Philip is ACT’s lord of dance

Wednesday, 16th May, 2018

STEP BY STEP – Philip Piggin has been recognised for his classes for people with dementia. Photo: Lorna Sim

DANCE instructor Philip Piggin has always believed in the power of dance and has been lauded for taking every possible step to share his passion  with others.

Now the inspirational teacher has received the Age Friendly Canberra award presented as part of the 2018 Positive Ageing Awards in ACT Seniors Week for his ongoing efforts to share his love of dance with people with dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Philip teaches classes at the Belconnen and Tuggeranong arts centres and has been a prominent member of the dance community since 1979.

His passion for using dance to link communities stems back to a decade he spent living and working in the UK in the 1980s and ’90s.

“A big component of the dance landscape there is about focusing on the bigger picture of what dance is,” he said.

While there was a focus on professional dance in the UK, there was also emphasis on promoting it as a wellbeing exercise for the whole community.

“I had plenty of chances to develop my skills and worked on a number of projects with mixed ability groups.”

Philip went on to teach, lecture, choreograph, direct and perform for arts, educational and community groups for people with and without disabilities, and has served on the boards of various arts funding authorities.  He was a community dance animateur in Wales, and worked on dance and disability programs with UK-based Common Ground Sign Dance Theatre, a company of deaf and hearing dancers.

“I could see the benefits of having fun and the positive impacts on people’s brains were numerous.”

Philip began his tenure with the Belconnen Arts Centre in 2010 and by 2011 he had played the driving role in establishing a mixed abilities class.

He runs classes for people with dementia in conjunction with Dementia Australia’s dance group Vivacity, and has held classes for people with Parkinson’s disease since 2013.

Classes are suited to people of various levels of ability. They generally begin with participants sitting in chairs and moving as much as possible. Those confident and mobile enough can proceed to standing behind their chairs for support and can move more freely if they are comfortable.

Both classes, as well as dance for all and inclusive dance courses, are presented under ACT Health’s Dance for Wellbeing program.

Vivacity classes take place from 10-11am on Tuesdays at Tuggeranong and 2-3pm on Wednesdays in Belconnen.

While pleased to receive the award, Philip says the program and its success is a reflection of the arts centre and the “amazing team” who make it possible.

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