Confronting a terminal illness like cancer is not just physically taxing, but also an emotionally draining process for the patient and for those who care for them. Emily Jenkins seeks to reinject feelings of joy and release for people affected by cancer through Move Dance Feel, a community interest company that she founded five years ago.
Jenkins works in partnership with cancer support organizations to help current cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones integrate dance into their activity programs. After undergoing treatment and experiencing the brutal side-effects of chemotherapy, finding happiness, confidence, and appreciation for their bodies is not an easy feat.
Jenkins says that “when dancing with the women, [she] sees an immediate shift in mood—moving the body moves the mind.” Merran Barber, a member of the Move Dance Feel community, says, “Moving the body in these new ways has opened up pathways in the brain, making me feel there are so many more creative ways to explore and live my life.”
The participants not only feel more energized after dancing, but they also benefit from the sense of community forged through the program. Loneliness and misunderstanding are common feelings to harbor when faced with a heavy diagnosis. “Attuning through synchronized movement can be quite an intimate and connecting experience,” Jenkins adds and boosts feelings of empowerment and control for women who may otherwise feel helpless to their illness.
It’s not just individuals with cancer than can benefit from these community-oriented dance programs. In Santa Barbara, California, Joyous Movement is promoting dance as a healing therapy for older residents as well. Started by artist Beth Amine, the program aims to get older adults, many of whom have a serious illness like Alzheimer’s, up and moving. Jill Davis, an employee of a center which uses Joyous Movement courses says, “After an hour with Beth our members are sitting taller, are more alert and tuned into their surroundings, and the effects of increased therapeutic blood flow to body and mind lasts all afternoon.”
While the Covid-19 health crisis could have signaled the end of Move Dance Feel, Jenkins was quick to set up an online version. As a result, Move Dance Feel is bigger than ever as it is no longer restricted by physical bounds and can now reach hundreds of women across the UK and around the world. Like Move Dance Feel, Joyous Movement has also expanded their courses to include video sessions so anyone anywhere can get involved.
Source Image: Camilla Greenwell, Move Dance Feel