Dancing for Well-Being was established in January 2015 by Jackie Terry-Schuhmann who is now its Director. The benefits to group members were recognised by a number of voluntary and statutory organisations and, with support from North Yorkshire County Council, the organisation became a not-for-profit social enterprise in the form of a community interest company on 28th September 2016.
Margaret Whitcombe joined Dancing for Well-Being in November 2016. We also have 3 self-employed associates working with us – Nicola Forshaw, Jann Forde and Ellie Smith.
From left to right – Jackie, Margaret, Nicola, Jann and Ellie
Over the years I’ve had a variety of different jobs but have sometimes felt like a square peg in a round hole. With Dancing for Well-Being I’ve found something I love doing and that’s a great feeling!
The year 2009 was a turning point for me. I’d become more interested in keeping fit – I’d taken up running, aquafit and Pilates. In the late 1990s I did an MA in Disability Studies at the University of Leeds and I’d really enjoyed doing some research work with older people. These two rather different experiences gave me the idea of training to run exercise classes for older people.
After completing a course in chair-based exercise I became an Ageing Well Instructor with Age UK North Yorkshire and ran seated exercise classes for older people.
My light-bulb moment happened in 2010 when I went on a “Circle Dancing in Dementia“ workshop. Dancing in a circle is an ancient tradition common to many cultures for marking special occasions, strengthening community and encouraging togetherness. The aim is to experience the joy of dancing with others and to create a sense of well-being, connection and belonging.
It was clear to me that circle dancing could be adapted to suit people with various different abilities, illnesses and impairments, as well as people with dementia. I found circle dancing so emotionally uplifting – something I hadn’t experienced with seated exercise – so immediately started using what I’d learned in my groups.
I went on to do more training, including dementia awareness training, a Jabadao course, a 60-hour Introduction to Dance Movement Psychotherapy with Dance Voice, and an Introduction to Dance for Parkinson’s course. I’m a member of the North East Arts Therapist Network (NEAT) and I gave a presentation about Dancing for Well-Being at their 2018 conference in York. I’m always looking for opportunities to develop my skills and experience and enhance what we offer at group sessions.
I’ve always been interested in health and well-being. Early on in my career I worked with young people with learning difficulties and then went into nursing. Since my late teens I’ve explored various forms of health care and have worked in complementary therapies for 30 years
For over 20 years I also worked as a carer with older people in their own homes. I found this rewarding and inspiring and I have great admiration both for people needing care and for people who care for someone they love.
In 1994 I found circle dancing. I immediately loved the variety of music from around the world and the warmth and inclusivity of the circle dance network. In 2002/3 I trained to be a circle dance teacher and now teach 3 groups. I met Jackie through circle dancing and when she approached me about training and working with her in Dancing for Well-Being I went along to a session and loved it. I quickly realised that it wasn’t just about the physical exercise, although that is of course very important; there was a real sense of community in the groups, a sense of belonging, sharing and mutual understanding.
It’s a joy to me to lead and assist at the groups; the sessions are always full of fun and laughter. I love seeing how supportive members are towards each other and how friendships are forged. I have always been a compulsive “singalonger” and the music we use is irresistible!
I‘m always keen to learn and since joining Dancing for Well-Being I’ve attended a ‘Dance, Music and Dementia Masterclass ‘, a Leading Dance with Older People course, and an Introduction to Dance for Parkinson’s course. These have given me lots of new ideas and helped me grow in confidence.
I’ve spent most of my life dancing – in cold church halls, sweaty dance studios or state of the art dance theatres; in fact, I’m not sure what I’d be if I wasn’t a dancer!
I trained at Northern Ballet School and had a successful career as a performer before teaching dance in a wide range of settings from Dance Conservatoires to Girl Guiding camps. I danced with companies in Italy and then Greece where I lived for 16 years. When I returned to the UK I decided to pursue the academic side of dance and absolutely loved my five years of study at York St John University where I gained a first class BA(Hons) in Dance followed by an MA in Applied Performance. The focus of my research was always around the ways dance enhances the quality of peoples’ lives. I’m passionate about dance and all the benefits that come with moving to music and being creative.
I now combine work as a part-time lecturer in Dance with outreach and education projects in the community. Some of my recent projects include dance and sensory movement workshops in Special Educational Needs schools, Creative Movement courses for people with mental health issues at Converge York St John University and intergenerational dance. I also produce a festival that platforms community artists alongside professionals called True North Arts.
I’m delighted to be part of the Dancing for Well-Being team now and encouraged to see the energy and joy that dance brings across all generations. From my experience in working in many different settings with a range of ages and abilities I firmly believe that dance should be viewed as an inclusive activity, full of fun, creativity and opportunity for individual expression.
I first heard about Dancing for Well-Being through some members of the Bilton Dancing for Well-Being group who come to a yoga class I teach. They thought it would be just up my street, and they were right!
My career has been very varied. I trained as a florist after leaving school, I’ve done office work, worked in local radio and TV, and run my own baby equipment and travel businesses. But I’ve been most comfortable with and most passionate about the work I’ve done involving movement, creativity and health – as a yoga teacher, a holistic therapist and a running coach. I’ve always been drawn to activities involving movement and flexibility of the body and ways to keep it mobile and healthy. I’ve been practicing Yoga for 35 years. I trained with the British Wheel of Yoga in 2003 and became a teacher and soon began adding movement to music to classes to create a fun way to improve flexibility.
For several years I worked as a carer with older people with dementia, seeing at close-hand the challenges they face. Groups like Dancing for Well-Being can really help. I truly feel we are happiest when we are able to be creative and express our true inner selves and our feelings – taking time to relax, come together and let go! We need to bring as much fun and laughter as possible into our lives!
I trained with Dancing for Well-Being in the autumn of 2018 and am now leading groups and assisting too. I love it! It’s such a dynamic way of getting people together. Music, dancing, company, a chance to express yourself – these things are vital nourishment for the body, mind and spirit.
I grew up attending dance classes 5 evenings a week with my little sister, competing nationally in styles from Ballroom and Latin American to Rock and Roll and also taking IDTA examinations in a breadth of dance styles, including Ballet, Disco and Street Dance. At fourteen, I was asked to assist teaching Ballroom and Latin to younger children and there my love for movement and teaching began!
During my time at York St John University, where I gained a First Class BA (Hons) in Dance: Community Practice, I was involved in a placement at Leaps and Bounds at Yorkshire Dance, a weekly dance session for adults with disabilities, volunteered with Converge, a dance session for mental health service users and also assisted with weekly dance sessions for participants with dementia. I also devised weekly creative movement sessions at a youth club for young people with physical and learning disabilities in York and at a SEN School in Northallerton. My weeks and months were filled with inclusive dance. I quickly found my love for dance within the community was growing and I was learning so much from working with such a diverse range of people. A highlight of my first few years in community dance was when a member of the youth club made a poster that said ‘the dance sessions are my favourite part of the week’; this made me truly realise how much of an impact creativity, music and exercise could have on someone’s wellbeing.
From my second year of university, I also assisted with MeshDance’s Me2 Inclusive Dance sessions for young people with and without disabilities in Leeds and continue to work with them every week now, 5 years later. I work term time in a school in York and also manage Tail-Feathers Dance, where I plan and facilitate inclusive movement sessions in respite centres for young people and adults with complex needs, across North Yorkshire.
I am excited to be working with Dancing for Well-Being, broadening my experience in this field and witnessing so much joy and laughter along the way!
Dancing for Well-Being is a member of People Dancing (the Foundation for Community Dance). We are fully insured through People Dancing and all have Enhanced Criminal Record Certificates from the Disclosure & Barring Service.