Patients from the Fulbrook Centre’s City and Sandford Wards in Oxford, were treated to an afternoon of South Asian dance activities, led by artists from the Akādemi dance company, thanks to Oxford Health Charity funds.

The aim of the Akādemi team is to create ‘vibrant, fascinating, and meaningful South Asian dance’. As part of this, they run ‘Dance Well’ – a learning and participation programme designed with a strong health and wellbeing focus, that can be offered for adults and children in a wide range of community and healthcare environments. It is delivered through a variety of workshops and experiences and aims to improve physical and mental wellbeing through South Asian dance and movement.


Having delivered this programme widely in community and healthcare settings, Akādemi believe that their approach to South Asian dance can have a powerful and positive impact on participants’ health and wellbeing. As part of the planning for a long-term project at the Fulbrook Centre, two Akādemi dance artists led two one-hour group workshops in the ward day rooms as well as two 1-2-1 sessions on City Ward. Unfortunately, due to Covid, the workshop planned for Cherwell Ward could not take place on the day. These pilot sessions were delivered with the support of Oxford Health Charity, in conjunction with the Oxford Health Arts Partnership team and Oxford City Council.


While the soaring temperatures on one of the hottest days of the year prevented some from being able to take part in the afternoon, the patients and staff members who did attend the sessions enjoyed experimenting together with South Asian dance gestures and rhythm. They were also treated to dance performances by the Akādemi artists and had the opportunity to engage in stimulating, cross-cultural conversations.


When asked about the event afterwards, patients commented on how the workshops had been a welcome distraction from being in hospital and it was clear to see that moods had been lightened as a result of the activities. While some described the workshops and dancers as ‘Superb!’ and ‘Spectacular’, one participant stated:

“The physical workout of the dance session was more than one rehab exercise session. It is good to have this for your upper body, it should happen weekly.”

Staff, too, noted of their patients:

“They enjoyed learning the different moves, in particular the different hand animal movements.” 
“They enjoyed watching the dance performance and would be very interested for them to come back to the ward again!”

When asked for their own thoughts about the pilot dance sessions, two staff members commented:

“I really enjoyed the dance workshop – the dancers were very talented and clear in their teaching / demonstrations to help participants follow along. I think it was a new style of dance for all of us, which was great to try something completely new!... there was a good mix and having the option of completing the dancing seated helped inclusivity.”
“The session was great. Patients enjoyed the session, me too. In my opinion, it would be great if the dance session happened regularly.”

The overall consensus? That ‘dancing is a fun way to exercise’ and everyone would welcome further visits to the Centre from the Akādemi dance company!

The Oxford Health Arts Partnership team is now compiling feedback from these Fulbrook Centre sessions and will continue to work with Akādemi representatives to deliver Part 2 of this pilot project – a similar programme of dance and movement for younger service users within the Trust.

The Oxford Health Charity team are pleased to be able to support this health and wellbeing project and look forward to hearing the results of the second phase of this South Asian dance programme.