Dancing with Parkinson’s

Research and development project with Ascendance dance company, devising a series of 360 VR films.

A distorted ‘spherical’ image of people standing in a circle in an opulent ballroom
A distorted photograph of alleyways behind stone terrace houses. Four people face each other in pairs down the middle alley whilst one person in each of the other alleyways looks on

Dancing with Parkinson’s (currently in development) will be a 360 dance film viewed using Virtual Reality headsets, produced with people who have Parkinson’s disease, their partners and carers.

I am working with Ascendance Dance; a dance company that runs dance classes for people with Parkinson’s across West Yorkshire. Over the course of a year I have attended classes as an observer and sometime participant. Filming and photographing the sessions; taking notes and conversing with attendees has allowed me to build relationships with class-goers and to see the benefits of dance first hand. Now – collaborating with a class from Saltaire in particular – we will produce a dance film that acts concurrently as a showcase of their dancing and a ‘tour’ of UNESCO heritage site, Saltaire village.

The chosen film format has resulted from intensive discussion with the group. Making a beautiful, movement-based film that depicts people with a physically limiting condition is an important statement in itself; highlighting participants’ abilities and adaptations. But the group wanted to make the film about more than Parkinson’s. By staging a series of short dance pieces at locations around Saltaire, they will be empowered to show audiences around the environment where they live. Visitors will experience the tour via headsets that show a 360 degree film of each dance, to be watched at the location where it was filmed. The intent is to create an encounter that is as dramatic and intimate as a live performance whilst circumventing some of the practical challenges that live performance presents to people with Parkinson’s.

Commissioned by Ascendance

Funded by Arts Council England, Big Lottery Fund

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