English National Ballet

£97,000 over 39 months

Inspired by the work of a dance programme for people with Parkinson's Disease in Brooklyn, English National Ballet was determined that it too could make a difference for sufferers of this debilitating condition.

"I was convinced this was something we should be doing," says Fleur Derbyshire-Fox, director of learning. "We had the resources to deliver the work with sensitivity and, as we have a national remit, we could - indeed, should - become UK ambassadors and make a real contribution."

Since the launch of the first pilot sessions in 2010, English National Ballet has delivered regular sessions in London. Unlike other therapeutic interventions that use dance and music, its model is first and foremost an artistic intervention which has much wider benefits.

"It's no good saying dance can help," says Fleur. "You actually have to prove it." And so, from day one, English National Ballet invited researchers from Roehampton University to analyse its programme. Through electronic monitoring, observation and interviews the academics were able to quantify the physical and psychological benefits.

One 70 year old participant commented: "Parkinson's feels like having your feet nailed to the floor, but I feel good as soon as I come out of the class. I have a renewed feeling of confidence."

"It's a dance class, in a dance space, conducted by dance and music professionals," says Fleur. "But with contributions from our costume designers, artists and musicians we also introduce the participants to the entire context of our work."

Over a whole term, the participants work through different movements that stem from English National Ballet's repertoire, building a dance vocabulary which they share in an informal performance and take away to their everyday lives. They also see the company perform, meet the dancers - some of whom they have worked with - and discuss the show afterwards over a cup of tea and a biscuit.

In much the same way the Brooklyn project has now rolled out across America, PHF funding has allowed English National Ballet to embark on a three-year expansion programme. Developing its delivery team and a strong network of four regional hubs, it will deliver short training courses and
awareness days.

"We'll be able to identify, train and support a dancer and musician in each area to lead pilots that replicate our London programme," says Fleur. "And by working with regional Parkinson's support groups we'll expand this life-enhancing project to even more participants across the country."