Health and Wellbeing

Dance and Health

Within the field of arts in health, I deliver projects in a range of settings including hospitals, care homes, day centres, and children’s hospices.

Along with delivering arts in health workshops independently, I work with organisations and am currently involved in two extensive specialist projects working in children hospices and with stroke survivors. With a growing interest in the area of arts and health, I also guest lecture occupational therapy, physiotherapy and dance  students at Cumbria University.

In December 2013, I was awarded a Dance UK Dance Teacher Mentorship grant.  I used this grant to support my interest in developing dance, health and wellbeing in Cumbria and the North East. Dance Teaching Mentoring Programme

About Being

About Being is a project for people who have suffered a stroke.  It is a development of a 10 week programme of work I led on the neurology ward at Cumberland Infirmary in 2017 as a part of Reaching Horizons. It is being generously funded by AIS who had a colleague who recently suffered a stroke and supported by Cumbria University and Cumbria Infirmary arts in health programme, Healing Arts 

About Being starts in the hospital and then moves into the community. The aim of the work is to offer a space for people who have had a stroke to come together to explore, create, socialise and take part in exercise that can support their physiotherapy programmes, rehabilitation and wellbeing. About Being is a project where the participants take ownership of their recovery.

Accompanied by music, the sessions focus on the positive potential of how each person can move: tracing melody with fingers, improvising and creating, all supporting participants capacity to experience more.

MsC Occupational Therapy student, Emily Gill, from Cumbria University, is researching the project, and OT, physiotherapy and dance students support the community sessions.

I see About Being as a model of work for future dance and arts in health projects where through arts intervention a logical, accessible progression from hospital to the community is created. And the person is at the centre – not their medical issues.

Dancing Recall, Making Connections

Dancing Recall is an innovative dance and movement project
designed for people living with dementia and their care givers taking place through out Cumbria. This specially designed project has been developed by my colleague, neurological physiotherapist and community dance practitioner, Daphne Cushnie,

Along side delivering workshops, I am mentor local dance practitioners in the delivery of dance and movement for people with dementia in order to develop a pool of knowledgeable artists who can continue to deliver programmes of work in this specialist area.

For further information on Dancing Recall go to: Dancing Recall

Dance Art Foundation: Breathing Space

The dance organisation, Dance Art Foundation runs Breathing Space, a programme of dance and creative movement workshops, residencies and performances for children, young people, adults and elders.  Under Breathing Space, I have been delivering work in children’s hospices since 2011 and in 2015 became an Associate Artist.

Now based in the North, I am working with Dance Art Foundation to develop projects in children’s hospices in the region. I am currently working in Middlesbrough at Butterwick House and Zoe’s Place and soon to start at Derian House in Lancashire.

For further information on Dance Art Foundation and the Breathing Space projects, go to:

Dance Art Foundation & Breathing Space Projects



Dance in Schools

“We all thoroughly enjoyed working with Susie – I’ve seldom seen the children beam for such a sustained period! I also feel that they gained valuable skills, both in thinking about their performance and in developing their confidence.  On a more personal level, I was very impressed with, and grateful for, your understanding of the children and their needs, and with your positive supportive approach to them.” (Class Teacher, Hallfield Infants School)

The Dance in Schools programmes are tailor made and designed in close consultation with class teachers to ensure the needs of the children and aims of the school are met.

Working with the curriculum, topic material can be explored through a single workshop or covered in more depth as a project, leading to an informal sharing of work.

Workshops can be developed from any starting point – artwork, stories, the environment, poems, all feeding into the chosen curricular area to expand and reinforce the children’s learning.

Through movement games, tasks and an introduction to contemporary technique, the children are offered an exciting and enriching experience that develops their creative potential and enhances learning.

All schools programmes can be supported by informative and inspiring professional development for staff in an INSET or through a tailored mentoring scheme.

Recent projects have included:
  • Whitfield Primary School, weekly mindful movement lunch time sessions and an after school dance club. The mindful movement sessions allow the children to find ways to wind down and be more aware of their bodies. The afterschool dance club gives children the opportunity to work towards creating a piece to share with friends and family at the end of term.
  • A six week, three hours per week dance development programme at Stannington First School exploring Stone Age (Y3&4), Outer Space (Y 1&2) and In the Woods (Reception).  The programme also included an INSET.
  • A 3-day residency working with all year groups at Sele First School exploring the painting St. Michael Triumphs Over the Devil (Bartolome Bermejo) from The National Galleries ‘Take One Picture’ initiative.  The workshops were to give staff a starting point from which to develop a school performance piece.  Staff training was also included in the residency.
  • Creative Choices: working with Tin Arts, an inclusive arts organisation based in Durham City, Creative Choices is an expressive arts programme for young people with autism. The project took place at Villa Real School, Durham.

“The dance workshops were fantastic, excellent, the most wonderful thing I have done; thanks for giving me this opportunity…I’ve learnt how to enjoy myself!”

(Year 7, St Marylebone School)


Dance in the community

Dance classes and projects for children in the Allen Valleys currently run at Catton Village Hall.

Creative thinking and developing sound technique are at the core of each class. The children are encouraged to explore and discover new ideas and approaches to movement alongside developing fundamental dance skills.

After School Dance Classes – Catton Village Hall


The After School Dance Classes offer contemporary technique and creative dance with a focus on exploring and devising material. The classes are great fun giving the children a balance between acquiring key dance skills along side opportunities to tap into their imagination.

Each term the children work towards a sharing or local performance opportunities.

Holiday Dance Projects

The Holiday Dance Projects give children an opportunity to explore creative ideas and movement in more depth resulting in an enlightening and highly enjoyable experience. The children’s movement experiences are enhanced through extending creative exploration and inspiration through drawing, writing and working out doors.

The projects end with a sharing of work between groups to family and friends.

Early Years Dance

The Early Years Dance sessions encourage children to explore moving with their sibling’s and friends and are designed to nurture interaction between carer and child.

Through play, props, music, movement and imagination, the sessions offer the children and carers a creative and sensory dance experience that will engage curiosity and delight all involved!

“This is one of the best nursery workshops I have seen! You have definitely kindled a spark amongst the children!”

(4 Under 5’s dance project, English National Ballet)



Pilates as an excellent and safe form of exercise that can feed into every day living, support rehabilitation, injury prevention and pre/post natal care. Pilates is widely promoted by healthcare professionals.

What is Pilates?

Pilates technique draws on a range of exercise forms such as yoga, martial arts, Alexander technique and current Western approaches such as resistance training.

A Pilates class involves taking the whole body through a range of controlled movements targeting specific muscle groups that are used in every day tasks.

Who is the class suitable for?

Regardless of age, ability or level of fitness, Pilates is suitable for a wide range of people.

What are the benefits of Pilates?

This safe and relaxing form of exercise can help you improve:

  • Muscle control
  • balance
  • tone
  • flexibility
  • posture
  • joint mobility
  • core stability
  • coordination
  • relieving stress and tension

“Thank you very much for the great Pilates session you kindly did with Mum. I saw her yesterday and she was very upbeat about her ability, and her confidence was back to normal having had your encouragement and advice. This is exactly what I had hoped for and thank you for your help. I think sometimes when old people are living with old people the belief in their own ability wanes and reduces to the level of those around them and it needs someone with your knowledge and expertise to demonstrate how they can continue to live an active life by practising appropriate exercises and lifestyle habits. Brilliant, thank you!” – Session participant

Pilates classes for young dancers

P1030094Dancers have used Pilates for many years to help support their training, improve technique and prevent injury.

For the young dancer, Pilates is an invaluable form of exercise that compliments their training by giving them a good grounding as to how their body moves in dance and a developed understanding of movement principles.

I spent two years working in a dance specialist Pilates studio in New Zealand, Dance Pilates, where I was a part of a team that developed programmes specifically for the young and adolescent dancer. These programmes include finerPointe to support lower leg and foot work and finerJump for jump technique. I continue to be associated with Dance Pilates and deliver these and other dance specific conditioning programmes in the UK and through the Dance Pilates on-line dancer mentoring programme, Movitae.


For further information on Dance Pilates and Movitae, see, and

Pilates for dancers – workshops


I can visit your dancing school to offer Pilates classes or a workshop for your students. The sessions can be focused on a specific area of technique, or be an introduction to Pilates for the young dancer. The finerPointe programme can be offered as an introductory workshop or over a term. finerJump is to be taken over a term.


Pilates for dancers – private classes

Private 1-1 & 2-1 sessions for young dancers are tailored to the individual to specifically support and help develop their dance technique.

Students will be offered the finerPointe and finerJump programmes and can be given on-line support through joining Movitae.


I live in the North Pennines, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and known as ‘the last wilderness in England’. This is my base as a freelance dance artist working in education, the community and healthcare settings.

My training was in classical ballet, gaining a degree from the Royal Academy of Dance and later, an MA in choreography at Middlesex University.

Injury left me unable to perform, but drew me into the field of dance education – a happy twist of fate. Working with a variety of leading companies including English National Ballet, London Contemporary, Birmingham Royal Ballet, The Royal Ballet School, Candoco Dance Company, Anjali and Corali, I have developed, led and managed dance projects in schools, the community and health care settings. In each setting I have – and continue to be – guided by highly experienced and generous dance practitioners.

In 2005, on returning from six months of travelling, which included leading dance projects in rural areas of Uganda, I began to focus on my specific area of interest: dance and disability, and commenced work with Candoco Dance Company. Initially I held the post of Course Curriculum Leader for the groundbreaking Foundation Course in Dance for Disabled Students. In 2006, I was promoted to Course Director.

In 2008, I traveled for a year.  Over this time, I worked with the Cambodian integrated arts company, Epic Arts advising on their development of training programmes for disabled dance students. Until 2011, I lived in New Zealand working for the country’s leading integrated dance company, Touch Compass where I embedded the role of Education Manager. Additionally, I worked alongside sports/dance physiotherapists at Westmere Pilates on their pioneering dance conditioning programmes for young talented dance students.

On returning to the UK in July 2011, I was invited to re-join Candoco as Youth Dance Manager. In addition to the development of the Youth Dance Company, the role led on inquiry surrounding teaching pedagogy, the placement of disability in dance training, and mentoring and guiding emerging disabled dancers.

At this time, I also began to work freelance for Dance Art Foundation under their health and wellbeing programme, Breathing Space, delivering projects in children’s hospices. This work lies alongside projects for people living with dementia.

Since living in the NE, I have found that my work is being shaped by the astonishing environment of the region and is influencing my approach to where and what I do. I am developing work in rural locations, drawing on the environment, and am interested by the relationship between where we live and health and wellbeing, and how dance can connect the two.

In December 2013 I was awarded a Dance UK Teacher Mentor Fund which enabled me to delve deeper into my practice, build new skills and in turn support the development of dance in the region.

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