Dancing with Dementia at Tall Trees

Tall Trees Nursing Home resident Monica has rekindled her lifelong love of dancing thanks to her daughter – and the pair are finding a true connection through a mutual love of ballet at our home in Shipton-under-Wychwood.

Monica is living with dementia at Tall Trees and loves to put on her dancing shoes and use the rails in the corridors as an improvised barre for ballet moves.

Her daughter Annabel says that dancing with her mum – something they have done together throughout her life – is magical and has helped their relationship, finding a new way of communicating and sharing quality time together through dance.

“We can be prima ballerinas within the confines of a care home,” she said. “It is lovely to watch mum dancing, her eyes light up, her body opens, she starts to do movements she wouldn’t normally be able to do. It’s really beautiful.”

Monica started dancing at boarding school then went through professional training and was an assistant ballet teacher in Bristol aged approx. 20. “It was around then that she met my father, he turned up at the ballet school, they fell in love and moved to London together. Here she set up her own ballet school in East London.” explained Annabel.

Sadly for the family, in 2006 Monica suffered a series of strokes and, at the same time, her husband was declining with Alzheimers. Her condition affected her speech and her movement, it was a stressful time for the whole family and the decision was made for Monica and her husband to both go into a care home.

“Dad died a couple of years ago, it was a big shock for all of us and how to spend quality time with mum became more important,” said Annabel. “Mum was living with dementia herself and she forgot all about dad, all about her 60 years of marriage. I needed to find ways to spend time with her which were fulfilling for both of us and dance has achieved that.”

Monica was a huge advocate for the benefits of dancing and is particularly fond of piano music, especially Chopin. She once met prima ballerina Margot Fontaine.

Annabel remembered; “She was quite stern as a dance teacher, quite a task master. You can see she still remembers and loves the music and often conducts along. It is really quite magical to watch – she’s 87 but she still has that muscle memory built up over years of dancing. “The ballet movements have given her body confidence. It’s physically demanding and has helped her movement and flexibility.

“The ballet movements have given her body confidence. It’s physically demanding and has
helped her movement and  flexibility.”
Daughter Annabel

“I look on dementia as a form of living grief – you lose the person that was there before. I can’t connect with my mum in the same way, but through dance I feel we can make a real connection. I am often led by her – she will start a movement and I will join in – it’s a way of communicating with her. “I really think she believes she is the ballet teacher that she was in her late 30s. Part of dancing together means we have lots of hugs as mum gets very tired and reaches out to me.

“The alternative might be that I would come and meet her here at Tall Trees and she would be in an armchair and we would have a cup of tea. There wouldn’t be that physical connection – dancing helps encourage that. “Mum will usually indicate when the class is over as she is tired – then it is always a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit – we carry on at a pace which feels right, it’s always a nice memory for me to drive home with.”

To watch Monica and Annabel dancing use this link to see a video on the Royal Academy of Dance Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/RoyalAcademyofDance/ videos/10154429218590875

At Tall Trees we provide personalised nursing, dementia and residential care, for up to 60 elderly residents and were recently rated ‘Good’ by the Care Quality Commission.

If you would like to find out more about life at Tall Trees, or would like to arrange a visit, please contact us on talltrees@caringhomes.org or telephone 0808 223 5540.

Tall Trees

Home Manager

Andrew Stoner


Burford Road,
Shipton under Wychwood,
Chipping Norton,

0808 223 5540
View care home

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