Dance Bualadh Bos is a creative performance project, led by dance artists Ailish Claffey and Philippa Donnellan, and developed for and with older age communities in County Kildare. The project culminated in the creation of an original dance performance, presented privately to participants and to public audiences.
Participants included people living and working in residential care, older people living independently, and care staff.
The project aimed to expand opportunities for the two dance artists and older people in care and community settings to imaginatively engage in dance, through a professionally guided collaborative process, leading to the creation and performance of a new professional dance piece: Dance Bualadh Bos.
Further aims were to bring together dance artists, healthcare professionals, and older people and to foster relationships with two community settings: Naas Day Care Centre* and McAuley Place, Naas.
The project was designed to build on previous work undertaken by the artists and to sustain high quality dance activity with both communities, with the intention of piloting a performance project that could be replicated and toured to other healthcare and community settings in the future.
*Due to unforeseen delays in re-opening Naas Day Care Centre after the Covid-19 lockdowns, TLC Nursing Home in Maynooth replaced Naas Day Care Centre and became one of the key centres involved.
Our artistic approach and the methods adopted, drew from the core artistic idea of Dance Bualadh Bos – to create a celebratory dance and music piece inspired by the Irish word ‘bualadh bos’ – ‘to clap, applaud, strike’ – an upbeat feeling and action that lends itself to themes of connection, friendship and community.
This approach was underpinned by the principle that ‘dance in healthcare settings comes from a place of connecting, relating and expressing humanity with artistry as the primary focus.’ – Ailish Claffey
Beginning in October 2022 for six weeks, one-off tasters and weekly dance workshops took place with groups at each centre. These ran in parallel with the artists devising the new work; an arrangement which allowed ideas, thoughts and stories to flow between the artists and community – and contributed to creative collaboration.
The workshops, which the dance artists co-led, began with a simple warm-up to music that focused on breath, stretch and strengthening exercises to aid cognitive, mental and physical alertness and to build collective enjoyment and a sense of wellbeing.
Anchored in playful physical activity, music was a key component that sparked creativity and participant recollection of dance and music experiences. Drawing from varied styles, music also encouraged spontaneous sing-songs, and helped to generate new choreographic material as well as several impromptu dances by staff.
Dance Bualadh Bos culminated in an interactive dance performance by dance artists Ailish Claffey and Philippa Donnellan with two private performances at TLC Nursing Home, Maynooth and The Acre Project, Celbridge, and two public performances at Croí Anú Creative Centre, Moone and McAuley Place, Naas in County Kildare.
Ann Maher, Activity Co-ordinator at TLC Nursing Home, wrote a poem in response to the project which you can read here.
Our approach to evaluation was guided by the Arts for Health and Wellbeing: An Evaluation Framework which acknowledges that ‘a range of approaches and methodologies will be needed to assess complex arts in health interventions.’ (Daykin and Joss, 2016).
Evaluation was qualitative in design and on-going in nature. Designed to measure and assess general response in line with the key aims and to identify any specific positives and challenges, the feedback and evaluation methods included:
- Artists’ reflective diary
- General observation
- Informal feedback between participants, artists, and staff
- Care staff notes (Activities programme)
- Regular feedback & evaluation meetings (artists/staff)
- Video recorded interviews (participants, artists, staff and audience members)
The project was documented by professional filmmaker Simon Fitzpatrick, and by photographer Anthony Griffin. In particular, recorded interviews offered a valuable opportunity for in-depth conversation, and gave time for individuals to reflect on their experiences, and to share their thoughts and opinions about the project.
‘It was so full of joy, I loved it.’ – Audience member, Acre Project
‘It was pitched just right for the audience – not too long or short.’ – TLC staff
Presenting Dance Bualadh Bos to diverse audiences was a unique experience. It was an absolute joy returning to McAuley Place and TLC Nursing Home. We were also fortunate to present Dance Bualadh Bos to new audiences at Croí Anú Creative Centre and Acre Project and to be able to extend our connection to other communities in Kildare.
‘The costumes were beautiful – they really added to the whole dance.’ – Audience member, McAuley Place
‘This was a totally new experience for me – but one I definitely won’t forget, in a positive way!’ – TLC participant
‘They’re loving the dancing. I can see that a lot of the residents are really benefitting from the physical activity and really getting involved’. – TLC Activities Co-ordinator
As residents became accustomed to the weekly workshops, a sense of fun and spontaneity evolved, with participants appearing more at ease within their bodies and open to trying new moves, improvising and suggesting different dance steps.
‘I didn’t quite know what to expect at the beginning – but the reaction has been really, really positive’ – TLC Activities Coordinator
TLC staff were exceptionally generous and supportive throughout. However, as this was our first time working together, it naturally took time to establish ourselves and develop the relationships required to run this type of project. We believe this impacted the level of our creative engagement with the community and the depth of their involvement in the project, but we feel it was well worth it.
Dance Bualadh Bos was hugely enriching and challenging. Participant feedback suggested that it offered a welcome respite to their everyday routine and gave them time with other friends / residents, and ignited their curiosity in taking part in ‘something a bit different’.
As artists, the project has enabled the development of our approach to devising high quality dance theatre for and with older-age communities, and laid the foundation for further artistic collaboration to evolve.
Supported by Kildare County Council’s Creative Ireland Award 2022, a Creative Places Athy Award and a Dance Ireland Residency, Dance Bualadh Bos brought together artists, local communities, healthcare professionals, and local organisations to pilot a new project – and to increase awareness of dance as a valuable, life-affirming art form that promotes wellbeing and fosters individual and collective expression and celebrates people’s lives in a meaningful way.
Documentation and Dissemination
The Dance Bualadh Bos project was documented via a short, professionally produced film, with original music by Brian Keegan. Funded by the artsandhealth.ie Documentation Bursary 2022, the film was created as a lasting record of the project, capturing the workshop process and final performances, with insights from participants, artists, care staff and partners. It provides a powerful testament to the joy and meaning that dance can bring into our lives.
Kildare County Council Arts Service (Creative Ireland Programme)
Creative Places Athy
TLC Nursing Home, Maynooth
McAuley Place, Naas
The Acre Project, Celbridge
Croí Anú Creative Centre, Moone
Date of Publication
5 October – 18 November 2022
The project was funded by Kildare County Council via the Creative Ireland programme, and Creative Places Athy Award.
The project film was funded by the artsandhealth.ie Documentation Bursary Award 2022 via the HSE and the Arts Council.
Ailish Claffey, Philippa Donnellan
Nature of project
Collaborative/ participatory, Performance