Patients prescribed dance sessions

Patients are swapping pills for pirouettes as part of a dance-on-prescription scheme.

Teachers from Platinum Dance, Roker, have teamed up with city Wellness Centres and health bosses to move away from traditional drug-related prescriptions in favour of a more holistic approach.

They believe the health benefits of dance are far-reaching and are they running dance-on referral sessions at Wellness Centres.

Dance instructor Dolly Martin, who founded the scheme, said: "It's part of the Sunderland Teaching Primary Care Trust's exercise on referral programme and gives people another choice on keeping fit.

"We are in the middle of a year-long pilot scheme, but we hope it will become part of the Wellness programme permanently.

"We work with people with low-risk illness who might not be very mobile or they might have weight-management issues.

"Dance can also help with mental health problems and smoking cessation."

Patients who are referred to a Wellness Centre by their GP can undergo a health check to make sure they are suitable for the dance-on-prescription programme, which is led by a team of instructors from Platinum Dance.

Dolly added: "We have had some great feedback from people.

"Our styles are open and we keep it very client led, so if it is someone's first session they can bring a friend, and we work at a pace that suits them."

Dolly says the scheme is proving that dancing isn't just about hitting the dance floor on a Saturday night.

"There are so many health benefits to be gained from dancing," she explained.

"It helps with overall fitness, increased mobility, stronger bones and better co-ordination and balance. It's a very non-threatening form of exercise.

"But we advise people combine it with sensible eating to get the best results. People assume that exercise is hard work, which it can be, but it can be fun too."

Dolly transformed a derelict building in Church Street North into a thriving dance studio three years ago.

On the back of the success of Platinum Entertainment, Dolly, together with co-director Chris Pearman, established Sunderland Dance, which delivers the dance-on-prescription scheme.

A community-based company, it works in schools, health authorities and a host of other voluntary and public sector organisations to make dance and fitness accessible for all, regardless of age, background or physical ability.

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