Arts and mental health

The Seabreeze dance project

Donations have enabled us to support Dance United’s project Seabreeze, a dance project that aims to help marginalised young adults with mental health issues build their confidence and realise their potential.

‘I've started walking with my head up when I walk down the street. I used to walk with it down… it does make you feel more confident.’ – project participant

Transforming lives through dance

Dance United’s mission is to positively change the lives of marginalised and hard-to-reach people through high-quality dance training and performance. The organisation creates bespoke dance projects and interventions to meet the needs of different groups of people who are struggling with difficult circumstances – for example, youth offenders and gang members, people with mental health issues or who are fighting addictions, and disengaged young people with seriously challenging behaviours. They have a worldwide reputation for the quality and effectiveness of their work.

The Seabreeze project

At the end of 2013, with the help of donations from generous supporters, Dance United piloted the Seabreeze project, working with young adults aged 18 - 35 who are accessing mental health services in south London. Seabreeze culminated in a series of original dance performances at south London’s Jerwood Space. The project set out to explore the impact of an intensive intervention on young people with mental health issues, and the dancers who took part in Seabreeze were all clients of four early intervention mental health teams.

How it works

‘Our methodology involves intensive training – we rehearse every day, we expect people to be there and to be 100 per cent committed,’ says Carly Annable-Coop, Alliance Dance Director at Dance United.

‘And we demand the highest standards. We’re not interested in what they did before the project started: we just see them as dancers. It’s about showing these young adults what they can achieve and helping them realise their potential. Yes, it’s been hard at times, but they’ve come out of it with a piece of work they can all feel very proud of.’

In their own words

‘When they came together, not only had they never met each other before, many of them had never danced before either,’ explains Carly, ‘The transformation has been incredible.’

Here is what the dancers thought of the experience.

‘Coming in every day is a bit of a challenge but it’s something that I needed to rise to. It’s hard, but I feel good because of it.’

‘I've started walking with my head up when I walk down the street. I used to walk with it down… it does make you feel more confident.’

‘It's making me feel more comfortable with just being out of the house and amongst people and around people and going on public transport… I am feeling my anxieties are getting lower and lower.’

Forward-looking

This dance-led intervention was run as a pilot, and Seabreeze will now be evaluated for its impact on mental well-being, focusing on three key outcomes: interpersonal relationships, positive functioning and positive affect. A film of the project will be shared with other mental health services, and those who took part in Seabreeze will be given the opportunity to continue dancing together on a regular basis.

‘We really believe that a project like this can have very far-reaching benefits,’ says Carly. ‘It’s about team-building, resilience and trust.’

You can help us continue to support life-changing projects like this. Find out how you can support SLaM.