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Dance and dementia

Posted on November 17, 2010

Memory, The UK’s first national conference on dance and dementia comes to Liverpool this December.

Presented by Chaturangan Dance in partnership with Merseyside Dance Initiative, the conference will take place at the Bluecoat, Liverpool on December 10–11, as part of Liverpool’s Year of Health and Well Being and the LEAP 2010 Year of Dance.

The conference combines academic papers, keynote dance works, presentations of art-based research in dementia care and specially-commissioned dance performances and films.

Keynote speaker Dr Richard Coaten said: “It was first discovered in that dance has a positive impact on dementia patients in the 1940s, by Marion Chace in the United States, who pioneered the use of dance and dancing with people with mental health problems in psychiatric hospitals; however there were dancers like Rudolf Laban working in England in the 1940s, and pioneering work with all sorts of groups that led to the founding of modern Dance Movement Therapy. I am hoping that we will be able to set up a network of practitioners as a result of the conference. We must find ways to collaborate more effectively in future, enabling us to open up employment opportunities in care settings that really could do with us; to communicate to the wider world our findings; to act collectively, too.”

Other key speakers include François Matarasso (chair, Arts Council, East Midlands), dance artist and training consultant Diane Amans and Dr Sarah Whatley, professor of dance and director of research at ICELAB: Coventry School of Art and Design.

Two dance pieces have been commissioned for the conference. Pieces of Memory, Pieces of Map will be performed by Bisakha Sarker and Diane Amans, choreographed and developed with Adam Benjamin. Francis Angol has choreographed a new work for older dancers in collaboration with participants from the Liveability project at the Sunflower Centre in Woolton Village. The conference is managed by the Aspire Trust.

The conference costs £90 for individuals and £175 for organisations, with an early bird offer for bookings made before November 30. To book, contact Clare Bentley at Aspire on 0151 639 9231 or email

Photograph: Bisakha Sarker and Diane Adams

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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