Creative approaches to working with people living with dementia



Scottish Ballet, Time to Dance – A case study*

In late 2016 I was approached by Catherine Cassidy, Director of Engagement at Scottish Ballet to provide consultancy support for the creation of Time to Dance, an inclusive dance project tailored for people living with dementia. In addition I was also asked to deliver training for staff with the intention of introducing the notion of Scottish Ballet becoming a dementia friendly organisation. The focus was to give an introduction to working with people affected by dementia and to share my practical knowledge and understanding of this area. The aim of this Artful Minds training was to inform and kick-start Scottish Ballet’s Time to Dance project, supported by the Life Changes Trust.

The consultancy included:

  • Meetings and ongoing conversations with the Scottish Ballet Education team, in particular Lorraine Jamieson, Creative Director Education, and Miriam Early, Dance Health Coordinator
  • Miriam Early attending a Curious Shoes performance
  • Delivering a presentation and experiential training for senior artistic and management teams, including Artistic Director/CEO Christopher Hampson and members of the Advancement, Marketing and Education teams
  • Observations of the Hearts & Minds Elderflowers programme by Miriam Early
  • Delivery of Artful Minds training day to Scottish Ballet dance artists, musicians and researchers
  • Follow up and mentoring session for Miriam Early

Feedback from Scottish Ballet participants:

I thought the training was really excellent. Magdalena pitched it at the right level and although her expert knowledge is very clear, at no time did I feel intimidated by this – she had a good way of making everything accessible and understandable. I particularly enjoyed being able to contextualise the theory and learning through practical tasks. The direct insight this offered into daily struggles of dementia sufferers was a real eye-opener.

Special Projects ManagerScottish Ballet

It was a pleasure to be involved in the training.
It was particularly moving to understand how a person with dementia might be feeling; the feeling of being tested and understanding why someone might be having difficulty articulating themselves when they lose connection with nouns. The exercises were so simple, but put in context really helped to create a sense of empathy.

Copywriter – AdvancementScottish Ballet

Thanks very much for a brilliant day. I found your methods very effective. I enjoyed all the tasks and could immediately see their purpose. Nothing seemed extraneous. I was very happy that the fantastic workshop leaders were able to deliver the workshop so well, striking a great balance of an atmosphere of fun and openness while bringing a sense of depth and compassion. Awesome!

Participant, Practitioner Training DayNovember 2017

*NB – this consultancy was carried out in my former role as Artistic Director at Hearts & Minds and has included observations of two Hearts & Minds Elderflowers session. For more information on Hearts & Minds and its Elderflowers programme, please visit: or