Opinions

Dance classes for those living with MS – an opportunity to connect with mind and body

Written by: Gregory Hill-O'Connor, the ALLIANCE

Scottish Ballet have teamed up with Revive MS Support to offer dance classes to those living with MS - and I can't think of anything better.

I have been dancing for about 20 years now and I love it. It taught me about mindfulness before I even knew the term. It taught me about being in the moment, being aware of the movements of my body, focusing on my breathing and letting myself go. There have been more days than I can count where going to a dance class has helped me reconnect with myself after stressful days. It has been a vital part of my self management.

However, I am very aware that I have been hugely privileged to have this opportunity. I am also aware of the stereotype of austere dance teachers, strict drills and an overemphasis on how you look – all of which I have experienced!

This is why I was very pleased recently to receive an email from the Scottish Ballet that announced a partnership with ALLIANCE members Revive MS Support that would give people living with multiple sclerosis the opportunity to take part in dance classes. This Elevate programme (this link will take you away from our website) of classes rounds off Scottish Ballet’s series of classes that also includes ones for those living with Parkinson’s and dementia. Having recently started taking classes with the Scottish Ballet I found them extremely welcoming and friendly with very high quality and engaging teachers.

The classes will be led by experienced teachers and accompanied by live musicians. There will also be a social café after the classes to give you a chance to wind down, chat about the class and meet new people. The classes will not be about finding the next Carlos Acosta or Darcey Bussell but about supporting people to express themselves. I have been dancing on and off for 20 years (with the emphasis on the off!) and my focus is always on setting myself a target, finding areas to improve that give me satisfaction. However, consistent in all of this is simply the feeling of moving to music. Even fumbling through exercises gives me pleasure in class as the music drives me and my classmates support me to think about how to do better next time.

Having struggled with various mental and physical health conditions, dancing has given me a strong and positive connection with my body. On days where I feel like my body is holding me back, dancing has given me a reminder that it can still be used for something good and beautiful.

Full information on how to get involved in the classes can be found on the Scottish Ballet website (this link will take you away from our website). The Elevate programme offers people living with MS a chance to explore their creativity, expression, balance and posture within a fun and supportive environment. People are welcome to bring friends, partners or carers to join in and can take part seated or standing – it’s all about getting lost in the moment. The classes are free and you can book now (this link will take you away from our website).

I am personally looking forward to volunteering as part of this exciting new programme and encouraging people to move and dance in a way that has helped me so much over the years.

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