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‘An oasis of movement’: how dance sessions are helping some women confront cancer


Each of the women in the photo has been affected by cancer, but they have gathered here not as patients but as dancers.

This is a session of Move Dance Feel, a community interest company that offers dance to women living with and beyond cancer, as well as those caring for someone with cancer.

“When I dance with the women, I see an immediate change in mood – moving the body moves the mind,” said Emily Jenkins, who founded the organization five years ago. It works in association with cancer support organizations, integrating dance into their activity programs.

When faced with a cancer diagnosis or undergoing grueling treatment, the feelings of joy and release that dancing can bring are much needed.

“Participants grow in confidence, physically stand taller and expand to take up more space and show appreciation for their body,” Jenkins explained.

Women often report feeling more energetic after dancing, a significant benefit since severe fatigue is a common side effect of cancer treatment.

There are non-stop hospital visits; the impact on confidence and self-esteem; the loneliness of knowing that others just can’t understand how you feel.

Therefore, a strong sense of belonging is likely to often emerge during sessions. “Tuning in through synchronized movement can be quite an intimate and connecting experience,” added Jenkins.

This is the first time I have felt in control of my body since my surgery.

The impacts also expand beyond the space of dance. One participant, Merran Barber, said: “Moving the body in these new ways has opened up paths in the brain, making me feel like there are many more creative ways to explore and live my life.”

In March 2020, when Covid-19 forced the closure of the Move Dance Feel partner centers, Jenkins quickly set up Move Dance Feel Online.

No longer restricted by geography, you are now helping hundreds of women digitally across the UK, as well as other areas in Europe.

One described it as “an oasis of creativity, movement, mindfulness, connection and calm.” Another said simply, “This is the first time I have felt in control of my body since my surgery.”

Lead Image: Camilla Greenwell



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