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An innovative dance project helping women affected by cancer to reconnect with their bodies and access group support

by Emily Jenkins in London, Greater London, England


Move Dance Feel is centred around artistic practice, where women come together to dance instead of talk about their cancer experience. 

Why dance? 
Dance is a social activity which unites artistry and physicality via a bringing together of people. In offering accessible, creative and collaborative approaches to dance, it can generate many positive emotions and help build connections, both towards the self and others. 

Practical experience and research relating to dance, cancer and wellbeing has revealed compelling demand for this work, yet currently there’s limited provision. Furthermore, physical activity is known to aid cancer recovery, reducing negative side effects and preventing re-occurrence. 

Move Dance Feel provides:

  • An alternative means of group support, where participants can find a physical outlet for expression, not reliant on the verbal
  • An inclusive and positive learning environment, where participants discover new movement in the body and share creative ideas
  • A fun means of being physically active
  • A group setting in which participants can relate to one another, often resulting in new and supportive friendships
  • A holistic means of empowering women through dance, where participants find freedom in their bodies and confidence in their abilities

“Move Dance Feel has provided a wonderful outlet for self expression and creativity, which I have found to be very healing.” (Participant)

Evidence of need
Sadly, evidence shows that 70% of people struggle with physical and emotional side effects between one and ten years after cancer treatment. Reported side effects include tension, weight changes, pain, restricted movement, severe fatigue, stress, anxiety, depression, fear, low self-esteem, disturbances in body image, and many more ill health factors.

Whilst all cancers are hard to bear, common cancers that affect women can be incredibly invasive with treatments causing complex repercussions. Procedures can involve the removal of reproductive organs and bring about radical changes to the body. What dance offers in this context is a means of returning to the body and reclaiming control, taking back ownership and in the process reigniting lost connections. 

“When you have cancer, you lose touch with your body. It becomes unfamiliar - even worse, it starts to feel as if it is an enemy. For me, dancing started to bring me back to my own body and its energy, strength and basic joyfulness.”


Who is behind Move Dance Feel?
Emily Jenkins works in a capacity that develops dance in the wider cultural sector, delivering dance sessions as well as creating participatory projects. She is specialised in Community Dance, and strives to take the art form into unexplored contexts where it has potential to affect significant change. Much of her work is alongside participants who face social isolation or life limiting illness which has led her to deliver in a range of arts, health and community settings.

Emily has witnessed the devastating effects that cancer can bring to people's lives, and how it can be consuming both physically and spiritually. In noticing a lack of support available for people post cancer treatment, as they are deemed to be ‘cured’, Emily set up Move Dance Feel (in 2016) to address this need. 

“The last two years have been quite a struggle and very challenging, but having come to the classes I have made lovely friends and I’ve laughed and smiled, which I feel has been very good for my wellbeing” (Participant)

What your money will support...
Move Dance Feel needs financial backing in order to develop the work in three ways:

Delivery - to increase provision, offering dance sessions in three different areas of London, making dance available to more women (including friends and family) for the duration of a year

Partnerships - to position dance within cancer care organisations, specifically Maggie's Barts, Macmillan Social Prescribing at Bromley by Bow Centre and Paul's Cancer Support Centre.

Documentation - to further evaluate the impact of Move Dance Feel, producing a documentary film and a research report highlighting the benefits of dance in this context

Please don't delay, pledge today!
Alarmingly, it is predicted that over the next 20 years cancer rates will rise six times faster in women than in men, as some of the cancer types that are becoming more prevalent are breast, ovarian, womb and cervical. Therefore, the necessity for projects such as Move Dance Feel is not just vitally important now, but increasingly so for the future.

Please donate today and help women in need of your support. Also make sure you spread the news about Move Dance Feel to any women you think may be interested in participating!

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