1. Learn more about our sponsorship of Scottish Ballet’s dance health programme.

  2. “Dancers come to the class to mitigate against the 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, as she explains the importance of Scottish Ballet’s ‘Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland’ (DfPS) programme. DfPS runs a weekly dance class for people living with Parkinson’s disease that aims to help the mobility of participants as well as their mental health, social life and overall wellbeing. It launched in 2016 after Scottish Ballet adapted a similar programme that had been trialled by the Mark Morris Dance Company in New York.

    Three years after launch, and with the support of Baillie Gifford, the programme has grown from a single class in Glasgow to over 100 people attending classes weekly in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Kilmarnock, Greenock and Dundee.

    Dr Whiteside has been studying the programme since its 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, have not just provided physical benefits to those who take part 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 that meet up outside of 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 classes.

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    The social aspect is just as important as the dancing for people who take part. You can see how well everyone gets on in the Social Café and how strong the friendships are.
  4. Louise Hunter, Associate Dance Health Officer with Scottish Ballet, notes, “The social aspect is just as important as the dancing for people who take part. You can see how well everyone gets on in the Social Café and how strong the friendships are.” Louise 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 group exercises for the dancers. “We make sure to do tasks in the class that get everyone making eye contact with each other. This is really important to help people who may be facing social isolation and including everyone in group tasks allows people to feel they’ve achieved something as part of a team.”    

    One change to the Dance for Parkinson’s programme that Dr Whiteside has noticed is the way in which people have heard about the classes. “There’s been more of a buy-in from medical professionals since it started. Initially people joined after hearing about it from someone they knew but now it’s often referrals from a doctor, nurse or physio.”

    Now that the programme has become established in some of Scotland’s larger cities, DfPS is planning a roll out to Peebles, Stirling and Perth next year. The aim is that this will increase accessibility for people who live in smaller communities. Louise Hunter explains how this is possible: “Scottish Ballet have set up a model where we teach freelancers how to run their own classes. From there people can set up hubs in different parts of the country and those who live in small towns can access the programme at a local level.”

    Samantha Pattman, Sponsorship Manager at Baillie Gifford, discusses the importance of supporting both Scottish Ballet and DfPS, “As long-time supporters of Scottish Ballet, we were thrilled when they asked us to support their 5-year dance health programme.  Our support has not only enabled them to appoint a part-time Associate Dance Health Officer but has also allowed them to expand their reach, share their findings and have a positive impact on those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.”