Renaissance MSP is a Targeted Strength and Balance programme built for Daily Life Mobility. 

Renaissance Research Evolution

The Renaissance Movement and Strength Programme is based on a range of ideas and philosophies. They include

  • the building of ankle and leg strength for balance as whole body training, not as isolated leg training,

  • the increase of the range of movement of the upper back to enable that part of the torso to have the capacity to react in the correct way in the case of a fall,

  • a focus on strength training across the whole back-line of the body and especially in rotational planes,

  • stepped movement exercises that lead participants in simple ways to get to complex movement, 

  • repetition of 'ideas' of moving in as many different ways as possible to avoid patterning movement into only one way.

  • and the most important element, that a movement programme like this must be flexible enough that anyone can do it at anytime, is easily accessible and equally as easy and as difficult as it can get, depending on the choices of the individual doing it.

Ben with the Barbican Legends

Beginning

This Renaissance programme of work has evolved over the past 2+ years, since beginning work in 2018 with an amazing group of women called the Barbican Legends in Plymouth in the UK. This work was begun when Ben was Artistic Director of Attik Dance, and was in partnership with Emma McFarland as producer and Chris Hunt as creative technologist.

Initial Research

Prior to this Ben had been exploring the impact movement has on cognition and learning as part of the development of his Primary School Dance Programme called LEAP.  This was a creative dance programme exploring movement, improvisation, creativity and the individual. Ben did a great deal of study to build this programme and it was ultimately based on around 100 academic papers and a wide range of books exploring movement and learning, neurophysiology and creativity. 

Young dancers at Torpoint Nursery and Infant School

This primary programme was the basis for the initial movement programme with the Barbican Legends. In the 2nd session with them there was a discussion about falling, and their fears of falling, fear of the injury of falling, and the diminishing confidence they were experiencing in regards to going to new places or going out when it is wet or going somewhere unknown. 

From this conversation Ben began to alter the initial movement plan towards a 'falls prevention' focus, and started studying a range of falls prevention research. 

One of the Barbican Legends being extraordinary

Also at this time Ben, Emma and Chris had been exploring the use of digital technologies in the mapping of the movement of the creative body. This involved working with Accelerometers, Motion Capture suits and playing with how the data from both of these sources could be expanded upon and used to create beautiful images, animations, sounds or other creative artefacts. We began to create some beautiful abstract images of the data of moving, one of which is below. 

Image made from accelerometers

In 2018 Ben was then invited to become an Immersion Fellow with the South West Creative Technology Network. This fellowship supported him to continue to explore the technology he was using in measuring movement and using that data to find new ways of creating art. Through the fellowship support he was also able to begin a longer term relationship with Plymouth Community Homes, talking about how the immersive technologies he was using could be used in working with their housing clients. 

In April 2019 Ben was awarded an Immersion Prototype award from SWCTN, to support him in a range of immersive projects that would enable him to build a business out of the Renaissance movement programme he had created. 

One of the challenging elements to any new movement idea or programme like Renaissance is that despite it demonstrably changing people's lives, you get very little traction with housing organisations or organisations like them if you don't have any valid academic research to show the impact. So what Ben wanted to do was work with CAMERA at Bath Uni, the Centre for the Analysis of Motion, Entertainment Research and Application. This is a full green screen motion capture studio and is incredible.

 

Ben took 3 of his Barbican Legends and over 6 weeks ran 6 of his Renaissance Sessions in the motion capture lab. The plan was to measure the biomechanics of the movement change experienced by the participants over the course of the 6 sessions. While motion capture like this has been used in falls prevention analysis before, this was the first time that a movement programme like Renaissance, as an improvised movement and strength programme, had been filmed and then measured. Ben worked with Dr Polly McGuigan, Senior Lecturer in Biomechanics from the School of Health, to ascertain the movements that needed measuring, which of these were optimal in each session and ultimately what had happened over the course of the 6 weeks. 

The outcome was that there was less change in biomechanics than expected, but this was because the 3 participants, seen below, were already at an extraordinarily skilled stage already. Now we have the biomechanical movement parameters understood, the next step is to work with participants with no previous experience of the programme. 

In one way this was disappointing, but in others it was thrilling. It was disappointing not to see the change Ben was wanting, but to know those who had been doing Renaissance with him for a year had gone from minimal balance skills to now clearly demonstrating extraordinary balance, was very exciting. 

Our amazing participants in the Motion Capture Studio

At the same time as the motion capture project Ben was funded by the Innovation in Healthy Ageing Programme to do a feasibility, acceptability and utility study of the programme in partnership with Plymouth University Physiotherapy Department, and specifically with Dr Hilary Gunn, Associate Professor of Physiotherapy. Participants from this study came from a range of Sheltered Accommodation Housing schemes in Plymouth. Outcomes from the study were very positive and there are plans for a wider study with a bigger cohort.

 

All participants have all had fantastic changes happen to them as a result of doing the programme. W are planning more research to further validate the work through an academic frame. 

Balance is not something that some 'lucky people' are just 'born with'... you can have it too!

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