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Case study: Dancemind

About the group

Dancemind promotes health and wellbeing through dance, movement and collaborative arts.

We aspire to nurture and support people through dance and movement as its primary medium, encompassing an exciting programme of classes and workshops, enthusing health and wellbeing across a diverse range of people at all stages in life.

What we funded and why

This grant will enable Dancemind, in partnership with Royal & Derngate, Age UK, University of Northampton (UoN) and the Social Prescribing (SP) Spring programme, to develop an accessible over 60s dance class by delivering 11 weekly sessions from January 2023. It will enable 20 people, aged 60+, to access a participatory arts provision, offering the chance to dance and be creative while focusing on reducing social isolation and supporting mental health needs. Delivered by two qualified and experienced dance artists, and supported by a volunteer, sessions will run once a week for 11 consecutive weeks at Royal & Derngate, Northampton. Participants will be supported to embrace dance at their own pace while developing new skills in self-expression, confidence building and interacting with others to enjoy a better quality of life through dancing.

The class will be accessible to those 60yrs+ who can self-refer or be referred through Age UK and the SP Spring programme, meaning a GP, link worker, or social prescriber can signpost members of the community to this class to support their physical health and wellbeing. Royal & Derngate will provide space in-kind, marketing and ticketing support for the sessions. The UoN will provide an evaluative study.

Dancemind has partnered with Age UK Northamptonshire and Spring to identify the needs of the older population within Northamptonshire who have limited access to opportunities and are often excluded due to age, ability and mental health.  Age UK asked the question: what makes life worth living as we get older? The strongest message from the research was the importance of maintaining meaningful engagement with the world around us in later life, which includes creative pursuits and physical activity like dance. These types of participation contribute to more than a fifth of wellbeing. Even more striking was finding that creative and cultural participation was the single factor that contributed significantly to wellbeing. Spring also identified that they want to support people in the community to explore better health options, empowering Northampton's older communities to have greater independence, which reduces reliance on primary healthcare and ultimately delivers better outcomes for people in society. With 36,000 lonely people in Northamptonshire, Age UK together with Spring feel there is a great need to allow these communities new ways to feel connected and invigorated. Creative dance activities are uniquely placed to support the aforementioned, enhancing quality of life by enabling physical and creative activity whilst allowing a sense of belonging as a group, thus building new skills and offers connection to the body.

Dancemind currently run an Elders Dance Company, with whom we have consulted about the planning of this new group, as well as having two participants from this group sitting on the Dancemind board. Through these consultations, we have further developed our understanding and highlighted the need for another class for over 60s. However, this consultation demonstrated the demand for a class that is more accessible, with a strong focus on supporting people's mental health needs. The Elders Dance Company has developed into a dynamic group of dancers over 60 with the ambition to now work towards a high standard of performance opportunities while enjoying the challenge of new techniques and a commitment to regular attendance. Dancemind recognises that this is not for everyone who wants to dance and there also needs to be an offer for those who would like to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of the group, without further commitment to performances, although there will be a pathway of progression from one group to another if the participants' interests develop towards seeking an opportunity for performance further down the line. A current participant demonstrates this by saying: 

"Dancing is so good for my soul, the connection with others and moving is why I come. However, I would like a class where there is no pressure to perform, relaxed and informal."

Often dance can feel intimidating at first, and to create a safe space that welcomes diversity and difference and supports people to enjoy dancing regardless of experience or background, is what has come from acknowledging requests for people to join a community over 60s group, in addition to the growing waiting list we hold for the group.

Accessibility will be at the heart of these sessions and Dancemind will offer bursary places for 2 group members who otherwise may not be able to attend due to financial restraints. The sessions will be friendly, supportive and adaptive to suit a range of abilities and diversity will be embraced and celebrated.


What was achieved?

Areas of benefit: Northampton


Foundation support:

Funding programme: Queen's Institute

Amount funded: £4,993

Date funded: October 2022



Primary ethnicity: White - English/Welsh/Scottish/Irish/British

Primary issue: wellbeing

Primary beneficiaries: older people

Primary age group: older people (66+ years)

Number of beneficiaries: 11



Improved mental health & wellbeing  
Number of people undertaking treatment/therapy to meet their needs 11
Number of people reporting increased self-esteem and confidence 11
Number of people for whom the treatment/programme was successful or likely to be successful 11
Number of people reporting a reduction of stress, anxiety and/or symptoms of depression 11
Number of people reporting improved mental health or wellbeing 11


Improved physical health & wellbeing  
Number of people for whom the treatment/programme was successful or likely to be successful 11
Number of people participating in sport, exercise & leisure activities 11
Number of people reporting improved physical health or wellbeing 11
Number of people reporting that they are more physically active 11


Increased participation in arts, culture & heritage  
Number of people who attended arts & cultural events in the previous 12 months 11
Number of work or volunteer placement/experience opportunities provided 1
Number of new volunteers as a direct result of the grant 1


The participants reported that they feel more connected to each other and formed social networks and a WhatsApp support group. It has made them feel valued, celebrated and able to achieve new things despite being older.

"I feel that this is one of Northampton’s best-kept secrets! The group is really good, it should be duplicated all over the country but doesn't get enough publicity (though Lucy and Tina work hard at this).

The main focus for people funding and promoting this group will tend to be on health benefits, which are very real.

I would like to see more recognition of the group, its leaders and the benefits of participating in the community."

Karen (name changed) had never participated in a dance or creative arts class before but was actively looking to do something along these lines, however, couldn't find a class that suited her needs or was affordable until she came across the Dance Elders open class.

Karen has a history of mental health issues and has been in receipt of benefits for a while due to not being able to work. She heard about the accessible open class during an interview on BBC Radio Northampton which also had a bursary scheme available to support those who are not able to afford to come along but would like to. She was thrilled and joined the group through the bursary scheme, and reported back that this is the first class she has been to that has not only supported her to become fitter, but importantly improved her mental wellbeing through being welcomed and supported by the group. This also resulted in her going for coffee, building new relationships and self-confidence, something she had previously struggled with.