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

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.

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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