Dance for Health

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“Dance is a conversation between body and soul”

It was a pleasure to recently attend a “Dance for Health” masterclass at the Sydney Dance Company, conducted by UK professional ballet dancer, Andrew Greenwood.  Some years back, in response to a friends diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease at the age of 37, Andrew started giving him dance classes and over time, this has now spread to regular classes being conducted in Holland.  The aim is to initiate such classes here in Sydney and hence the masterclass as an introduction.

Dancing in general has been  appreciated for its benefits in so many ways – such as improved muscle strength and tone, better coordination, flexibility, agility and spatial awareness, improved mental functioning (increased neural pathways, reducing dementia),  memory, mood,  balance, stress relief and last but not least, improved self confidence, social and psychological well being. One can see how it impacts on all aspects of our health- mind, body and soul. Because dancing integrates several brain functions simultaneously — kinesthetic, musical and emotional –  this  increases neural connectivity, hence it can be of particular benefit to those suffering from neurological conditions.

It is interesting to note that one of the many ancient Indian scriptures (approx. 500-200BC)  is dedicated to music and dance (Gandharveda) – implying an appreciation in health that far back in time.  In more recent days, numerous studies have been done on the benefits of dancing. A particularly interesting one that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine – out of 11 physical activities, dancing was the only one that lowered dementia risk by a staggering 76%. Another study by Hackney and Earhart, compared the effects of tango, waltz/foxtrot and tai chi- although all beneficial, tango was found to show the largest benefit. The waltz has also shown to have comparable effects to that of treadmill training. Optimal health being a unity of all our elements, physical, psychological/emotional and spiritual, this type of movement offered to patients encompasses all this and has the potential to assist healing and well –being at each of these levels. This is critical. The power of the mind is irrefutable.

It was endearing seeing patients experience a variety of movements, individual of course,  to their own circumstances,  starting with basic movements and postures, involving different muscle groups, co ordination and then progressively coming together in a sequence that was enjoyable and giving a sense of accomplishment, connection and bliss.

Below is a link to give an idea of this sort of class.

It is great to see such an initiative here in Sydney –and beyond. All the best to Andrew, Gwen and the rest of the Dance for Health team! And if you know anyone who may benefit from this, please send on the link – thank you.

Further reading

Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly – Joe Verghese, M.D et al. N Engl J Med 2003; 348:2508-2516 June 19, 2003

Dance as therapy for individuals with Parkinsons disease. Gammon Earhart et al. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2009 Jun: 45(2): 231-238

Effects of dance movement therapy and dance on health-related psychological outcomes:a meta analysis. Koch et al. The Arts in Psychotherapy. Vol 41. Issue 1. Feb 2014:p46-64

Waltz dancing in patients with chronic heart failure: a new form of exercise training. Circulation:Heart Failure. 2008. Pp 107-114 Belardinelli et al.

Effect of dance on movement control in Parkinson’s disease: comparison of Argentine tango and American ballroom. J Rehab Med.

“The greatest force in the human body is the natural drive of the body to heal itself – but that force is not independent of the belief system. Everything begins with belief. What we believe is the most powerful option of all.”

Norman Cousins