned.

In conclusion Professor Murna Downs writes, ‘This special issue has highlighted that the body and embodiment are central to the experience of living with dementia. The articles prompt us to ‘rethink’ dementia such that the body and people’s embodied experiences are central to our understanding of dementia and dementia care.’

Of particular interest to me is the challenge, that I think the edition sets to all of us practitioners and therapists, concerning what is not covered here, namely the detailed researches in, examination of, and communication about the condition, grounded in ‘lived-body’ experience with the person living with the condition at the heart of the exploration. What are the essential characteristics of the movement and dance experience that relates to what Murna goes on to say ‘… finally the enormous potential that embodiment offers us to celebrate life with dementia’. These essentially embodied characteristics, these movement based, improvisatory, experiential and indepth experiences that have been going on for years and in parallel to developments in the social sciences; these active ingredients so to speak, are currently missing in the dialogue.

If I am right here, then until the gaps are filled in we will not have a proper chance to clearly show what we can do, what we know and how it fits in the wider debates and discourses of the academy as presented so well in this edition. We will miss as Murna says ‘ the opportunity to truly demonstrate the enormous potential that embodiment offers’.

In essence, the details of what, where, how and why we do what we do, the heart (praxis) of our embodied practices, are missing in this predominantly social science discourse. More effort is needed to bridge the gap of what happens in the academy and what takes place in halls and day centres and care wards and lounges across the UK and around the world. How to capture and communicate those extraordinarily beautiful moments, where the art-form of all types of social dance negates necessity for cognitive thought, celebrates all that remains in terms of movement, gait, strength, stamina, balance and wellbeing… enabling celebration and giving hope at every level that life with dementia can be lived well and to the full.

Practice based evidence is emerging through my recent involvement with Hoot’s wonderful ‘Breathing Space’ project in Kirklees. These art-based groups are occasions when carers can get together and speak to their fellow carers about immediate concerns they are having; for example, in relation to coping strategies, gaining emotional and psychological support as well as everything else that happens.

Thanks to all the contributors in this edition for presenting the state of the field as they have so eloquently…and giving us dancers unknowingly a big prod!

Read the special journal issue ‘Embodiment and Dementia[external website]’ edited by Wendy Martin, Pia Kontos and Richard Ward. 

24th June 2013, Dance and Parkinson’s

I have spent the morning listening to David Leventhal from the US, an ex-Mark Morris Company dancer, who has been pioneering dance and Parkinson’s Disease work around the world. His talk, which can be viewed here , was just so very inspiring. As was the talk by Dr Sara Houston and her research with the English National Ballet. A round-table discussion followed with David and Sara, plus Dr Ute Scholl, Anna Gillespie, Daphne Cushnie and Amanda Fogg; were also of great interest too!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of them for their pioneering work in the field….to the quality, range and depth of content they presented, about which every aspect was (in my opinion) relevant to all that we are doing in the field of dance and dementia!

Here are some highlights that resonated with me:

1) The importance of this and other networks, what David called an ‘affinity group’ in spreading the word, encouraging further growth and development, keeping people informed, encouraging further debate, dialogue, developing practice and of course research.

2) The importance of inviting in the medics and consultants to our sessions…let them see and experience what Sara described in her paper as a ‘sense of being beautiful again’

3) David’s comments on the work ‘giving people a sense of possibility/of hope; an aesthetic goal that everyone can achieve, including access to narrative and meaning. Also that the medicalisation of Parkinson’s Disease changes identity from ‘people to permanent patients’, with lives being re-configured around a medical model. Dance simultaneously helps return their sense of identity, suggesting hope and possibility… the ‘reforming of bonds that may have been lost’.

David also commented on the power of expression and the human need to express of primary importance, both of which are addressed by the power of dance.

4) David stresses the importance of dance as art form…’being able to speak the language of dance not disease’. Participants are dancers not patients! I find this of particular importance to all of you working in the field perhaps who are not dance-therapists, perhaps feeling that you may not have the skill set necessary for this work in the health field, for all sorts of reasons. I think David, Sara and colleagues message is overwhelmingly clear…more, much more dance needs to happen, and we dance-therapists are a part of the equation in making this vision happen…all community dancers working in the field right now are also a part of it. The work is so interesting, so rewarding and life-changing, let’s all combine our efforts to make more of it happen in our communities.

24th November, Workshop presentation

The presentation lasted 30 minutes and was well received with about 60 people attending. At least 20 people afterwards added their names to join our Centre of Excellence network. I was pleased to be able to get people moving and enable them to experience something about the heart and importance of this embodied practice.

24th November, Getting in to the Amphitheatre at last…finally

Temple of Asklepios next to the Theatre of Dionysos on the Acropolis – healing and the arts have been closely linked for thousands of years.

Temple of Asklepios next to the Theatre of Dionysos on the Acropolis – healing and the arts have been closely linked for thousands of years.

This morning at 8am I was at the gates ready and waiting. There were few folk around and again the sun was shining. The theatre itself was huge and would have had thousands upon thousands of Athens folk for a spectacle of music, dancing, theatre, performances, all dedicated to the god Dionysos. I marveled at just being there where theatre as we know it today, got started. There were archeologists hard at work lifting old stones into place as their long-term work on restoration continues. It was a wonderful place to spend time without any other tourists whatsoever.

23rd November, Content of the talks

The talks were really wide ranging from descriptions of work involving middle-eastern dance forms, to what is called ‘Primitive Expression’; dance therapy inspired by shamanistic thought and practice, the heart of it being ‘rhythmic movement’ which is common to all forms of dance therapy. Dance Therapy practice with adults with many types of mental health difficulties were presented. I was really interested in the work being done in Israel for people suffering trauma and anxiety caused by the fighting in the West Bank and adjacent territories coupled with the constant threat of aerial bombardment from rockets, which has been in the news a lot. There were several other practitioners using dance in their work with older people and those with memory problems and I have made good contacts with them.

23rd November, The art and the science of it…Breakfast was great

Conference held in the nearby Olympic Hotel a very plush establishment. Talks happened one after the other with a speaker given 20 minutes to present and then the next without a break; workshops took place on the top floor of the hotel, a large carpeted space overlooking the Temple of Zeus. Before I knew it I was on and speaking about my researches. Following a talk by Hilda Wengrower, prior to mine, I was really interested in her ideas about the differences between Apollonian and Dionysian approaches to therapy. As she explained, Apollonion approaches represent if you like the formality and discipline of science, while the Dionysian represented the curving, non-linear, right-brained approaches of the arts; both are needed in our work as dance therapists. I liked this idea very much and it stays with me. My talk created real interest from those in the audience and a lively question time followed it; it led to about 60 people attending my practical workshop the following day.

22nd November 2012, Will I get in…?

Theatre of Dionysos, Athens.

Theatre of Dionysos, Athens.

It’s approaching 8am and I’m wondering if I can blag my way (without cash in my pocket) to seeing the Theatre of Dionysos just up the slope from the gate. Will the gate-keeper let me in to visit the site, just as the sun is rising, air temperature warming, with my memory stirred by stories of what happened in this place thousands of years ago? Where Aristotle, Plato, Sophocles and Menander wrote for the play competitions here, where the Dionysian rituals were enacted, sacrifices held, with all Athenian citizens obliged to attend. Imagine the power of the place to influence hearts and minds of the body politic. I wonder how they managed to get a whole city to come? The birthplace of European theatre, stirring as it does other thoughts of my own theatre and dance making at Dartington College of Arts.

Most of last night I was unable to sleep, making these and other connections – my mind racing – how the ancient and meandering streets of Plaka (easy to get lost in) are so different from the later Roman thoroughfares in other parts of the city that are all so angular. I’m wondering about what I’m going to say in my short 20 minute presentation this morning. I am thinking I will introduce it in relation to both the art and the science of it. I don’t know why, but this theme is choosing me. Anyway, back to the present and I’m not allowed in to touch the stones of the sacred theatre this morning, the gate-keeper unsurprisingly said no! It will have to wait.

22nd November 2012, Setting the scene- 33rd World Congress of Dance Therapy Research

A fresh breeze from the north, the early morning sun just lighting up the imposing south facing fortification walls. The Parthenon glowing radiant ochre, reflecting the age of the stones themselves, magnificence intact, in spite of manifold desecration over the centuries. It has an awe-inspiring ability to capture attention situated at the very heart of this ancient and vibrant city. Pigeons arrive at the same time as the day-shift workers and archaeologists at this World Heritage site.

The last time I was here my friend and I were travelling around Europe in a mini-van, two guitars strapped to the roof, on our way to Piraeus for ferry passage to the islands. Today, I’m a representative of South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust who made it possible for me to attend the 33rd World Congress of Dance Therapy Research. I am also the only representative from the UK, presenting my doctoral researches here for the first time, about what I discovered following nine years of detailed researches. The subject was an hour-long session of Dance Movement Psychotherapy with people with memory problems and their care-staff on an NHS hospital ward. That bit’s another story!

16th August 2012, ‘Moving into Visibility’

Building bridges of understanding between the known and the ‘not yet known’; lessons dementia can teach us…

I thought that you might be interested to read the abstract of a workshop/ presentation that I will be giving at the Association for Dance Movement Psychotherapy AGM and Conference on 29th September.

Visibility in the everyday concerns whether or not depth and range of vision is disrupted by pollution, by gas or particles in the air, resulting in difficulty of perception, of movement or travel in any direction. It also means in corollary, for example, that no one else can get a bead on you, thus inhibiting travel or movement towards wherever you find your-self. Transposing this notion into the embodied realm could refer, for example, to a lack of clarity in perception, in thought, in vision, in direction and of course as a dancer, in movement. To someone living with dementia, an interpretive phenomenological analysis has found and described the symptoms as; ‘Being a Blank’, ‘Being Slow’ or ‘Being Lost’ (Phinney & Chesla, 2003); these metaphors could also describe a move towards stasis; stasis in movement, loss of cognitive function and identity.

The workshop will take as its starting point my own in-depth research into inter-disciplinary studies in dementia, philosophy, social anthropology, ethnography, embodiment and of course in DMP; all of which have informed the foundations on which my clinical practice in the NHS is based. The NHS however, is going through seismic change right now, and as a clinician with a particular interest in how to maintain movement mobility and intellectual function, developing and celebrating identity in spite of the ‘fog’ of the dementia condition. I am often awestruck by what I see and experience in clinical practice, by what people can still do and remember and celebrate, and in turn by what I have been gifted by the many people with whom I have worked over the years.

I am increasingly aware that as in dementia where relationships and relationship building are key; so too, more partnership based working, more ‘visionary’ thinking, and in my own NHS Trust moves towards creating very different services, ones better informed by and rooted in the service-user experience.  What does it mean for us DMPs to become more visible in the world? More visible to each other as colleagues and partners and at the same time, more visible to others ‘out there’. This is an extraordinarily important and challenging time. We need to find new ways, and more ways to connect, to communicate and to share our skills, our knowledge and our findings in the wider world. To enable greater confidence, greater communication, less isolation and of course greater visibility in the vitally important work of better understanding and developing the use of the embodied practices we know and love in our society at large.

The workshop will explore the notion of ‘re-visioning’ as distinct from ‘super-visioning’ or ‘supervising’, in enabling us through dialogue to continue to develop the quality of our reflective and fundamentally experiential practice.


Coaten, R. (2009) ‘Building bridges of understanding: the use of embodied practices with older people with dementia and their care staff as mediated by Dance Movement Psychotherapy’, PhD Thesis, Roehampton Uni (Research Rep.)

Phinney, A. & Chesla, C. (2003)  ‘The Lived Body in Dementia’ Journal of Aging Studies, Vol. 17, 283-299

Richard Coaten PhD RDMP BA(Hons) Churchill Fellow 2010, Editorial Board Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, SouthWest YorkshirePartnership NHS Foundation Trust