Dance is more than therapy: Qualitative analysis on therapeutic dancing classes for Parkinson's

Complement Ther Med. 2017 Oct;34:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2017.07.006. Epub 2017 Jul 23.


Objectives: To understand the benefits and limitations of therapeutic dancing classes for people with Parkinson's disease (PD) and how best to design and implement classes.

Design: A stakeholder forum explored the opinions of 18 allied health clinicians, dance instructors, people with PD and caregivers. Data were thematically analysed and interpreted within a grounded theory framework.

Results: Four main themes were identified: (1) the need to consider the stage of disease progression when designing classes; (2) recognition that dance is more than just therapy; (3) the benefits of carefully selecting music to move by; (4) ways to design classes that are both feasible and engaging. These themes give rise to the theory that dancing classes can provide more than just therapeutic benefits. Dance affords creative expression and enables people to immerse themselves in the art-form, rather than focussing on the disease. The results highlight the benefits of enabling individuals with PD to be able to express themselves in a supportive environment that does not see them solely through the lens of Parkinson's. The feasibility of dance programs can be increased by educating dancing teachers about PD and the unique needs of people living with this condition.

Conclusion: Well-structured dance classes can promote social-connectedness and joy, in addition to facilitating movement to music and physical activity. Consumers advised that careful planning of the classes and tailoring them to participant needs optimizes outcomes.

Keywords: Complementary therapies; Dance therapy; Parkinson’s disease; Qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Creativity
  • Dance Therapy*
  • Dancing* / psychology
  • Disease Progression
  • Exercise* / psychology
  • Female
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Parkinson Disease / therapy*
  • Qualitative Research