Learn more about our sponsorship of Scottish Ballet’s dance health programme.
At Baillie Gifford it’s important to us that the organisations we sponsor make a real difference in the community. One example of this is our sponsorship of Scottish Ballet, which has helped to roll out a series of dance health programmes.
One of the programmes we sponsor, Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland (DfPS), runs a weekly dance class for people living with Parkinson’s disease. DfPS aims to help the mobility of participants as well as their mental health, social life and overall wellbeing. The class launched in 2016 after Scottish Ballet adapted a similar programme that had been trialled by the Mark Morris Dance Company in New York.
“Dancers come to the class to mitigate their physical symptoms, but they stay as much or more for the social and cultural aspect,” says Dr Bethany Whiteside, a researcher for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Four years after launch, and with the support of Baillie Gifford, DfPS has grown from a single class in Glasgow to over 210 people attending classes weekly from Edinburgh to Inverness. Classes are now run in 10 Scottish towns and cities.
During lockdown, Scottish Ballet has been able to offer a digital version of the programme with classes run through Facebook Live. The introduction of the alternative classes has been popular and in the three months after launching, they have had nearly 60,000 views.
Now that the programme has become established in some of Scotland’s larger cities, DfPS is planning to increase accessibility for those who live in smaller communities.
Dr Whiteside has been studying the programme since it’s inception and highlights the physical benefits of dancing for participants: “Parkinson’s disease causes a block in neurological signals travelling from the brain to other areas of the body. This can make movement and performing certain actions difficult but listening to music and dancing can help to override this and improve fluidity of movement.”
The classes, however, provided not only physical benefits but social ones as well. Dr Whiteside notes that across the various hubs in Scotland, those who attend the programme have created their own organic communities outside of the classes. This has had the effect of creating an informal support network for people with Parkinson’s disease which Scottish Ballet helps to facilitate with a ‘Social Café’ they run before and after sessions.
Louise Hunter, a dance health officer with Scottish Ballet, explains that some who attend the class live alone and may experience social isolation. For this reason, Louise and the volunteers who help run sessions include social exercises for the dancers. “We do tasks in the class that get everyone making eye contact with each other. This is important to help people who may be facing social isolation. Including everyone in group tasks allows people to feel that they’ve achieved something as part of a team.”
Now that the programme has become established in some of Scotland’s larger cities, DfPS is planning to increase accessibility for those who live in smaller communities. This is largely possible due to the model that Scottish Ballet has created. DfPS has begun to teach freelancers how to run their own classes. In time, the programme expects people to set up hubs in different areas of the country. This will allow those who live in small towns to access the programme in their local area.
Samantha Pattman, sponsorship manager at Baillie Gifford, discusses the importance of supporting DfPS, “As long-time supporters of Scottish Ballet, we were thrilled when they asked us to support their five-year dance health programme. Our support has enabled them to appoint a part-time dance health officer. They have also been able to expand their reach, share their findings and have a positive impact on those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.”
You can find more information on Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland by visiting the Scottish Ballet website.