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Dance and Nutrition Programme

Dance networkGemma Wright and Lucy Blazheva

Our idea

Dance classes paired with nutritional information in family centres addressing the health issues related to childhood obesity. Both young dancers and parents will be educated in a fun and non patronising environment.

Our story so far... 

Hi to all, if you are reading this we are now half way through our journey towards being Essex Prize Challenge winners, and our pilot study programme is off to a great start.

Just to remind you our programme is the delivery of dance classes as an interactive tool for childhood development for families. Our sessions aim to reduce social isolation between families but also to support in the reduction of childhood obesity by encouraging participation in physical activity in a safe environment.

So since Lucy and I began this journey I personally announced I was pregnant! So actually that has given me a much greater insight into our own programme delivery, in that I feel parents perhaps become more socially isolated after having children as there is nothing offered in pre-birth in terms of any physical activity or nutritional information. So I have made it my personal mission to make sure I ask where I can find this information from my own midwife. I have been forwarded to a dietetic and have an appointment booked, so I will see what she brings to the table. In terms of classes there is nothing for me in my direct area, all that has been suggested is I attend yoga perhaps? Not very inspiring for a new mum now worrying about becoming isolated herself post birth. Food for thought…..

So anyway, back to the job at hand. We started off by talking to various venues to get our pilot classes set up in partnership so we could gain space in kind and hopefully our sessions would benefit their buildings and networks also. So we decided on the Children's Centre in Harlow (Parnall Road) and the Gibberd Gallery (a central town location).

We began running our pilot sessions at the start of November, although we have hit a few brick walls along the way, it has not been plain sailing. The first session we had set up unfortunately was cancelled due to building works on our venue, the second class we danced alone as we had no families join us.

But after much fighting to get the word out via various means, partners and talking to families whilst in coffee shops, we finally have some families joining us in our third session.

The two sessions we have run so far have been outstanding and the guardians and children have absolutely adored the experience, many new Facebook likes and questions already about when we find out if the classes can continue in the 2017.

They say a picture paints a thousand words so I will let two of our young participants speak for themselves.

Two young participants catching bubbles

Having fun playing with bubbles. 

On Friday we also had some visitors to look at our programme for future partnership working. We had a visit from Vanessa Gayton from Epping Forest District Council who believes this would be a great programme for the whole district and is going to meet with her directors about including us as deliverers for their NPO funding bid.

Secondly Chris Purvis, Sports and Leisure Policy and Development Officer, happened to walk through the gallery when we were running our sessions and has ensured he has tweeted, and promoted the final two classes. We are also having a catch up as he sees the potential in partnership working via the programme and Active Harlow to support wider health and wellbeing priorities in the district.

So we are really pleased, even though we do not have large numbers of families attending, the ones who do are benefiting and the word is now spreading.

So we are off to write some funding applications to ensure we can keep this going.

Our story begins... 

Hi there, my name is Gemma Wright the Artistic Director of the Dance Network Association, the county organisation for dance delivery in Essex.

I am so proud that we have been chosen as a finalist for the Essex Prize Challenge for our dance and wellbeing programme. As an early year’s specialist myself this is an idea which I have been sat on for a number of years but unable to get going on the project until now with the support of the prize. We hope that the prize funds will support a long term programme that can be rolled out county wide from 2017 as I want to share with Essex how dancing with early years supports social isolation and childhood obesity two areas of deprivation which threatens our county.

Our idea is to use dance and play as an interactive tool for childhood development and as a creative tool for parents. We also want to see social interaction between children and their parents and carers and for families to make new friends within the group. We want the families in the pilot project to help shape and steer how the classes are delivered and support our artist with the content of what they feel is most useful for them for us to design a full long term programme.

I have asked Lucy Blazheva to join me on this creative journey to design and lead our pilot sessions for the prize challenge. Lucy is a dance artist who has a wealth of experience of working with families and young children and is also the proud mum of a beautiful daughter. For more information visit Lucy's website.

Lucy and I cannot wait to get dancing and meet with lots of new young families across Harlow in some usual and not so usual spaces for dance ;)

We will be uploading information to our website shortly about our pilot programme so you can get involved. Visit Dance Network Association for more information. Or follow us on Twitter @DanceNetEssex or see our Facebook page.

Hope to see you dancing with us soon!

Nine Challenge Prize finalists