Arts 4 Dementia’s 8-week South Asian dance programme, in partnership with Akademi dance company, saw eight participants step into their dancing shoes and take a dive into the classical Indian tradition of bharatanatyam.
Storm Doris blew full force against the warm confines of St Pancras Community Association as participants, led by superb dance leader Archana Ballal (Akademi), stretched out their muscles and were transported by the tinkling music into a peaceful tranquility. Silk scarves of every colour were passed around and flung energetically around the space, with participants exploring new ways of moving the scarves each week.A glorious parachute, stitched lovingly together by Dance Well coordinator Claire Farmer, was then passed around the group, bringing all participants into a circle. At times this parachute reflected the stillness of the ocean at rest; at others it could resemble the turbulent fury of a hurricane! The highlight of these games came in the final weeks, when participants were invited alternatively to fling the parachute over their heads, run to the other side of the circle or simply stand in the middle and have a boogie.
The dancing itself presented a welcome challenge week on week: gently introducing new movements each session, Archana would model each hand gesture, facial expression and change in body posture with an infectious joy, inspiring each attendee to follow her directions as if intoxicated by some ancient Tamil sorcery. At one time a hand could be a sweet-smelling flower opening its petals to the world, and at another a busy bee tracing a path to the flower’s pollen.
Bells were fastened around ankles, wrists and even foreheads to make each movement shimmer and jingle. The dancers stamped along to the bharatanatyam beat, creating stories with their arms and legs week on week, before finally performing their extraordinary work to loved ones in the open session that traditionally marks the end of each Arts 4 Dementia programme.
A huge thank you to all who contributed to the delivery of this incredible programme, and to the participants whose arrival each week through the blustering wind made the dancing possible!
If you, somebody you know or a loved one would like to participate in similar programmes for individuals with early stage dementia, please contact Imelda Dooley Hunter: