Dance and health practice is explored through personal insights into Age & Opportunity’s Artist in Residence in a Care Setting initiative at Naas Day Centre. Taking place against the backdrop of the pandemic in 2021, the residency saw dance artists Philippa Donnellan and Olwyn Lyons connecting with 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.

For this online conversation in April 2022, Carolann Courtney, former arts, health and wellbeing specialist with Kildare County Council Arts Service, was joined 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. Tara Byrne, Arts Programme Manager with Age & Opportunity, provides insights into the background and aims of Age & Opportunity’s Artist in Residence in a Care Setting initiative.

The conversation addresses the adaptations required from the dance artists to bring engagement to the digital realm, the logistics of managing the residency at a time when Naas Day Centre was closed to members, and the impact of the residency on participants.

‘We don’t often acknowledge the importance of the body. Often and especially in the older generation we often speak about it in terms of ill health, and to talk about it and work with the body in a creative way, engage in art through the body, as being something that involves everybody and anybody, that was for me essential.’ – Philippa Donnellan

This [residency] brought an even deeper level [of connection] in that we were able to connect people who were isolated at home. That connection improves mental health, it improves physical health, it  improves the mood of people, it means their carers around them, they are dealing with people who are happy. So it has a ripple effect… of joy, engagement, connection, that connection we as human beings really need… The legacy is they are Zooming with each other and connecting with each other and these benefits are kept going.’ – Shann Morris

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


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