Let’s dance – Camden charity gets older people moving

The power of South Asian dance is being used to help older people in Camden recover from the pandemic, meet new friends and stay fit and healthy.

Belsize Park-based charity Akademi is running its Dance Well programme, which teaches people traditional and modern forms of South Asian dance, at three community venues in the borough.

Organisers say it helps participants, most of whom are over-60, improve their mobility, fitness and physical strength as well as providing a vital social outlet.

The scheme is being funded through a £70,000 grant from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.

A City Bridge Trust spokesperson said:

“Akademi uses South Asian dance as a tool to help combat the isolation older people can experience and help them to improve their physical and mental health.

“Particularly after the long periods of isolation during lockdown, this kind of scheme is playing a really important role in enabling people to get up, get active and meet new people.”

The Dance Well programme runs at Third Age Project, in Cumberland Market, Wellesley Road Care Home, in Kentish Town, and Holborn Community Association. Sessions moved online during lockdown.

Meanwhile, the charity also runs Dance Well sessions for patients at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and West Middlesex University Hospital, in Hounslow.

Akademi Creative Learning Producer Belinda Sculley said:

"South Asian dance, with its myriad of gestures, storytelling and elegant physical movement, is not just good for improving mobility and helping older people recover their strength, resilience and flexibility, it’s also a wonderful shared social experience. 

“It is a creative outlet for the participants which has very powerful long-term impact.”

The Dance Well scheme also receives funding from Arts Council England and the Linbury Trust. More information about the sessions is available by emailing belinda@akademi.co.uk or online at www.akademi.co.uk

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

Case studies: ‘Attending the classes was a revelation and a mood-changer’

Rukia, an 87-year-old Dance Well participant, said: “I live on my own and during lockdown was often in a dark place cut off from my family and friends. I had bad thoughts about whether life was still worth living.

“Attending the classes was a revelation and a mood-changer. I forgot my troubles, listened to the rhythm of the music and followed the movements of the dance teacher.”

Tony Bloor, General Manager of Camden’s Third Age Project, said: “We have been through a most traumatic period in human history with consequences devastating to older people, which has hit our users very hard.

“Around 70% report high levels of anxiety and social isolation and the Dance Well sessions became a lifeline enabling people to take part at home.”

Andrew Rogers, Older People’s Services Manager at Holborn Community Association, said: “Akademi provides Covid-safe Dance Well classes that are a beacon of light for participants stepping out from the darkness of self-isolation.”

Picture captions

- (1) Archita Kumar leads a Dance Well session at Wellesley Road Care Home, in Kentish Town

- (2) Participants in a Dance Well session at Holborn Community Association preparing for a performance at The Place, a creative space for dance development centre near Euston

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

The City Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge Houses Estates, a charity founded in 1097 to maintain London Bridge, and Members of its Court of Common Council form the Bridge House Estates Board.

Bridge House Estates is now responsible for maintaining Tower, London, Southwark, Millennium and Blackfriars Bridges, and its grants team, City Bridge Trust – founded in 1995 – gives out over £25 million a year to good causes across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk


Tim Fletcher | Media officer – public services

City of London Corporation

07738 862229 | tim.fletcher@cityoflondon.gov.uk