Saturday was a busy day for Pavilion Dance South West. Additional to the usual Youth Parkour classes, which make the place a very lively one on Saturdays anyway, it was also a full training day for eleven aspiring Parkinson’s Dance teachers.

The training was part of a three-year Parkinson’s Dance Roll-Out programme funded, amongst others, by the Health & Wellbeing Legacy Fund, Healthwatch Dorset and Parkinson’s UK with support from Sherborne ArtsLink and Dorchester Arts. Its purpose is to increase provision for Parkinson’s Dance across Dorset by providing teacher training and working together with local arts providers to enable more classes. The first two of these new classes are happening in Sherborne and Dorchester.

There are a number of models in the UK and internationally that create high quality dance experiences for people with Parkinson’s, covering a range of dance styles and approaches. One of these is Pavilion Dance South West Parkinson’s Dance, devised and developed since 2012 by dance artist Aimee Smith and neuro-physiotherapist Dr Sophia Hulbert, who were leading on Saturday’s training. UK Parkinson’s Dance pioneer Amanda Fogg also attended the day to share her considerable knowledge and expertise.

This collaboration between dance artist and physiotherapist provides a therapeutic intervention through the medium of dance. Although the emphasis is on enjoyment, sociability and fun through movement, the model aims to address the symptoms of Parkinson’s and to enhance people’s wellbeing by offering them movement strategies and improving range of movement, strength and coordination.


This enjoyment and fun was clearly evident all day, although we also saw some deep concentration and animated discussions, especially during the well-earned coffe break!


The trainees learnt which challenges people living with Parkinson’s face – from restricted movement patterns, especially turning and walking backwards, to the impact the condition has on facial expression and voice projection.

They heard how important it is to use imagery rather than dance instructors’ language (“Build the mountain and spread your wings!”) and to always offer an alternative, i.e. do the exercise seated as opposed to standing up, as people’s abilities vary, not only from person to person, but from day to day and sometimes even within the duration of a class.

At the end of the day, the participants left with a wealth of information, ideas and encouragement and the feeling of being part of a wide-reaching support network. Most of their expectations had been met, and they are ready for the next training module, which involves writing a lesson plan and co-teaching the Pavilion Dance South West Parkinson’s Dance class!

For more information on the project and on the Parkinson’s Dance classes in Bournemouth, Sherborne and Dorchester, please email Aimee Smith at



PDSW are proud to be a part of the Dance for Parkinson’s Network UK, which is supported by a number of individuals and organisations and shares close relationships with Parkinson’s UK. We are delighted to have an on-going relationship with the Mark Morris Dance Group Dance for PD and honoured to have delivered collaborative training at the People Dancing Summer School 2015.

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