In 2018 Tara and I started working with a group of people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) who visited the MS drop-in on Tuesday mornings in North Hull. In March 2020, like so many things, our sessions ended abruptly. We soon realised that classes were not going to resume anytime soon – in fact over a year later we are still not sure when the drop-in centre will be able to re-open. Last May we decided there was only one thing to do – start dancing together in ‘zoom world’ from our own homes. Moving online was a leap into the unknown for the group and if I am honest, it wasn’t only the group participants who were nervous at the start!
The sessions were intended to keep our bodies moving and minds thinking through lockdown and focused on co-ordination, memory, stretching, relaxing and sharing our creativity. For people advised not to leave the house we all soon realised that the sessions were a gift of communication and wellbeing, our ‘community time’ as Maggie called them.
Part way through the year the sessions took on a more serious note when, following a suggestion by Jane, the group decided they wanted to create a tribute dedicated to members of the Hull MS group who lost their lives in 2020. This decision took us into new territory where we created movements and rehearsed them for months so that our minds and bodies would remember them. The group also worked with musician Georgina Jakubiak (State of Georgia) to develop their vocal skills and record their own arrangement of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Having found their way around Zoom, group members set about embracing more technology and recording their individual contributions on their phones before sending them to Georgia to edit. Thankfully, a few of them had been in the choir at school so knew a bit about singing! The vocal tasks that we did with Georgia not only helped us create the soundtrack but also gave people exercises to do at home to maintain their vocal chords.
Unable to mourn in our usual way this project helped group members find closure during a time they were shielding and the film brought comfort to the families of those who had died.
The sessions themselves brought us together and lifted our spirits giving a positive start to each week. Being on Look North was just the icing on the cake! Thanks to Arts Council England, Hull City Council and the MS Society who funded the sessions.
The classes are continuing on-line, 11.00 am on Monday mornings. New members are welcome including carers and family members, you don’t need to have attended the North Hull Drop-in centre to join the dance group. If you would like more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Keyna and MS dancers, April 2021