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Care to dance: listening, watching, dancing and reflecting the practice of a community arts and health dance artist working with older people

Horne, Maxine (2016) Care to dance: listening, watching, dancing and reflecting the practice of a community arts and health dance artist working with older people. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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The focus of this thesis is community arts and health provision for older people. It presents an ethnography of two community dance for older people groups in North West England, UK. It explores the experience of being a participant in the groups, of facilitating the groups and, additionally, of researching with the groups. I acted as both the researcher and the dance artist facilitating the sessions. Much of the existing arts and health literature focuses on the outcome of an intervention. This thesis instead turns its attention to the processes of community arts, seeking to understand more about the mechanisms that might lead to the studied health and well-being outcomes. The data were collected over a period of 13 months and includes session plans, videos of sessions, recorded conversations with dancers (participants) and reflections of the dance artist/researcher in both text and movement. The findings chapters reflect the modality of collection: Listening to the dancers talk about the sessions, Watching video recordings of the sessions, Dancing a response to the sessions and the process of researching and Reflecting through writing on the process of being a researcher. Using thematic analysis, both the dancers’ and the dance artist’s experiences were interpreted through a framework highlighting the physical, psychological and dimensions of participation. The dance artist’s experience was additionally organised with respect to the session planning. The use of the creative movement as a thinking process further revealed that there is much in community dance that does not translate to text; bodily held knowledge and experiences do not transpose to language easily. My thesis contributes to the arts and health and gerontology literatures by revealing the care flowing between the participants and the artist in the sessions and the work required of all members of the group to facilitate that care. It also contributes methodologically through the richness uncovered by the multi-sensory methods employed.

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