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Former Strictly judge waltzes in to honour an inspirational community dancer with a National Lottery Award

13th October 2021

Dancing Dame Arlene Phillips has honoured an inspirational community dancer with a National Lottery Award in recognition of her incredible work with women affected by cancer in London and beyond.

The theatre director and choreographer presented Emily Jenkins with her prize today after it was announced she had won the Art, Film and Culture category in the 2021 National Lottery Awards.

The National Lottery Awards celebrate the inspirational people and organisations across the UK who have done extraordinary things with National Lottery funding.

More than 1500 nominations were received in this year’s campaign and a judging panel selected Emily as a winner for her outstanding work with Move Dance Feel, a community project which originally supported women affected by cancer in London and Bristol. Since moving her sessions online after the pandemic, Emily now reaches women going through treatment or bereavement right across the world, helping them remotely from the comfort of their own homes.

A group of women from different ages and background together.
Emily Jenkins and her group for the National Lottery Arts, Culture & Film Award winner 2021

Emily launched Move Dance Feel in 2016 in order to address a recognised gap in cancer care services. The project offers free weekly dance sessions to women living with and beyond cancer, including those who are supporting someone with cancer or bereaved by cancer. She works in partnership with leading cancer support centres to incorporate dance into their care programmes, and 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.

Move Dance Feel helps women to reconnect with themselves and feel part of a caring community. Participants regularly speak of rediscovering joy through movement, especially dancing alongside others, and experience feelings of freedom and liberation - as dance provides a welcome relief from the seriousness of cancer. Originally her sessions were held in Maggie’s Barts in the City of London and Paul’s Cancer Centre in Wandsworth, as well as Penny Brohn in Bristol.

However, thanks to funding from the National Lottery, Emily  was able to continue the development of their online programme during the pandemic, which has given anyone in the world access and has led to an increase in engagement of 416%.

A woman (Emily Jenkins) celebrating with coonfetti
Emily Jenkins, National Lottery Arts, Culture & Film Award winner 2021

All of this year’s winners, including Emily received a £3,000 cash prize for their organisation, along with an iconic National Lottery Awards trophy.

Dame Arlene Phillips, who is currently choreographing a new musical in Birmingham called ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ inspired by the classic Henry Fielding novel ‘The History of Tom Jones’, travelled to London to present Emily with her award and to congratulate her on her incredible achievement. The award was presented at Maggie’s Barts in London.

Emily, who is currently living in Nottingham, said: “I honestly can’t believe I’ve won, it feels so special to be recognised for a National Lottery Award. I started Move Dance Feel to provide women with a renewed sense of joy in their bodies. We wanted to offer a creative, supportive and restorative experience for these women going through incredibly challenging times. Winning this award will inspire me further and to push forward to help more women around the world.

“Thanks to the grant we received from the National Lottery, we’ve been able to develop a very successful virtual programme and reach even more women in need all across the world. I’m really proud of how far Move Dance Feel has come in the past 5 years and I can’t wait to see what the next 5 has in store for us.”

Dame Arlene Phillips added: “Emily is a real inspiration to the dancing community. The work that Move Dance Feel does to help women living with cancer is absolutely vital, and it just shows how you can lose yourself in the moment with dance – especially for those going through such big life changes. Her passion for dance and helping others is so clear to see and I hope that Emily receives the recognition she deserves through winning this award. National Lottery players can be proud to have supported such a wonderful initiative”