Scottish Ballet teams up with MS Orkney to develop dance programme

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Representatives from Scottish Ballet are coming to Orkney later this month in an initial visit to meet with local groups and individuals to discuss and showcase the Elevate™ programme.

Elevate™ is a dance programme for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS). Developed by Scottish Ballet, Scotland’s national dance company, Elevate™ forms a key part of the company’s health initiative, SB Health. The overall aim of Elevate™ is to positively impact on the health and wellbeing of participant dancers involved. Every iteration of a Scottish Ballet Health programme is unique to the community adopting the programme.

In September 2021, Scottish Ballet secured £89,100 from The Ideas Fund to work in partnership with MS Society Orkney, The Pickaquoy Centre, NHS Orkney and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Dr Bethany Whiteside) to deliver a 21-month dance programme for people living with multiple sclerosis.

The Ideas Fund is a grants programme run by the British Science Association and funded by Wellcome, which enables the UK public to develop and try out ideas that address problems related to mental wellbeing. Research will play a vital part in this funded project. Dr Bethany Whiteside and her team will explore community concerns about mental health and wellbeing and informally test ways of doing research that ensure Elevate activities are continually led by the community.

The project builds on Scottish Ballet’s visit to Orkney in 2019. Orcadians living with multiple sclerosis including their carers and families were invited to dance to live music and meet others.

Participants from Orkney MS Society that were involved in 2019 said: “We can’t wait to take part in Scottish Ballet’s Elevate classes again, the live music lifted everyone to another level. Whilst MS may connect us, it doesn’t define us. This will be a chance for many of us to try out an activity that we might not normally be able to due to our location.”

By creating a local volunteer network, Scottish Ballet and the Orkney partners hope to expand the reach of Elevate to include smaller islands connected to Orkney Mainland – supporting live but virtual Elevate sessions in people’s homes and community spaces where travel is more challenging.

Tiffany Stott, Dance Health Programme Manager at Scottish Ballet, said: “Every iteration of a Scottish Ballet Health programme is unique to the community adopting the programme. We are very excited at this opportunity to work closely with the Orkney community and our local partners MS Society (Orkney) and The Pickaquoy Centre to ensure that Elevate is truly Orcadian. It is our hope that everyone who has a diagnosis of MS in Orkney has the opportunity to try an Elevate activity.”

In the 2019 pilot, Scottish Ballet danced with 42 different participants. There are currently 112 patients with a diagnosis of MS and are registered with NHS Orkney. It is Scottish Ballet’s hope that everyone who has a diagnosis for MS in Orkney has the opportunity to try an Elevate activity.

Katie Rafferty, Picky's Fitness, Health and Wellbeing Manager, said: "We are absolutely delighted that Scottish Ballet reached out again after the success of the Elevate programme back in 2019. Working with multiple local stakeholders, teachers and musicians, the programme is a wonderful opportunity to further help improve the health and wellbeing of those affected by MS in our local community."

Social cafes are another intrinsic part of SB Health — taking place after classes. These are safe spaces for people to get to know each other and support each other.

Class delivery is planned to start in spring 2022. Until then, the project partners will be reaching out to community members to inform the delivery with a number of volunteer and artist opportunities available.

Follow @pickyorkney or @msinorkney Facebook page for up-to-date details on the programme.