Health & Body

Doctors in the U.K. Will Soon Be Able to Prescribe Dance Classes

Dance classes will be a part of a movement towards "social prescribing." Photo by Leon Liu via Unsplash

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.

The Conversation
James Whiteside (Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine)

Say you're perpetually impeccable designer Thom Browne. Say you're planning your Spring 2020 Paris menswear show along a "Versailles country club" theme. Say you want a world-class danseur to open the show with some kind of appropriately fabulous choreography.

Who do you call? James Whiteside, of course. On Saturday, the American Ballet Theatre principal—wearing pointe shoes and a glorious pinstriped tutu—kicked off Browne's presentation at the École des Beaux-Arts with a 15-minute, show-stealing solo. Whiteside choreographed the piece himself, with the help of detailed notes from the designer.

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Health & Body
Getty Images

I'd been a professional dancer for five years when I realized the pain I'd been feeling in my hip and down my sciatic nerve was not going away. I had been treating it for two years as we dancers do—with regular visits to my masseuse, physical therapy, baths, ice and lots of Aleve—but I never stopped dancing. It finally dawned on me that if I kept going at the speed I was going (which was, well, speedy), the pain would only get more severe and unrelenting, and I might never dance again.

I told myself I'd take two months off, and all would be better.

That first morning when I woke up at 10 am, I had no idea what to do with myself. My life until that moment had been dictated by class and rehearsal, every hour accounted for. How should I fill the huge swath of time ahead of me?

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