Dancing for Well-Being was established in January 2015 by Jackie Terry-Schuhmann who is now its Director. We currently have a team of 7 staff – Jackie Terry-Schuhmann, Nicola Forshaw, Jann Forde, Rachel MacKenzie, Matthew Rhodes, Emily Briscombe and our Manager, Hannah Wood.
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 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 was a typical six year old when I had my first ballet dancing classes many years ago. That was the start of a lifetime love of dancing which I never lost, whether it be folk, ballet, jive, disco or endless other possibilities.
I’m a biological scientist by training and experience, having worked in both academic research and corporate environments. A family move back up north changed my direction to working in the voluntary sector and running Opening Doors for Disabled People for a number of years. I also looked after my husband for a considerable time when he had a long-term progressive degenerative neurological disease. So I’ve a lot of experience working with older people and disabled people.
People from any walk of life can enjoy the uplifting and powerful tool that is dancing, as my own background shows. I love working for Dancing for Well-being, it is an energising and entertaining means to exercise, to meet people and generally just have a great deal of fun!
Ever since I was a child I’ve been in love with dance. From dancing for my parents in the living room at age 6 to being in my first stage show at 16 I’ve always enjoyed the art form. I’ve been a part of many amateur musical productions , such as Guys and Dolls and Fame. Whilst enjoying playing acting roles in these shows, I’ve always been intrigued by the different dance styles involved in them. I could be getting groovy in Grease to dancing the Tango in The Addams Family, to throwing myself around the stage as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. I’ve enjoyed every experience and every dance.
At the age of 18 I was offered a chance to work at the Pauline Quirke Academy as a Musical Theatre Assistant and of course I took it. Working together with the teacher I’ve choreographed dances for children aged 4 – 18 and co-choreographed for 4 junior musicals. From this, my passion for creating routines began.
Studying a BA (hons) in Drama: Education & Community at York St John University has expanded my knowledge of choreography further. I’ve learned how to facilitate and work with different communities. I’ve run a series of workshops with teenagers around identity and sexuality, co-choreographed a musical with adults aged 18+ and facilitated circle dance sessions with care home residents. University also offered me the chance to work with Dancing for Well-Being. I joined as part of a second year module placement and instantly fell in love! Once the module was over I was offered a job working with the organisation.
Being a young gay man, I didn’t know how members would react to me. However, ever since my first session all staff, volunteers and members have been extremely friendly and accepting. Dancing for Well-Being is such a wonderful way of bringing a community together. I have been overwhelmed by the positivity present in every session and look forward to my future in the Dancing for Well-Being family!
Dance has taken me around the world, and most recently here to Harrogate! I trained at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, leaving with a BA (Hons) in Contemporary Dance. Dancing experiences in France, Ghana, Namibia and Senegal gave me the opportunity to discover where I find the most joy: moving to music with other people in a relaxed, creative and inspiring environment.
After these experiences, I found myself back at Trinity Laban in the Learning & Participation team where I worked on the Dance Health programme, including assisting and delivering sessions for adults with acquired brain injury, older adults and young people with, or at risk of, poor mental health and low resilience. Since then, as a freelance dance artist, I worked in several contexts, delivering sessions for various Age UK groups across London and working with Move Dance Feel supporting sessions for women affected by cancer, to name a few. In more recent years, I undertook more administrative responsibility as the Programme Manager role in the busy Classes & Courses team at The Place in London, which continued to inspire and challenge me to provide opportunity for more to experience dance. I joined the Dancing for Well-Being team in October 2022, and whilst I’m mostly based in the office, I get a lot of joy seeing the laughter and positive energy in each of the groups we work with – oh, and of course getting the Christmas tree costume out for our Christmas parties!
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.