Dance for PD classes have already stimulated research, an indication that the medical community acknowledges the potential benefits of dance for persons with PD. Proposals to study Dance for PD are being prepared by several PD centers in the US, including the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Several surveys and preliminary studies indicate possible benefits of the Dance for PD classes, and suggest the need for additional research.
- Lisa Heiberger, with a team from the Cortical Motor Control Laboratory at University Hospital of Freiburg, Germany under the direction of Dr. Rumyana Kristeva, investigated1 the short-term effects of dance on motor control in individuals with PD and the long-term effects of 8 months of participation in the weekly dance class on the quality of life of the PD patients and their caregivers. The class was modeled after the Mark Morris Dance Group/Brooklyn Parkinson Group class. Eleven people with moderate to severe PD (58–85 years old) were subjected to a motor and quality of life assessments. The team found a signiﬁcant beneﬁcial short-term effect for the total score of the UPDRS motor score. The strongest improvements were in rigidity scores followed by signiﬁcant improvements in hand movements, ﬁnger taps, and facial expression. The results of the questionnaires showed positive effects of the dance class on social life, health, body-feeling and mobility, and on everyday life competences of the PD patients. Beneﬁcial effect was also found for the caregivers. Read the peer-reviewed article
- English National Ballet and University of Roehampton have published the peer-reviewed findings8 of a groundbreaking research project that reveals that dance benefits people with Parkinson’s by relieving debilitating symptoms, aiding short-term mobility and significantly improving stability, as well as contributing to social inclusion and artistic expression.
- A qualitative survey2 by Olie Westheimer in collaboration with MMDG (TIGR Vol. 24, no. 2, 2008), and based on the Brooklyn class, noted the class’s positive contributions to responders’ quality of life, and concluded that “more widespread implementation of ‘Dance for PD’ classes and validation are needed”. Westheimer et al’s 2009 poster Why Dance for Parkinson’s Disease, based on this survey, is available here.
- In 2009, a 10-week research project3 was conducted to gather objective measurable evidence of the effects of Dance for PD classes on some motor and non-motor functions of Brooklyn class participants. The study, which involved 12 participants attending two 75-minute classes each week at the Mark Morris Dance Center, recorded standardized measurements relating to tremor, gait, rigidity, balance, mood and Quality of Life (QOL) in order to facilitate the translation of the class’ benefits to the larger national and international PD community. The study is being written up for publication at this time; initial results point to measurable improvements in gait and tremor as a result of the classes.
- Dr. Sarah Ying from Johns Hopkins University led a 2009 study4 of a Dance for PD class based on the MMDG/BPG model and found objective improvement in gait mobility, as well as self-reported quality of life improvement, among nine participants with PD in a weekly one-hour class. According to the Neura’s special report of June 2010, “After each series, the majority of patients reported the same or better scores on all 8 QoL [Quality of Life] domains measured by the Short Form (SF)-36.” You can read the full report here.
- A study5 of tango classes for persons with PD, by G.M. Earhart and M.E. Hackney at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, concludes that tango may benefit balance and locomotion in PD.
- A pilot study6 by Glenna Batson, PT, ScD, MA, an associate professor of physical therapy at Winston-Salem State University, assessed the feasibility and benefits of modern dance classes for a group of 11 adults with early-to-middle stage Parkinson’s Disease in North Carolina. The three-week trial suggests that modern dance may be a desirable alternative to other modes of exercise because it is cost-effective, simple to administer, and offers social as well as potentially functional benefits.
- More generally, data from a 2006 multisite National Endowment for the Arts study7, “The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults” (aka The Creativity and Aging Study) pointed to positive intervention effects of community-based arts programs run by professional artists. The study examined how participation in cultural programs affected such health-related indicators as doctor visits, overall health, prescription usage, and tendency to fall, as well as morale and depression. More information is available here.
Detailed reference footnotes
1.Impact of a weekly dance class on the functional mobility and on the quality of life of individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Lisa Heiberger, Christoph Maurer, Florian Amtage1, Ignacio Mendez-Balbuena1 (Cortical Motor Control Laboratory, Department of Neurology and Neurophysiology, University Hospital of Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany) Jürgen Schulte-Mönting Institute for Medical Biometry and Medical Informatics, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany), Marie-Claude Hepp-Reymond (Institute of Neuroinformatics, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, University of Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland) and Rumyana Kristeva (Cortical Motor Control Laboratory, Department of Neurology and Neurophysiology, University Hospital of Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany). Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. October 2011 Vol. 3 Article 14.
Improvement in total score of the UPDRS motor score, with strongest improvements were in rigidity scores followed by signiﬁcant improvements in hand movements, ﬁnger taps, and facial expression. No signiﬁcant changes were found for TUG and for SeTa. The results of the questionnaires showed positive effects of the dance class on social life, health, body-feeling and mobility, and on everyday life competences of the PD patients. Beneﬁcial effect was also found forthe caregivers.
2. Westheimer, O. Why Dance for Parkinson’s Disease: Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation 2008; (2)24 :127-140.
Rationale of dance classes for persons with PD and the perceived benefits of students in the Brooklyn classes as expressed in responses to Oregon Health Sciences questionnaire for chronic illness, and to interview questions developed by Misty Owens, founding Dance for PD teacher, for her MFA in Dance.
3. Abstract: Dance for Parkinson’s Disease: A pilot investigation of effects on motor impairments and quality of life. MDS 25th International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders June 5-9, 2011 Toronto, Canada, and New York Academy of Sciences, “Music, Science & Medicine: Frontiers in Biomedical Research & Clinical Applications” March 25, 2011, New York, NY.
Olie Westheimer, MA (Executive Director, Brooklyn Parkinson Group, Brooklyn, NY); Cynthia McRae, PhD (Counseling Psychology, University of Denver, Denver, CO); Claire Henchcliff, MD, D.Phil (Neurology, Weill Cornell, New York, NY); Arman Fesharaki, MD (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Vancouver Eye Care Centre-VGH, Vancouver, British Columbia); , Matt Avitable, PhD (Center for Scientific Computing, SUNY Downstate, Brooklyn, NY); Muhammad Javaid, MD, Sofya Glazman, MD and Ivan Bodis-Wollner, MD (Neurology, SUNY Downstate, Brooklyn, NY).
Improved gait and resting tremor; positive data derived from structured interview data that were not captured in PDQ-39 Quality of Life questionnaire.
4. Let’s dance! Parkinson’s: A Novel Dance Approach. Effect on gait and quality of life. Sarah H. Ying et al. Parkinson’s Movement Disorders Center, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.
Improvement in small sample size on Berg Balance Scale, Timed Up and Go test, UPDRS, several gait measures, velocity and cadence within a four-month period.
5. Earhart G. Dance as Therapy for individuals with Parkinson Disease. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med 2009; June 45(2): 231-238.
Review of articles on benefits of dance with emphasis on benefits of partnered dance, especially tango. Found improvement in Berg Balance Scale, Timed up and Go, improvement walking backward, stride length. “In summary the benefits of dance for those with PD appear to be lf large enough magnitude to be clinically relevant.” General finding that dance meets most if not all exercise for persons with PD.
6. Feasibility of an Intensive Trial of Modern Dance for Adults with Parkinson Disease. Glenna Batson, Complementary Health Practice Review 2010 15: 65, DOI: 10.1177/1533210110383903. The online version of this article can be found here.
7. Final Report, 2006. The Creativity and Aging study—the impact of professionally conducted cultural programs on older adults, 2006. Gene D. Cohen, MD, PhD, The Center on Aging, Health & Humanities, George Washington University.
A two-year study of 300 persons, average age of 80 years, half of whom participated in weekly participatory arts programs, half did not. At one- and two-year follow up assessment, the participatory arts group reported “better health, fewer doctor visits, and less medication usage, more positive responses on mental health measures and more involvement in overall activities.”
8. Sara Houston & Ashley McGill (2012): A mixed-methods study into ballet for
people living with Parkinson’s, Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice, DOI:10.1080/17533015.2012.745580