In tutus and ballet shoes, Queenslanders with brain damage turn to dance

Most people don’t think twice about signing up to take dance lessons or join a fitness group, but that’s a different story for those living with a brain injury.

“They don’t always have the capacity to do the research or the money to enroll in a program, and they don’t always know they will be well received,” said Professor Elizabeth Kendall of the Hopkins Center.

Now the Queensland Ballet has opened its doors to people with brain injuries and their caregivers with a tailored 10-week pilot program suitable for all ability levels.

In tutus and ballet slippers, participants learn small movements on the barre before moving on to sequences, choreography and pair work.

Participants’ physical condition, memory, coordination and emotional control improved after ten weeks. (Provided: Queensland Ballet )

The program – developed by the Hopkins Center, Griffith University’s Queensland Conservatorium Research Center, and Citrine Sun Entertainment – was started by film producer and associate researcher Belinda Adams.

Ms Adams has looked after her son Dylan after suffering fatal injuries in a car crash nine years ago.

Shocked by the lack of rehabilitation options, Ms. Adams set out to create an inclusive dance program to improve coordination, memory and socialization, as well as physical fitness.

“We undertook a review of the literature and the research confirmed that there were not many existing programs.”

Ms Adams said the class focus on creativity and social expression was designed to help people rebuild their identities after brain injury.

A woman with long dark hair smiling besides the man with beard and sunglasses
Belinda Adams started the Ballet for Brain Injury program after caring for her son Dylan. (Provided: Belinda Adams)

“When the person has lived in a way and a traumatic event occurs, there is that situation of life before and life after,” Ms. Adams said.

“For people with brain damage, they often face loss of identity and neurofatigue, but when you’ve gone through those personality changes, you have to readjust and find a new future afterwards. “

“An incredible thing”

Professor Elizabeth Kendall, who specializes in disability and rehabilitation at the Hopkins Center, said ballet as a form of dance had “all the elements” needed to improve outcomes after brain injury.

“We wanted something where people had to remember a routine and learn to work together and coordinate what they were doing,” Professor Kendall said.

“It’s about using all of your senses and movement with beautiful live music and fun at the same time.

Self-reported data shows that the program improved participants’ fitness, balance, memory, coordination and emotional control, Professor Kendall said.

A woman with soft brown hair smiling with buildings in the background on a sunny day
Professor Elizabeth Kendall praised the program adapted to promote inclusion. (Provided: Griffith University)

Beyond ballet movements, Prof Kendall said the program also teaches instructors how to understand brain damage.

“People had complete paralysis, hemiplegia – one side of their body couldn’t move – the Queensland Ballet adapted the lessons for these people and that’s an amazing thing to do for a large organization,” the professor said. Kendall.

In the regions

Ms Adams is confident the pilot program will lead to further research as Queensland Ballet plans to air the program from her West End studio to the regions.

“One participant lived after Toowoomba and drove every Saturday to take the class and then two hours back,” Ms. Adams said.

A documentary on the program hopes to raise awareness of the “invisible disability” and attract new participants from the Gold Coast, Ms. Adams said.

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