Emily Jenkins is founder of a therapeutic dance programme for women with cancer who is blazing a trail for community dance to boost physical and mental health.
Emily, 32, has felt the benefits of dance since her first lesson aged four and has devoted herself to using movement as a tool to enhance wellbeing and connection with others. She founded Move Dance Feel CIC in 2016 to offer tailored dance sessions to women affected by cancer in London and Bristol, also working in partnership with leading cancer support centres to incorporate dance into their care programmes.
Her approach isn't just about feeling good - it has proven health benefits. Emily presents research into her methods around the world and is a Dance for Health committee member for the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science. Surveys of participants show 86 per cent had a positive change to stress and anxiety, 46 per cent had clinically improved levels of fatigue and 96 per cent reported that dance improves their mood.
Emily’s approach is inspired by earlier work offering dance to people with dementia and those who suffered strokes, as well as having several close family members undergo cancer treatment. She felt there was strong evidence that dance could be mentally and physically beneficial not just to recovery but in the response to treatment, so started a pilot as a volunteer.
During lockdown, Emily and her seven-strong team of instructors have been running online dance classes for women living with and beyond cancer. One of her nominators says: "I was diagnosed with cancer during lockdown, a devastating experience made worse by the isolation.
A few months after my surgery I discovered Move Dance Feel. It's so gentle and accessible. Emily and her team make everyone feel welcome. Joining the classes enables me to forget about cancer and find freedom in my mind and body, it’s been instrumental in my recovery.”
Emily has created a training programme for other dance practitioners, which will pilot this autumn. She says: “My aim is to see dance fully integrated into cancer care services.”
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