Doctors in the U.K. Will Soon Be Able to Prescribe Dance Classes
It's become a colloquialism—or, we admit, a cliche—to say that dance can heal.
But with a new initiative launched by British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, doctors in the U.K. will soon be able to prescribe dance classes—along with art, music, sports, gardening and more—for patients suffering from conditions as various as dementia, lung problems and mental health issues.
Termed "social prescribing," these interventions aim to complement more traditional treatment methods and offer an alternative to overprescribing medications. "We've been fostering a culture that's popping pills and Prozac, when what we should be doing is more prevention and perspiration," said Hancock in a speech earlier this week, as reported by Smithsonian.
And though they may not be doctor-prescribed, programs in the U.S. show just how significant an impact movement can have as a form of treatment. For instance, when Mark Morris Dance Group's successful Dance for Parkinson's Disease program was profiled in the Journal of Neural Transmission in 2016, researchers found that patients who took 16 classes over eight weeks showed a 10.4 percent improvement in overall movement, a 26.7 percent improvement in walking and a 18.5 percent improvement in tremors. In 2010, researchers from the University of Missouri found that The Lebed Method, a low-impact dance class for seniors, improved balance and gait, thereby reducing the risk of injury due to falling. Plus, additional studies have shown that dance can reduce anxiety, improve cognitive functions and more.
In other words, the Brits are probably on to something. Pilot programs across the U.K. are already underway, and the initiative is intended to take full effect by 2023.
Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.
But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.