Dancing Through Life


We dance to release, we dance to celebrate, we dance just because we can.

Art therapy. It’s a concept that has been around as far back as the ancient Greeks, when Aristotle coined the term “Catharsis” as a metaphor to describe the intense release of emotional tension that is felt after experiencing a tragic or overwhelming event on the stage. Catharsis was seen to be a purifying and refreshing process – one of the first examples of using art as a means to heal or rectify a negative situation. Experiencing and creating art has always been considered as a great way of channelling energy to escape, to create something positive and with purpose – and art comes in many forms…

Take dance, for example.

I’m sure many of us girls have experienced the odd flashback now and again to our younger selves carefree in the playground with friends choreographing routines and wielding hairbrushes, our only concerns being the occasional spat over who got to be Baby Spice. Today, it seems as if dance and cheerleading groups are enduring increasing popularity and going from strength to strength.

Recently, I got the opportunity to watch a group of friends called ‘The Pink Ladies’ perform a flash mob at a charity event at St James. As the lights dimmed, a cheeky and bubbly crowd of coquettish women all wearing a uniform of bright pink wigs and feather boas emerged to take the floor and perform a lively and engaging routine. Their confidence and joie de vivre was infectious, and later on in the evening when a live band performed, nobody was surprised when the first people to break the ice and start off the dancing just so happened to be clad in bright pink wigs.

A fact that is surprising, however, is that wigs and smiles aside, all of these women share something in common. They have all been affected by cancer – some have faced the diagnosis, some are currently undergoing chemotherapy sessions and others are friends or relatives of cancer sufferers. And they’re all women who meet in the Emma Ferbrache Room at the PEH to take part in weekly dance sessions, a fun and creative outlet led by choreographer Brandi Dawson. During the sessions at the hospital, a place tainted with memories of chemotherapy and medical appointments is transformed into a positive space, where the ladies dance to celebrate the art of living. In the words of one of the ladies, “We dance to release, we dance to celebrate, we dance just because we can. We are people with scars, people who know fear and loss, but this is not about fear and loss. I walk into the rehearsal space, the door shuts and I am free. This is FUN. This is living in and appreciating the NOW – and I love it”.

The dance troupe originally started out as a support group for women who had been affected by Breast cancer – gentle dance sessions and exercise boost levels of serotonin, the happiness molecule, promoting health, physical recovery and rehabilitation whilst providing a support mechanism to those going through a tough time. During the sessions, there is unspoken understanding – nobody has to announce their reasons for joining in the group, and often the group members themselves don’t necessarily know who is suffering from cancer and who is a supporter. Choreographer Brandi is intuitively aware of the range within the group at all times and adapts her routines to those undergoing chemotherapy sessions, those facing restriction in movement due to surgery and those with dips in energy levels.

During performances all the women wear their pink wigs, a decision which emphasises their togetherness and also the fact that the spectator cannot tell which ladies are suffering from cancer – the one thing that marks them out is their zest for life. These ladies are a group of women – patients, relatives, friends and supporters, brought together through their communal experiences of illness and yet they refuse to be defined by it. Despite the fear and trauma of facing cancer, they are no longer afraid to dance through life.

If you’d like to know more about the dance sessions or would like to take part, then please contact Lottie Barnes at Lottie@arts.gg All classes are free of charge and take place on Friday evenings from 6pm -7pm at the Emma Ferbrache room at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital. All ladies touched by any form of cancer (whether it be a diagnosis or bereavement) are welcome. The group has gone from strength to strength and the Guernsey Arts Commission are also looking to develop a group for men…so watch this space!


Words: Louise Le Pelley


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