Research in York is hoping dance will shed new light on people suffering from dementia.

Research in York is hoping dance will shed new light on people suffering from dementia. Catherine Scott reports.

Researchers are hoping dance will help shed ight on dementia

With lockdown putting a stop to the sessions, Elaine is leading research which seeks new connections between dance and dementia. The Moving Minds project explores dance as a way of conveying dementia and the physical experience of living with the condition.

The research group is calling on those with a dementia diagnosis, or anyone close to them, to take part in the research and answer one specific question: ‘if dementia was a dance, what kind of dance would it be?’

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Answers to this question will be brought together to create a sound collage of voices which captures something of the lived experience of people with dementia.

Elaine hopes that the project will go some way in challenging the way dementia is spoken or written about. “Dance, with its emphasis on reciprocity, balance, exchange and animation has the potential to create a powerful counter-discourse; a significant challenge to the plethora of metaphors connected to the inanimate and the passive.

“Preliminary testing of this question has produced rich and varied responses with participants describing their experience as ‘a tango done backwards’, as a negotiated improvisation with an invisible partner, as a sometimes dizzying sometimes mesmerizing whirling dervish,” says Elaine.  “This research is interested in the ways in which metaphors persistently used to explain and describe dementia shape how we perceive and subjectively experience the condition.

“I hope the project will literally give voice to those living with the condition and will go some way in challenging the way dementia is spoken or written about.”

The group is collaborating with Chris Gregory, director of Alternative Stories, who creates audio dramas, podcasts and documentaries.

Given the current Covid guidelines people will be asked to record a response to this question using the voice memo function on a smart phone, or people can also record a response via Zoom. Anyone interested in participating will receive advice on how to make and send their recording.