Dr Guddi’s dance journey

Last year saw the launch of our ‘Why Dance Matters’ podcasts. Among the guests in the first series was paediatrician, health campaigner and TV broadcaster, Dr Guddi Singh who spoke about the impact of dance on her life, on that of her colleagues and profession, as well as its benefits for patients both physically and mentally.

Much of what she talks about chimes with this year’s Mental Health Awareness week and its focus on loneliness. Dr Guddi outlines how dance can be a means personally and professionally to improve and build relationships.

Here we have included some extracts from the discussion, along with a link back to the full podcast below.

Dance and medicine

“The medical profession, it hasn’t fully acknowledged this fact yet. But trauma does hide within the body, especially if it’s trauma that’s not been dealt with, that has not been addressed in some way. In my practise as a Paediatrician, I see lots of children who have been through incredibly difficult times, who, for whatever reason, have gone through a lot of trauma. Often what happens is that trauma doesn’t exhibit in any kind of physical injury that you might relate to – what may have originally resulted in the trauma – but actually comes out in different ways. So we often see children who present with headaches or stomach aches or joint pains. To me, it speaks of this connection between the mind and the body, which we all too often ignore in modern medicine and in healthcare. And the reason that dance appeals to me is because it taps into both of those things. Your mind and your body are brought together in dance. And so that’s why I’m really interested in exploring how dance can be used in therapy, not just for my patients, but also for the health professionals who are working at a very difficult time in the NHS right now.”

Dance and connection

“In that classic London way of going about life, where you normally put your headphones in, your eyes are down and you just kind of like, get on with your job and you want everything to just be over quickly. I think that’s how I was living life in those days. And what happened in that dance class was that I started looking up and looking at the faces of the people around me and just realising that they were just like me. We would exchange looks in the mirror in the studio room, or we would just admire each other for the moves that we were pulling off, that look on someone’s face when they are just lost in a really good bit of music. That’s the kind of thing that at the end of a class, you might just start talking about in a way that you would never talk to that person on the street, or on the tube, or anything like that. And so there is something about the way that music and I think dance in particular breaks down these boundaries, which allows connection, which allows us to reach out across all sorts of socio demographic divides and just be like, you know what? You’re like me, we’re all human and we are enjoying this together.”

Dance across generations

“I mean, there are many things wrong with our society, and one of the things is that we have a real fetishisation over youth and this neglect of the old. And yet, our elders have so much wisdom, so much experience to give us. If only we could transcend that generational gap. One of the, I guess, spin off ideas that I had after we started these dance classes in Barnett Hospital, was not to limit it to paediatrics, but to actually get some of these kids to go over to some of the geriatric wards – maybe the stroke ward or any number of elderly care wards – and to bring the dance to them as well. It’s a shame, in a way, that we live such isolated lives where we kind of hang out with our own kinds of people. But there’s so much to be gained from people who are either years apart from us or from different kinds of background. And you’re right. How wonderful is it that even at the end of one’s life, even if you are feeling physically frail, you are again, through the medium of dance or music or whatever, able to feel 100% human again and to feel special.”

Listen to the full podcast.