Conscious dance: Perceived benefits and psychological well-being of participants

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2021 Aug;44:101440. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2021.101440. Epub 2021 Jul 5.


Background: Meta-analyses suggest that dance has potential to decrease psychological distress, increase trait mindfulness, and enhance quality of life. Conscious dance can be defined as unchoreographed, intentionally nonevaluative mindful movement commonly practiced in a group setting for purposes of authentic self-expression, self-discovery, interpersonal connectedness, and personal healing or growth.

Objective: To assess perceived effects of conscious dance practice (e.g., Ecstatic Dance, 5Rhythms) and examine associations between frequency/duration of practice and psychological well-being among participants.

Methods: Self-identifying adult conscious dancers completed a survey (N = 1003; mean age = 47 years; 52% from the U.S; 78% White; 73% female).

Results: Conscious dancers with ≥5 years of practice had significantly higher trait mindfulness and life satisfaction compared to newer practitioners. More frequent practice (≥once per week) was associated with higher trait mindfulness. A strong majority of participants endorsed experiences consistent with mindfulness (i.e., feeling "more present in my body"; 99% of the sample) and psychological flow ("I felt like I was 'in the zone' or 'in the flow' of things"; 93% of the sample) during conscious dance. Among participants endorsing any of five stress-related health conditions, the majority reported therapeutic effects (i.e., that conscious dance "helped them cope" with the condition). Therapeutic effects were most consistently reported by individuals with depression or anxiety (96% endorsement), followed by those with a trauma history (95%), chronic pain (89%), and history of substance abuse or addiction (88%). For all conditions except addiction, therapeutic effects were associated with greater experiences of psychological flow during dance, and the magnitude of these effects was large (Cohen's d range: 1.0-2.3).

Conclusion: Individuals who engage in conscious dance report that these practices help them to cope with stress-related health conditions. Participants reporting longer duration or greater frequency of practice scored higher on measures of psychological well-being. The feasibility and efficacy of conscious dance for improving well-being among individuals naïve to these approaches will be important to determine in future research.

Keywords: 5Rhythms; Authentic movement; Azul; Biodanza; Chakradance; Contact improv; Dancing freedom; Dancing mindfulness; Ecstatic dance; Journey dance; Meditation; Movement medicine; Nia; Open floor; Soul motion; Trance dance.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Anxiety
  • Dancing*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Quality of Life