Feet First

Funded by The Baring Foundation, Feet First is a pilot project aiming to provide a platform for South Asian dance artists to train to work with young people with mental health issues.

Drawing from our rich experience of working with adolescents, the project will deliver co‑created participatory arts opportunities for young people to support their mental health and wellbeing as they prepare to transition from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services to Adult Mental Health Services. Research indicates this transition can be a highly stressful and often unsuccessful process, leaving young people adrift to try to manage their illness themselves.


  • Engage and empower young service users to improve their well‑being, developing tools for mental health self‑management.
  • Develop a practice for Akademi’s dance artists to thrive in this work in the future.
  • Establish a peer network for participants.

In addition to the known benefits of arts participation including improved self‑esteem, confidence and motivation, Feet First will foster team working in a shared safe space, where participants can express themselves through movement.

South Asian dance forms will offer a variety of tools to equip participants to help manage their mental health challenges. Movement can break down barriers that exist in verbal communication; through incorporating mudras (gestures) as a narrative device, participants will develop a vocabulary of creative self-expression to share their individual stories.

Meditative aspects (stillness, breath control and focus) will equip young people with alternative strategies for dealing with emotional triggers and negative thoughts.

The creative space will offer the acknowledgement of mental health issues and signposting to key services as part of the participants’ shared experience.

The Baring Foundation logo
close up of the legs and feet of a South Asian dancer in colourful clothing with bells on her feet
© Benedict Johnson Photography


To find out more about the pilot project, please contact us at info@akademi.co.uk.


Dr Partha Banerjea
Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

Artists leading the sessions

Olivia White and Showmi Das

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