KEEN dancers in Chester and Ellesmere Port have been able to keep in step thanks to a community group's digital transformation.

Like many other organisations, Cheshire Dance has had to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown measures subsequently implemented.

Cheshire Dance had been providing face-to-face dance classes, but was determined to continue making sure people could enjoy dancing across the county.

Three months on, having transitioned from face-to-face activity to a virtual community, it celebrates that people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities (including many groups identified by their protected characteristics) have continued to dance together.

Through its initiative 'Keep Active. Keep Social. Keep Healthy. Keep Dancing with Cheshire Dance', the organisation delivered more than 720 ‘virtual dance meet-ups’ by the end of June.

This included 12 previously existing weekly classes, as well as new live and interactive sessions, virtual training and industry-connecting discussions.

Director Adam Holloway explained: “Enabling access to dance and the dance profession underpins all of our work and as usual, large numbers of people have been engaging even in lockdown.

"At a time when we all had to focus on those things most vital to us, we have seen many people choose dance to help keep them active and creative.”

In all, Cheshire Dance has supported over 5,800 online attendances and video content has been streamed a further 2,000 times.

The sessions have brought together groups of young people, older adults, people living with dementia and people with disabilities, alongside training groups of independent artists and industry debates with colleagues in other organisations.

It has given so many people the opportunity to enjoy a dedicated space where they can focus on all aspects relating to dance.

Other steps taken to ensure that everyone everywhere during lockdown has been able to access and enjoy the benefits of ‘dancing at home’ (including older adults in care facilities and individuals with complex needs) have included the creation of pre-recorded activities and specially-created home resources.

Following the relaunch of its YouTube Channel this April with newly released content to meet the needs of diverse audience types, its playlists for older adults and for those with learning disabilities have achieved 24.2k impressions and 2k views over a watch time of 53 hours.

This audience has largely comprised of female viewers between the ages of 45 and 64 who have returned on average x2.5 times to repeat the recorded activities.

Other initiatives currently taking place within the organisation include the creation of ‘Dancing at Home Resource Packs’ for people with learning disabilities and autism – thanks to support from the Vivo Care Choices Community Fund – and an Educational Resource Pack for schools working with Key Stages 1 and 2 children.

Creative Director Jane McLean added: “Dance has been so important for so many of our participants.

"Parents have considered our sessions ‘a lifeline’ both for themselves and their children, and our older adults are in firm agreement that the live and interactive classes with their regular groups have helped them to feel less lonely and more motivated whilst remaining alone at home.

"It has been clear that the community has felt connected and together through dance during this very difficult time. Cheshire Dance is delighted to have played a role in keeping the community active, healthy, social and, of course, dancing.”