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Circle Dance for People Living with Dementia is a training programme, provided by Dementia Pathfinders Community Interest Company, for staff in care homes or day centres, community groups, Local Authorities and the NHS, and for community musicians and dancers.

Circle dancing developed from traditional folk dance from around the world. Music and dances from the circle dance repertoire have been simplified and adapted for both seated and standing dance. The touch, holding, swaying, and simple repetitive movements allow the participant to feel safe within the circle and provides an opportunity for expression and creativity. The dance also provides an enjoyable form of exercise and movement.


The aim and scope of the Circle Dance

Circle Dance training aims to enable and skill up staff to provide their own movement and music sessions with their service users. Staff have welcomed an activity in which people with moderate/medium stage dementia can engage. It offers the opportunity for a shared activity with partners, relatives and carers. It can be used in residential and day settings, assessment units, NHS and voluntary organisation groups with older people, people with learning disability, mental health conditions, and physical disabilities. It can be offered at care home social events, and Alzheimer's Cafes.

How has Circle Dancing been adapted for people with dementia?

(including learning disability, older people with physical disabilities & mental health conditions)


Dance and movement have been successfully included in care provision activities since the 1940s. There is a body of research evidencing the promotion of well-being through making use of rhythm, touch and movement; moreover several practitioners/researchers have evidenced the benefits of using folk music with older people and people with dementia.


From 1996-2002, Dorothy Jerrome provided regular sessions in Brighton, which were evaluated and written up in dementia journals, and in a book on therapeutic dance. Building on Dorothy’s work, Cynthia Heymanson and Kath Kershaw developed and adapted Circle Dance for people living with dementia and other health issues by training staff in care settings. Cynthia and Kath worked closely together to provide training across the UK to empower staff so they can feel confident to provide simple seated and standing dance and enjoy music and song.


The management and delivery of Circle Dance, established by Kath and Cynthia, was transfer to Dementia Pathfinders in October 2013 and we have delivered many successful training sessions since then.


‘Uplifting and motivating – the dance is an inclusive activity and will help feelings of togetherness’.

Course Aim

This one-day course will introduce participants to the use of Circle Dance and provide them with the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver circle dance sessions in their own settings.

The course is suitable for practitioners who work with people with dementia in group settings, such as care staff, activity coordinators, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, community dance practitioners, community musicians, exercise instructors, day centre workers and volunteers who are based in settings with people with dementia.

Course Objectives

  • To introduce learners to the history of circle dance and its contemporary use in the field of dementia

  • For learners to experience a variety of the circle dances

  • To give a basic understanding of how dementia may affect physical and cognitive skills with respect to dance

  • To equip learners with skills in devising basic choreography for circle dance in dementia

  • To explore links with other activities, such as reminiscence, exercise and music

  • To encourage learners to consider the planning, delivery, observation and monitoring of their circle dance sessions


Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course learners will be able to:

  • Have learnt about the benefits of dance and specifically circle dance, for people living with dementia

  • Understand and be able to explain best practice approaches in group facilitation skills for people with dementia

  • Have practised planning circle dance sessions and be able to deliver circle dance programmes in their work settings

  • Be able to create new dance steps to music

  • Have practised observation skills and learnt about approaches for monitoring and evaluating circle dance sessions



Training Style/Approach

The day is a mixture of taught content, experiential and creative learning, delivered in a relaxed way.




Liv McLennan 
Liv has had a passion for working for people with dementia since her teens, when her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s-type dementia. After a music degree and time as an army musician, Liv worked for various charities, including the Alzheimer’s Society, developing projects mainly based around peer support and groupwork. 

Liv then completed the renowned Certificate in Music Workshop Skills at Goldsmith’s College, and has been self-employed as a community musician, working with different groups. The main areas she specialises in are Early Years, Community Choirs and people with dementia. She works with various organisations, including Westminster Arts, Age Exchange and Alzheimer’s Society delivering music, movement, reminiscence and cross-arts projects. She is also a trainer in these areas and has run training sessions for community musicians and care workers in how to incorporate these techniques into their work. Liv plays the cello, highland bagpipes and saxophone, and dabbles in ukulele and kantele! In her spare time, she enjoys Circle Dancing and learning Appalachian Clog Dancing. She is also on the board of trustees for Sound Sense, the Professional Association for Community Musicians.


Kelly Brown
Kelly is a trained dancer, obtaining her degree at Middlesex University in Dance Science. Since the age of 16 Kelly always knew that she wanted to enhance the health and well-being of older people through dance movement. Alongside her degree she volunteered for over 4 years for the South West Yorkshire Mental Health Trust with a leading Dance Psychotherapists in dementia care. Kelly now is the leading dance development officer for Kirklees council developing and delivering a range of dance based training courses to professionals and volunteers working within older peoples’ organisations and settings, including dementia care. Kelly is also responsible for initiatives that include chair based activity, Ballroom & Latin dancing, Circle Dancing, Creative Dance and many more activity based provision, in a range of settings from the community to residential care and hospitals. Kelly is passionate about using dance as a vehicle to enhance the journey of those who are living with dementia and their carers.   


The cost per delegate is £75 and our Open Course Programme will provide you with course dates currently available to book online.

The delegate rate includes 20 tracks of specially selected Circle Dance music suitable for standing and seated dance. Also available is an online resource containing dance notes and choreography, to accompany the music.

We offer discount for family carers, to take advantage of this special offer, please contact or call 0845 257 2250.

To commission Circle Dance for People Living with Dementia training for your service or for more information about open training days, please contact or phone 0845 257 2250.

Follow Circle Dance on Twitter @CircleDementia

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