Scottish Ballet launches health project to help Orkney islanders with multiple sclerosis

The Scottish Ballet has launched a new initiative to help Orkney islanders with multiple sclerosis improve their health and mental wellbeing.

The Orkney Islands has the highest prevalence of MS in the world – with one in 170 Orcadian women live with MS – and on Monday Scottish Ballet Health, along with its partners, launched a dance project to help people with the condition.

George Hannah, from the MS Society Orkney Group, said: “We all know the importance of exercise and keeping moving and this project will help folks do that.

“Also, we can’t underestimate the importance of the social aspect, as people get the chance to get back together again. Having spoken to a good many folks affected by MS, this is certainly something that they are looking forward to.”

MS is a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord. In MS, the coating that protects the nerves is damaged, and causes a range of symptoms like blurred vision and problems with how people move, think and feel.

The SB Elevate programme, in partnership with the MS Society Orkney Group, the Pickaquoy Centre Trust, Orkney, and the Royal Conservatoire Scotland, is one of the first of its kind in the UK for people living with multiple sclerosis.

On Monday, it will be holding taster dance classes at the Pickaquoy Centre Trust, in Kirkwall on the island, and the sessions are accessible to people of all mobilities and a range of options are available.

They are also suitable for people who use a wheelchair or walking aids.

Tiffany Stott, dance health programme manager at Scottish Ballet, said other similar classes they have run north of the border “have been very well received”.

“We realised that the situation in Orkney was unique, and we will work closely with the community, local partners, and a researcher to help us understand the needs,” she said.

“We are really excited about the project and the difference it could make to the lives of people living with MS in Orkney.”

There is no cure for MS but treatments and specialists can help manage the condition and its symptoms.

Over the past few years, there has been growing interest in and evidence of the role of non-medical interventions, for managing conditions such as MS.

Studies have shown that people who took part in structured dance classes experienced an improvement in their balance, fatigue, gait, co-ordination, lower limb strength and cognitive performance.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Scottish Ballet / Andy Ross.