Creative Movement Workshops in County Wexford day centres with dance artist Vivian Brodie Hayes.

Creative Movement Workshops in County Wexford day centres with dance artist Vivian Brodie Hayes.

Creative Movement Workshops in County Wexford day centres with dance artist Vivian Brodie Hayes.


Vivian welcomed all day centre attendees, visiting family/friends and staff to participate in the sessions. The day centre attendees ranged in age from 60 – 103 years and the group size ranged from 15 – 20 participants.


The goal was to deliver 11 standalone, creative and fun movement workshops at each day centre that would be inclusive and accessible for everyone in the group, keeping in mind that some of the participants could have physical limitations or mobility challenges.

The artist’s aims were to create a relaxed, un-demanding group workshop. Vivian took into consideration individual and group interests/tastes, and focused on providing opportunities for interpersonal and intrapersonal experiences, creative exploration, expression, reciprocity and connection.

The participants were encouraged both to follow led movement and to explore and share their own movement creations.


Vivian’s teaching methods draw on contemporary dance techniques influenced by somatic practices that focus on our inner awareness.

Somatics is the study of the self from the perspective of one’s lived experience, encompassing the dimensions of body, psyche, and spirit. — Thomas Hanna

Viewing her role as the creative facilitator part of a community mental health team, and conscious that in these workshops she would have little time to establish a rapport and trust with the group, Vivian built in relaxed conversational time before the session to introduce herself, get to know staff and individuals in the group. The once-off sessions needed to be structured clearly, using tried and tested activities, in order to help the group feel comfortable and cohesive.

Vivian communicates to the group that the session is completely for their enjoyment, and there is no expectation on them to do anything that they are not comfortable with, for any reason. The foundation of the class is designed to be accessible and easily understandable with some slightly challenging, more upbeat, fun sections.

The workshop begins by going around the circle, sharing one’s name, favourite colour, favourite dinner (the sessions are often before or after a big hot meal), favourite song and townland. This is always a lively exchange and a good way to get a sense of personalities and group dynamics.

The workshops are opened and closed with gentle breathing exercises, moving into easy-to-follow gentle stretches and exercises for the spine, nervous system and limbs; folding, side stretches, twists, tapping, patting, opening and closing the whole body and specific parts.

The more rhythmic part of the workshop involves easy sequences and tasks, working on flexibility, coordination, memory, and brain/body connection.

Throughout the session, Vivian draws on collections of music playlists that she has created over the past few years from working with similar groups of people. She plays as many of the songs identified in the introductions as possible.

Artistic Outputs

The intention was to provide a new creative movement experience for the participants’ and groups’ enjoyment. Each group had different dynamics, but had similar needs and interests, and Vivian was able to refine the content of the workshops from this reflection and understanding. Vivian intentionally finished each session playing the song, Rare Aul Times (which many people sang along to), as the participants shared a slow and simple improvised movement with neighbours, connecting through eyes and touch.

Evaluation Methodology

Throughout the programme of workshops, Vivian took notes of meetings, documented curriculum and any augmentation to it, welcomed and recorded feedback, and kept a reflective journal. The feedback received was through verbal discussion (after sessions with participants and staff) and through text and email (from staff).

Vivian met regularly with the project coordinator, who was very helpful in both reflecting on project aims and goals and passing on any feedback or requests from the centres or groups. Vivian also met with partners from Wexford County Council to report on project ongoings.

Evaluation Outcomes

The Creative Movement Workshops were welcomed by all day centres. The participants in each centre went from slightly reserved upon meeting to being more open, communicative and appreciative as the session progressed.

The groups were initially concerned about not knowing what to expect from the workshop but there were always a few in each group who welcomed a fun new experience. As the group began to see and trust that they were respected and not being asked to do anything that they were not comfortable with, then almost everyone participated.

As the facilitator for these standalone workshops, it was daunting to walk into each new venue with only the name of the manager, meeting so many new faces and people. Over the course of the project, as I became more experienced, I was braver at jumping in. I found eye contact, touch, smiling and laughter most important in getting to know people. I relied on clearly knowing my class structure and had to be flexible to move on to a different task, if the group didn’t particularly engage with a particular exercise or a music track.

I learned and appreciated that for many participants coming to the centre was an essential highlight of their week; being cared for, seeing friends, eating a big hot meal and doing something exciting (like the creative movement workshop). I would hear staff chatting to residents like many talk to an aunt or father, checking in about doctor appointments and food in the fridge, noticing things that possibly no one else would.

Most of the centres shared their frustration at feeling that the people in their care were not given more access to the centre and its services and that the centres were not given enough support. Recent budget cuts meant that people who came two to three times per week were now only able to come once. This was such a common occurrence in most of the centres that I felt how much it weighed on the staff.

The overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants was provided from group conversations after sessions or shared by staff, some of which is included here:

When I did the [dance] class I felt better and I’d like [Vivian] to come back again.’

I loved it. It’s fun to listen to new music.’

It’s good to hear music I haven’t heard in years.’

I didn’t get it all right but it was fun and relaxing.’

My back felt better after.’

I couldn’t stand up, but I liked the chair exercises.’ 

Feedback from staff included the following:

They never get to do things like this. It’s great for them.’

What a great workshop. We’d love for you to come again.

It would be great if you could come weekly.’

The project coordinator and Vivian have been approached by most of the day centres, asking for further sessions, as indicated by the day centre participants and staff.

Documentation and Dissemination

The project was documented through written reports, photos, videos and feedback collected from participants and day centre staff.

Date of Publication

January 2023

Project dates

August - December 2022

Lead organisation

Creative Ireland Age Friendly Programme, Wexford County Council Arts Department

Funded By

Creative Ireland Age Friendly Programme, Wexford County Council Arts Department


Vivian Brodie Hayes



Healthcare context(s)

Older People

Nature of project

Collaborative/ participatory




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