• The impact of an intergenerational dance project on older adults' social and emotional well-being

      Douse, Louise Emma; Farrer, Rachel; Aujla, Imogen; ; University of Bedfordshire (Frontiers, 2020-09-16)
      There has been strong interest in intergenerational arts practice in the United Kingdom since the 1980s; however, there is a generally weak evidence base for the effectiveness of intergenerational practice regardless of the domain. The aim of this study was to investigate the outcomes of an intergenerational arts project on participants’ social and psychological well-being using a mixed-methods, short-term longitudinal design. Generations Dancing brought together community artists with students (n = 25) and older adults (n = 11) living in Bedford. Over an 11-week period, participants worked together to produce a new dance performance and photography exhibition. Focus groups were conducted with the participants to explore their feelings about the collaboration across generations and communities. Participants also completed a battery of questionnaires preproject and postproject, to assess any change in their levels of well-being. Results indicate that the older adults showed increased confidence and willingness to connect with others; they got immense enjoyment from talking about their experience with others. Furthermore, the project helped to address negative stereotypes that the older adults had of working with the young people. The older adults enjoyed the students’ company and felt encouraged and supported by the young people. While a small number of challenges were identified, including difficulties in traveling to the workshops for vulnerable participants, most challenges were overcome through the older adults’ engagement in the project. For example, initial anxieties regarding the performance seemed insufficient to affect the participants’ overall enjoyment of the project. The findings were supported by the increased scores in relatedness, affect, and social well-being over time, but were not statistically significant. The results of this study indicate that intergenerational dance and arts projects can have wide-reaching positive impacts on both social and psychological well-being. However, there were a number of methodological challenges, including difficulty in recruiting sufficient numbers of both experimental and control groups for a robust quantitative evaluation of the data. These challenges highlight that “real life” settings and scenarios can influence the amount, nature, validity, and reliability of data collected. Going forward we encourage researchers to continue to consider innovative ways to address such methodological challenges.
    • Independent dancers: roles, motivation and success research report

      Aujla, Imogen; Farrer, Rachel; University of Bedfordshire (University of Bedfordshire, 2016-01-01)
      The aim of this study was to investigate the experiences of independent dancers. We set out to gain a descriptive and analytical understanding of working life in the sector. We examined specific psychological factors such as motivation and self-definitions, and how these helped dancers in their careers. The term ‘independent dancer’ is commonly used within the UK dance industry to describe practitioners who work in multiple roles on freelance contracts. This approach to work enables dancers to engage with a range of dance communities, develop and apply diverse skills, and collaborate with multiple partners. Throughout this document we refer to such individuals as dancers or dance artists to represent those working in a range of roles and at a variety of levels. The independent dance sector is supported by an infrastructure of dance agencies that operate across the country to provide development opportunities and resources for independent dancers. It is estimated that around 40,000 people work in the UK dance industry, but the varied and ad hoc nature of their roles makes it challenging to quantify and describe the workforce accurately. In the past there have been several independent reports published about the sector as well as published interviews with renowned independent dancers that provide an insight into working conditions, rates of pay, infrastructures and funding, however with the industry developing so rapidly these sources are no longer current. More recently, doctoral research located within the independent sector has provided further insight into specific aspects of the dancers’ role. This, however, has focused specifically on artistic and choreographic concerns or is situated within a different geographical location. As a result, there is a lack of up to date knowledge about the UK independent dance sector meaning that this dynamic and mobile force still ‘works in relative invisibility’. Furthermore, academic research in the fields of professional practice, psychology and dance science has neglected to examine this important and continually developing part of the UK dance sector. Therefore, this research appears timely in order to provide current information about independent dancers and how they negotiate such a varied and challenging career. Although this research project has been disseminated in academic forums, the aim of this report is to inform dance artists, teachers and students of the findings in an accessible format.
    • The role of psychological factors in the career of the independent dancer

      Aujla, Imogen; Farrer, Rachel; University of Bedfordshire (Frontiers, 2015-10-30)
      Previous research indicates that psychological factors such as motivation and mental skills play an important role in relation to performance and to negotiating talent development stages. However, little is known about these factors in dance, particularly with regard to the independent dancer whose career may involve multiple roles, varied work patterns, and periods of instability. The aim of this study was to explore dancers’ motivation to work in an independent capacity, and the extent to which dancers’ psychological characteristics and skills enabled them to navigate a career in this demanding sector. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 dancers at different stages of their careers. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and content analyzed. Analysis revealed that the dancers were intrinsically motivated and highly committed to the profession. Working in the independent sector offered dancers opportunities for growth and fulfillment; they appreciated the autonomy, flexibility and freedom that the independent career afforded, as well as working with new people across roles and disciplines. In order to overcome the various challenges associated with the independent role, optimism, self-belief, social support, and career management skills were crucial. The mental skills reported by the participants had developed gradually in response to the demands that they faced. Therefore, mental skills training could be invaluable for dancers to help them successfully negotiate the independent sector.
    • Understanding the impact of an intergenerational arts and health project: a study into the psychological well-being of participants, carers and artists

      Farrer, Rachel; Aujla, Imogen; Jenkins, Lindsay K.; University of Bedfordshire; Coventry University (Elsevier, 2021-04-18)
      There is growing interest in arts practices in relation to public health, including their potential to support psychological well-being. This study sought to understand the impact of Hear and Now, an intergenerational arts and health project, upon indicators of psychological well-being among all groups involved: young people, older people with a diagnosis of dementia and their carers and partners and the project's artistic team. This was a descriptive exploratory qualitative study, using focus groups and observation as data collection methods. Study participants were 65 people representing the four groups participating in the 2019 Hear and Now project: older adults living with a diagnosis of dementia, their carers and partners, young people and a team of professional artists and facilitators. Of these, 27 participated in one or more of seven focus groups. Participants were asked about their previous engagement with music and dance, thoughts about the intergenerational element of the project and other aspects of their experiences that related to indicators of well-being. In order to investigate the project's impact on participants' well-being, Seligman's PERMA model was adopted, which sets out five indicators of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and achievement/accomplishment. Experiences relating to all five areas of the PERMA model were evidenced by all groups in relation to their involvement in the project. Additional health benefits were also cited by some, as well as enhanced perceptions of other members of the project cohort. The findings support existing literature that intergenerational and arts activities can be beneficial for individuals' psychological health. Experiences relating to all five dimensions of the PERMA model of well-being (positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, achievement/accomplishment) were cited by the four participant groups, which suggests examining the impact of such projects on all project collaborators is worthy of further study. Understanding the impact these projects can have on the various groups involved will enable artistic and healthcare communities to better collaborate and value each other's practices.
    • Understanding the independent dancer: roles, development and success

      Farrer, Rachel; Aujla, Imogen (Edinburgh University Press, 2016-11-01)
      Little research has been published about the varied role of the independent dancer. The aim of this study was to provide insight into the work independent dancers undertake and how their careers change over time. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 independent dancers. Content analysis revealed that the dancers had multifaceted careers that relied on both formal and informal activities, and varied according to three distinct stages (early, middle, late). The experiences reported by the dancers indicated that the realities of the independent dancer's role are not sufficiently recognised or supported within the industry.