World Dance Day – Connecting Two Worlds by Leonie Sweeney

For many years two important parts of my life ran along in parallel.
My life in traditional dance arose from my own enjoyment of Irish and Scottish
social dance and the old-style stepping traditions of both countries. Sharing
the Irish Sets and Scottish Cèilidh dances I learned over the years seemed a
natural thing to do, but until a few years ago it did not occur to me to bring
them to my world of work in the field of mental health.

The connections between mental and physical health and wellbeing are ever
more emphasised. Furthermore, the power of movement and social dance to
connect us relationally is being increasingly recognised. I found that inviting
my therapy colleagues onto the floor for a Canadian Barn Dance or a Virginia
Reel at various professional gatherings has always resulted in connection and

A group of Cognitive Analytic Therapists (CATs) was to gather in the Lake
District on Saturday 25th April and the meeting was to conclude with a cèilidh.
Coronavirus meant getting together virtually on this occasion and my challenge
was to deliver the planned cèilidh from Argyll by Zoom!

Dancing CATs in Cumbria

Our ever-generous host welcomed us to the Lakes. The morning session, in
which we reflected, shared and connected with one another was facilitated
from London. In the afternoon, CATs and their lockdown households
throughout the North-East and North-West of England and in the South-East
took to their floors and gardens to dance some well-loved favourites including
The Gay Gordons, The Canadian Barn Dance and The Valeta Waltz. Everyone
wore a smile, (though an exiled Scot mopped her tears), someone danced with
a broom, teenagers rolled their eyes and socially distanced neighbours were
startled. At the ‘hub’ in Argyll, there was help with the calling from a young
household member. At times this effort was impeded by an excited Border
Collie, himself receiving encouragement via Zoom from canine colleagues
south of the border! But the theme of the day, ‘Connecting ß-à Connected’
was brought alive and embodied in a truly joyful way.
Mental Health in the time of Coronavirus

Few will question the social and psychological impact of the pandemic, in its
immediate effects and in the longer term. Social distancing protects our
bodies. But it exposes our deeply relational human nature and reminds us
how fundamental physical touch and movement are in holding us together.

Reconnecting through Dance

Movement to music and social dance has connected human beings from prehistory.
Within our CAT community we are fortunate to have someone who is
also a Body Movement Psychotherapist. At our CAT Cumbria event, she
invited us to notice how Coronavirus has affected our body movements. We
move away, turn our shoulders, bow our heads.

I, for one, have no doubt that dance will be part of our healing process and a
powerful force in bringing us together once more, both on the dancefloor and
in therapeutic spaces.

Leonie Sweeney, 29.04.2020

Zoom Cèilidh ‘hosted’ from Ambleside: view from house onto Esthwaite Water.