Virtual Pilot ‘Switzerland’

To a certain extent virtual technology is the ‘emperors’ new clothes’ of our times. Everyone’s wish for a better future, rides on new technology – and yet – what is the value of virtual in the delivery of such fields as arts in health and dance for health where in the biopsychosocial model, the ‘content’ of the programme is completely subservient to the essential components of social contact and simple human ‘fun’ and enjoyment. 

In Bern Switzerland, the University of Bern, Sport Science (Dance Science) Institute, the Konzert Theater Bern and Clare Guss-West, Co-director of the Dance & Creative Wellness Foundation were awarded a Prosenectute prize in 2019, amongst other things, to explore the potential of virtual technology in facilitating access to quality, creative dance experiences for those in residential carehome or for populations with reduced mobility. The aim was to run a pilot with the dance participants of our mobile carehome programme and research the effectiveness of a particular complementary, virtual intervention, with the idea to increase the weekly dance and movement opportunities for residents. 

Several conundrums surface however with these ‘emperors’ new clothes’: 

There is first and foremost the question of ‘top down’ decisions and proposals. One of the golden rules of inclusive practice is ‘no decision about them without them’ – so despite all the best intentions in the world of local authorities and younger generation health and technological ‘experts’ – if carehome residents and their carers cannot imagine using or benefiting from virtual technology, an initiative is ‘snipped in the bud’ so to speak. 

There is also the consideration of the often mismatched expectations of the different stakeholders: Teaching and creative artists or neuroscientists can easily fantasize about augmented reality or creative, virtual applications enhancing the delivery and health benefits of their practice, especially for participants with cognitive impairment, where immersion in colour, imagery and sensations might stimulate greater benefits from the sessions. (see the beautiful work for/and with young children of artist Diego Roveroni https://vimeo.com/159679978). However, the motivation of local health authorities, private insurers or private app entrepreneurs is rather the potential ‘multiplier’ effect of technology, the possibility to provide a broader reach, for more individuals and at the same time achieve a reduction in service cost. Are these expectations mutually exclusive? Until they are openly discussed between stakeholders and objectives clarified then virtual, dance for health initiatives, although perhaps great on paper – will continue to struggle to find their audience.  

Watch this space for more news of the Bern pilot. Clare Guss-West 7.2.20

photo: ©N. Jufer Senioren & Seniorinnen Tanz, Konzert Theater Bern, Clare Guss-West