Dance and Health: Arts & Health Conversation Series: L-R Carolann Courtney

Dance activities in health and social care settings can provide a range of benefits from enhancements in physical and cognitive health, to the emotional and social wellbeing of participants, according to the WHO Scoping Review on arts and health interventions (2019). Join on 26 April for an online conversation on dance and health practice, with personal insights into Age & Opportunity’s Artist in Residence in a Care Setting initiative at Naas Day Centre and the Body of Work Kildare Dance Research Residency. 

Carolann Courtney, former arts, health and wellbeing specialist with Kildare County Council Arts Service, will be joined in conversation by dance artist Philippa Donnellan, Shann Morris, Older Persons Services, HSE Dublin South, Kildare & West Wicklow Community Healthcare, and Irene Kelly, activities coordinator with Naas Day Centre.

Age & Opportunity’s Artist in Residence in a Care Setting initiative 
The Age & Opportunity Dance Residency, funded by Creative Ireland’s Creativity in Older Age Programme, with support from the Arts Council, took place against the backdrop of the pandemic in 2021. Centred on thoughtful and bespoke arts experiences for older people in care, dance artists Philippa Donnellan and Olwyn Lyons led sessions for residents from Naas Day Centre and Clonskeagh Community Nursing Unit in Dublin. Working together, the dance artists and care staff brought creativity and connection to older people who had experienced a long period of isolation due to Covid-related restrictions.

Body of Work Kildare Dance Research Residency 2020-21 
Philippa Donnellan was awarded a grant by Kildare County Council Arts Service to embark on BODY OF WORK, a movement research project exploring themes of work via engagement with different communities in Kildare and beyond. Taking place largely online, activities were designed to bring artists and community together, to spark dialogue and interest in the theme – and to dance. The process helped establish connections with several groups including local Arthritis Ireland members and the Voices of Spring Community Choir for people living with dementia and their carers – as well as several artists working in different disciplines in the area. The research also supported Philippa’s artistic collaboration with dance artists Ailish Claffey and Glenna Batson about the nature of care.

This is a free, lunchtime conversation taking place online via Zoom. Live captioning will be provided.

Register for this event
Date: Tuesday 26 April 2022
Time: 1-2pm (Irish time)
*Advance booking is essential*

Registration Link:


Philippa Donnellan is an independent dance artist based in Dublin. Originally from the UK, she worked with CoisCéim Dance Theatre as BROADREACH Director (2006 – 2020), leading a range of projects with varied communities of age, place and location. In 2021, at the invitation of Age & Opportunity/Creative Ireland, she and Olwyn Lyons became Artists in Residence in Care Settings, engaging with two older-age communities in Dublin and Kildare. Recently, she co-directed an intergenerational performance project WOMEN & WORK, THE CONTRACT developed in association with Dance Limerick. Philippa is currently the Curator of DL.BRIDGE, Dance Limerick’s public engagement programme.

Carolann Courtney worked as the arts, health and wellbeing specialist for Kildare from 2013 – 2021. There, she progressed Kildare County Council’s specialist work in arts and health to support artists and both acute and community health care settings to create high quality arts practice in response to these contexts. Carolann joined Create in 2020 as the coordinator for the Creative Places Tuam Pilot. She works on the ground in Tuam to engage directly with communities, artists and project stakeholders to successfully realise the programme’s aims and objectives. In 2021 she took on the National Creative Places Network Service coordination role.

Shann Morris is a Derry woman living in the mountains of Wicklow. She is a trained nurse and has worked in the profession for 28 years. Her passion lies in community nursing and older persons. While working as nurse manager in Naas Day Centre she developed a real understanding of the benefits of arts in the health of older persons. She has facilitated many projects in the day centre with artists in residence: Weaving Time and Place with Kathrina Hughes and Mary O’Rourke, An Introduction to Songwriting with Sadhbh O’Sullivan, Ballad of the Care Centre with John Conway, and more recently, the Age & Opportunity Dance Residency during the Covid lockdown with Philippa Donnellan and Olwyn Lyons. Shann has witnessed first-hand the joy and wonder and sense of wellbeing the arts brings to people in healthcare settings. She is married to Mark, a staunch Tyrone supporter, and is a mother to four GAA crazy teenagers and Bruce the Springer Spaniel – also crazy.

Irene Kelly is a proud Kildare woman. She has worked as a carer in the community in Kildare West Wicklow for the last 23 years. She has worked in Naas Day Centre for the last six years as a carer/activities coordinator. Irene plans the activities for the whole year for the centre and is constantly coming up with new ideas. Every February she can be found in the bog picking rushes for the St Brigid’s crosses. She has expanded her love and appreciation of the arts by being the key member of staff working on the floor with the artists in residence on all the projects in Naas Day Centre. She is married to Tom, a keen gardener, and has two children and five wonderful grandchildren.

The Arts and Health Conversation Series 2022 is produced by and funded by the Arts Council and the HSE. 


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