Dance for PD classes have already stimulated research at major university research centers around the world, an indication that the medical community acknowledges the potential benefits of dance for persons with PD.  Several research studies are currently under way at Roehampton University, Queensland University of Technology, University of Florida and York University, among others. The preliminary peer reviewed studies and meta-analyses below indicate possible benefits of the Dance for PD classes, and suggest the need for additional research.

Click on the images to the left to read the related articles for each study.

JNT Peer reviewed: Dance for PD: a preliminary investigation of effects on motor function and quality of life among persons with Parkinson’s disease

This preliminary uncontrolled study investigated the effects of a dance intervention on several motor and quality of life aspects of PD following 16 sessions (8 weeks; 20 h) taught by professional dancers/teachers. A mixed methods design was used to determine the effects of the class. Assessment instruments administered at baseline and post-intervention included the Hoehn and Yahr, UPDRS (part III), Berg Balance Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, and PDQ-39 and individual interviews after the last class. Hoehn and Yahr scores ranged from 1 to 4. UPDRS III total scores and sub scores of gait and tremor improved following the intervention (P < 0.05). During interviews participants reported physical, emotional, and social benefits. Despite the diversity of baseline measures post-class interview results were consistently positive across the sample. Twelve of 14 subjects (mean age 66.2) with idiopathic PD completed the sessions. After 4 years, four participants regularly attended DfPD® classes. The low attrition rate and continued attendance suggest notable adherence to the DfPD® class. The importance of the results is both clinical and conceptual, highlighting the value of using both quantitative and qualitative data to evaluate the benefits of dance with PD.


Frontiers Peer reviewed: Impact of a weekly dance class on the functional mobility and on the quality of life of individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Lisa Heiberger, with a team from the Cortical Motor Control Laboratory at University Hospital of Freiburg, Germany under the direction of Dr. Rumyana Kristeva, investigated 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.


Arts and Health Peer reviewed: A mixed-methods study into ballet for people living with Parkinson’s

English National Ballet and University of Roehampton have published the peer-reviewed findings 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. In the light of the excellent adherence to the dance sessions, this initial research project indicates that dancing would be an appropriate and enjoyable way of encouraging exercise and creative activity for people with Parkinson’s.


TIGR Peer reviewed: Why Dance for Parkinson’s Disease

Brooklyn Parkinson Group (BPG) in collaboration with Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) developed dance classes for persons with Parkinson’s disease (PD), friends, and family. Over 5 years, classes increased from 2 to 9 participants once a month, to weekly classes of 20 to over 30 participants. This article explains the rationale of dance for PD, describes teaching methods, and includes participants’ observations. Also discussed are perceived benefits noted by 15 participants with PD to a validated questionnaire are discussed.


JNPT Peer reviewed: Effects of tango on functional mobility in Parkinson’s disease: a preliminary study.

The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of two movement programs: tango classes or exercise classes. Nineteen subjects with PD were randomly assigned to a tango group or a group exercise class representative of the current classes offered in our geographical area for individuals with PD. Subjects completed a total of 20 tango or exercise classes and were evaluated the week before and the week following the intervention. Both groups showed significant improvements in overall Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) score and nonsignificant improvements in self-reported Freezing of Gait. In addition, the tango group showed significant improvements on the Berg Balance Scale. The exercise group did not improve on this measure. Finally, the tango group showed a trend toward improvement on the Timed Up and Go test that was not observed in the exercise group. Future studies with a larger sample are needed to confirm and extend our observation that tango may be an effective intervention to target functional mobility deficits in individuals with PD.


JBCM Peer reviewed: Feasibility of an Intensive Trial of Modern Dance for Adults with Parkinson Disease

This study assesses 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.


Gerontologist Peer reviewed: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on the Physical Health, Mental Health, and Social Functioning of Older Adults

The aim of this study was to measure the impact of professionally conducted community-based cultural programs on the physical health, mental health, and social activities of individuals aged 65 and older. Participants in the study were 166 healthy, ambulatory older adults from the Washington, DC, area. We assigned them to either an intervention or comparison group and assessed them at baseline and after 12 months. Results obtained from utilizing established assessment questionnaires and self-reported measures, controlling for any baseline differences, revealed positive findings for the effectiveness of the intervention such that the intervention group reported a higher overall rating of physical health, fewer doctor visits, less medication use, fewer instances of falls, and fewer other health problems than the comparison group. The intervention group also evidenced better morale and less loneliness than the comparison group. In terms of activity level, the comparison group evidenced a significant decline in total number of activities, whereas the intervention group reported a trend toward increased activity. The positive impact of participatory art programs for older adults in this study on overall health, doctor visits, medication use, falls, loneliness, morale, and activities reflects important health promotion and prevention effects and a reduction of risk factors driving the need for long-term care.


Archives Meta Analysis: Dance for People With Parkinson Disease: What Is the Evidence Telling Us?

This meta-analysis suggests that participation in dance classes may be beneficial for some individuals with mild-to-moderate PD. This review provides preliminary guidance regarding an optimum FITT principle. It has highlighted methodological limitations and gaps in the current literature to help inform future research development. The results of this review found evidence to suggest that two 1-hour dance classes per week, for at least 10 weeks, can have positive effects. Greater benefit might also be seen with longer duration interventions. More high level, multicenter RCTs with robust methodology are needed to determine the effect of different types of dance and their long-term benefit for people with PD. In addition, the safety of dance programs needs to be adequately reported to ensure the safe and appropriate implementation of dance interventions.