Movement to lift the spirits in lockdown: The Welcome Project activity during the COVID-19 pandemic

We recently reported on how our Assistant Producer Luan Taylor has been keeping in touch with residents and carers at Brooke Mead Extra Care Facility during lockdown, who we’ve been working with as part of our Welcome Project. Since then, together with our Welcome Project partners, we have been exploring ways to bring dance and movement to the groups we worked with before the pandemic stopped the possibility of physical classes. We are happy to be able to report that alongside Brooke Mead we are also working with Puffin Community Nursery and Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project to provide dance and movement sessions to the community local to The Dance Space and beyond.

Brooke Mead Extra Care Facility

Luan has been sending gifts, notes and even handmade soaps to let the residents and carers know we are thinking of them. She is now working remotely with dance specialist Louisa Petts to create themed weekly dance activity booklets that will encourage safe exercise and movement.

“It’s so important for all of us to keep moving during lockdown,” says Luan. “But particularly older people who might be shielding and therefore unable to get outdoors.”

Luan and Louisa have been working together to devise a weekly theme and then create dance activity around it. Luan continues: “A few weeks ago our theme was maypole dancing, so we included ribbons with each package for the participants to create their own seated ribbon dance.

“This week the theme was nature, so we created movements exploring growth and stretching exercises based on Qigong, which coordinates body-posture and movement; breathing and meditation. I also gave each participant a small succulent plant to complement the nature theme and lift the spirits, as well as writing out the lyrics to What a wonderful world as that song is familiar to them and again reflects this week’s theme.”

Puffin Community Nursery

Choreographer and performance maker Amy Toner has been working at Puffin Community Nursery with a group of 20-25 children aged two-five years and their families. Using simple props such as sock puppets, these sessions have been really successful in encouraging the little ones to get moving whilst building coordination and confidence along the way.

Lauren Proto, our joint Creative Communities Manager, says: “Amy and the children have built up a great rapport and we’re keen to maintain that and the children’s blossoming relationship with dance and movement during lockdown.”

Lauren and Amy have been working together to design a video combining dance, movement and storytelling that will be distributed to Puffin Community Nursery children and families to test whether it’s something they enjoy. “Offering these classes digitally is new to us and to the participants,” Lauren continues. “So, we’re moving slowly testing this first video then getting feedback before potentially creating others. It’s very much a bespoke process.”

If the digital classes are a hit The Welcome Project team intend to explore how they might make these videos available as a resource to other nurseries and early years settings in the area.  

Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project

As part of The Welcome Project, dance artist Federico Bedoya has been working with a group of regular participants from Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project (BUCFP). Now that he can’t be in the room with the group, he will be presenting online classes to keep people moving, motivated and having fun. He says: “What is this class like? Is it a carnival? Or is it a workout? Every class feels like a party!”

Federico’s classes are hugely popular all over Brighton, and his sessions at BUCFP are a great way for people new to Salsa to try it out for free. As well as the sessions being shared with Federico’s regular group, the link to the classes will also be distributed via emergency food parcels being delivered from BUCFP to over 100 people in the Tarner area. BMECP (Black Minority Wthnic Community Partnership, a resource centre which champions and supports the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community in Brighton & Hove, will also be sharing a link to the classes through their food bank service.

Assistant Producer Luan Taylor says: “Dancing is food for the soul so we’re sure people will really enjoy these weekly classes, then we can look forward to the time when we can all dance together in person again.”

Movement to lift the spirits in lockdown: The Welcome Project activity during the COVID-19 pandemic
© Brooke Mead
© Amy Toner
© Federico Bedoya