#NationalDayofReflection Taking a moment to reflect and journal a journey of our COVID year

On 23 March 2020 the world ground to a halt as COVID-19 struck with vengeance. What felt like overnight we literally lost 30K of income for the summer season, 20 freelance artists had contracts terminated and 10k plus dancers were told we had to pause all activity.



Over the past 5 years dna has been consistently offering creative movement and dance classes for a variety of groups including on those on a low income, older adults, people living in rural locations and those in need of support of their mental health and wellbeing. Activities offered include dance classes for teachers, early years programmes for families, dance in schools, creative dance classes for people living with Parkinson’s and Dementia, and opportunities for those at the start of their dancing careers to develop their talent and performance skills. Alongside its work with people in the community, dna nurtures and trains the next generation of dance teachers and professional artists but we also rely on those artists to deliver our dna!


We had no idea what going into to lockdown really meant for our year ahead.

The team quickly pivoted services into online offers. I remember making a short video to apologise for us not getting online sooner and explained that all our older communities do not have access to technology this is never going to work. But the growth mindset kept us powering through!


A month following national lockdown announcements we held our first digital day of dance entitled ‘Social Disdancing’ 30 April 2020 (also my birthday, what a wonderful year I will never forget).



It was an incredible pick me up for all with 111 people joining us for conversations, dancing, and general connections, many meeting with others for the first time since we had entered this crazy world and us learning how Zoom really worked.

I think 2 of our 140 older members connected with us on this day. I knew then that we were going to really struggle to continue to promote social inclusion and reduce social isolation in this unknown ‘new world’.


How are we going to as a company that focus on offering dance to increase people’s health and well being continue without being able to connect with one another?


We didn’t have any choice but to work out new ways of trying to connect with our dancers.

So, we started by creating movement postcards for our current members, the wonderful Karen Pratt and Emily Lewis both freelance artists for dna set to task on creating dance tasks on postcards that people could take part in at the comfort of their own home. We were hopeful that the beneficiaries would enjoy receiving these from us each week and it would bring joy to their weeks and an understanding that we had not forgotten about them.


A month later we offered a second Social Dis-Dancing day most of which this time was not live as we were unable to now pay freelance practitioners. So, it was called ‘Revisit and Renew’ and we had lots of pre-recorded material from the initial date and some videos in our archive such as our past mass dance programmes which had not been seen before, and so we put on another highly successful day reaching over 500 people and raising £1600.00

We are incredibly grateful to everyone that joined us for this day and made such a kind contribution to support the organisation to keep our dancing shoes on!

However, for the second online date none of our ‘usual’ dancers joined us and we had to think up more creative ways to get in touch! dna contacted every person taking part in our programmes to have a check in.


The next few months past with uncertainty and no security, we had depleted our reserves and unfortunately, we had to stop. In June 2020 both myself and Lyann had no option but to financially survive through the Government Job Retention Scheme.


However, there was a very rapid support response and in July we were offered an emergency grant from Essex Community Foundation (Anglian Water Funds) which enabled the team at The Dance Network Association to come back to work on part-time furlough and to support us to redesign project delivery now in this new 'normal' during COVID-19. The fund gave us time to develop further bids for emergency grants and allowed us to reconnect with our communities.


The fund’s allowed us to contract both Karen Pratt and Lucy Blazheva to create two at home DVD's and we asked the team at University Centre Colchester to edit and put them onto physical DVD’s for us so they could be sent out. The team then put together care prop care package advised by the artists of useful props we should send to encourage moment and visual experience. The prop bag included a heart anti stress ball, a ribbon stick, a TheraBand, a coloured scarf and some feathers. These packs were to enable our dancers to engage with us both mentally and physically during the continued pandemic period. Before the packs went



I remember it like yesterday the lifeline we needed!

The headlines read “On Monday 12 October, The Dance Network Association (DNA) was awarded £66,050 as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure the cultural industry has a sustainable future”.

Goodness we could now fly! Our projects over the next 6 months had to be about connecting to our participants. Here’s a snapshot of some of the things we’ve done.


Props Packages and DVDs –So we wanted to deliver our props package in a creative way. As restrictions were slightly lifted, we arranged ‘Doorstep Dancing’. Two of our freelance artists Karen Pratt and Beth Fisher created a piece of choreography to show our dancers how to make the best use of their props. They have been dancing on our ‘dancers’ doorsteps to hand out these packages.


A little video clip of Doorstep Dancing can be viewed here







Or you can purchase your own props package here: https://www.dancenetworkassociation.org.uk/shop


New dna staff! Karen Pratt was given further security as we created a post for her as our Dance Development Officer. With thanks to Colchester Voluntary Welfare Grant.


Dancing Through Lockdown Resource Book – We created resource book which include 3 class plans, winter resilience exercises supporting people with short tasks to stay physical through the colder months, and many helpful hints and tips for those living with ailments or caring for older loved ones. It was sent far and wide and we hope that every GP and Link worker now has access to this to pass on.

This is free to download from our website HERE


Winter Resilience – We have created an online bank of short 3 minute videos for people to keep safe in their environments through the winter. Created initially for older adults to support prevention of falls in a facemask, we took this idea and thought about everyday tasks and then linked that to a movement / dance task that people could complete. The videos have all been created by Karen Pratt. Each day throughout November these were released. Missed them? See them on our website


Postivi-TEA - We have been offering weekly social get together for those that can join us for a chat and a cuppa, and a little self-expression movement called ‘Dance Like No-Ones Watching’. Between us we chose 10 minutes of music tracks that are uplifting, and we just turn our cameras off and just move to the shared music! We come back after 10 minutes of movement to have a chat about our past week and what we have coming up in the next one. These sessions are so important to our core values as an organisation. In all our classes we have a social element that which allows for peer support networks to grow and develop so that no one ever feels alone. So, these tea moments are to keep these connections and friendships alive. After Christmas we realised the value in this programme and its connection with others so join us now every week Live on Instagram at 5pm on Thursdays and you can join us for Positivi-TEA. Missed the music and dancing? Pick it up any time in your week and have a boogie – see our weekly playlists HERE


Dancing through… lockdown 2.0

Now we were connecting at home with our current dancers we decided to give You Tube a whirl to increase our engagement with the dancing world.

During lockdown two classes were open making it as easy as possible for people to engage. All our classes were delivered live through YouTube. This also meant that for people who have never danced before they can come and have a go in the comfort of their own environments without feeling self-conscious.

We just want people to enjoy dancing and feel its positive benefits on their own wellbeing.


Dancing through… lockdown 3.0

We missed connecting with people! In January 2021 classes moved onto Zoom and we listened to everyone’s feedback and offered ‘live’ and ‘on demand’ classes which meant those that couldn’t make it to a live session could catch up online. We continued doorstep dancing, delivering prop packages, and sending out our at home DVD’s and written resource books, we’ve had teacher meet ups, bespoke schools programmes and had time for lots of connections with our friends.


“We are currently using the book you sent us and are holding twice weekly exercise sessions. These are all chair based as it is easier for our residents”

from Activities Team at Freda Gunton Lodge Residential Home Colchester


Classes have been for all people from dance for early years and young people; to dance for adults: new mums, adults wishing to safely socialise/keep fit, adults living in care homes/shelter housing, adults unable to move about or are disabled, adults living with Parkinson’s or Dementia.


“You are doing so much, and it all looks great and your generosity to share all your school materials with your network is amazing. What a joy you are - so creative and such brilliant outreach / connection ideas - well done and thank you for making my day” DNA Subscriber




Let’s Go, TOKYO!

To support education and community groups we released all of our past mass dance project resources and made them available on our website: this included Dance Rio, Bard to Bollywood, The Great War Centenary and World Cup Fever. View HERE


In late Autumn we went full steam ahead on our Let’s Go, Tokyo! programme. With thanks to funders London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Essex 2020 and Arts Council England we cannot wait to see our lost celebration of 2020 come to life in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer! We aim to see over 1000 dancers in two digital celebrations! Make sure your groups are part if our own history.


Over the past five years, pupils at Valence Primary School have taken part in the Mass Dance, and it has been a wonderful activity for them to be involved in. It has helped the children to be fit and active, and it has also enabled them to feel part of a bigger movement across the LA. The collaboration with others has been beneficial and a lot of fun. The wider cultural aspects of the dances have been exciting, and altogether, it has been a memorable learning experience’. Richard November, Headteacher, Valence Primary School


To find out more and to get involved please visit: https://www.dancenetworkassociation.org.uk/1-day-1-dance-1000-dancers


WHAT AN INCREDIBLE YEAR! We hope that you have been one of thousands of dancers that have connected with us over the past 365 days. As we are just about to finish off our Spring Term 2021 and a year today the first national lockdown begun but please let me give you hope for the future!


The summer is coming, the vaccine is here, and we are still dancing!


If you would like to revisit some of our classes or you fancy joining us for classes on Zoom after the Easter Break, please visit our website


I also want to take a moment here to say goodbye to all the wonderful dancers that we have lost to COVID-19. You will not be forgotten by us or by any of your dna family.


We will continue to fight to overcome the challenges of COVID 19 but if you can help by supporting someone to take part in dance for the benefit of their own health and wellbeing, please share out posts and information and SUPPORT US by donating HERE


We are so grateful to still be dancing with you!

Gems


Photos in the initial grid photo post courtesy of Rachel Cherry, Weston Homes and the dna team.

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