Does dance help with Parkinson's symptoms?

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire are looking for people with and without Parkinson’s to take part in a study examining the benefits of dance on the symptoms of Parkinson’s. If you’re over the age of 50, you may be eligible to take part.

It is thought that dance (such as tango and improvisation) could help with mobility in ways that other forms of exercise cannot. So this research is investigating if different types of dancing have an effect on walking, balancing and problem-solving in people with Parkinson’s.

The researchers hope to find out whether dance is a form of exercise that relieves the symptoms of Parkinson’s. They also would like to get a better understanding of which types of dance and movement are suitable for people with Parkinson’s.

The study is funded by the University of Hertfordshire.

More information is found in the links below:

Interested in participating?
This study is looking for at least 30 people with Parkinson’s who live in Manchester or London. particiapnts should be aged 50 or over, with mild to moderate symptoms of Parkinson’s.

The researchers are also looking for at least 30 people without Parkinson’s who are over the age of 50 to participate in the comparison or ‘control’ group. These people might be the partners or carers of people with Parkinson’s.

Although the main dance sessions are being held in Oldham, Greater Manchester and central London, the researchers are interested in hearing from people across the UK who would like to be involved in the project.

The closing date for recruiting volunteers for this study is mid-July 2011.

What to do next
If you are interested in taking part, or wish to find out more information or whether you are eligible for the study, please contact the researchers directly:

Carine Lewis, Project Coordinator
School of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire AL10 9AB

Tel: 01707 281340
Email: [email protected]
Why Manchester? Not seriously; I know London usually gets the benefits bu tI am disappointed as I have been looking at the possibility of dance o help with PD for some time. In America they have routine dance classes for people with PD. It is one of Dr Laura Mischley's initiatives (see video on her website. I tried to learn ballroom dancing at a normal lass bt it was too fast for me. Please extend the research to Essex or London! Good Luck. I am sure it works.
from Chrissie W
Hi Chrissie, Thanks for your post. When we got funding for the project we had to make a decision about where to run the first two 6 week programmes and we chose London (because it is close to where I am based) and Manchester (Oldham) because I know a BRILLIANT dance teacher there (Maxine Horne) who runs some lovely classes which are ideal for people with Parkinson's. However, our plan is to run classes in other parts of the country where there is an interest. This is why we want to hear from individuals and groups around the UK who, although not able to take part in the London and Manchester trials, would like to be involved too.

Our aim in this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of dance for people with Parkinson's. In the long term we want to know what types of dance are effective, what types of physical and psychological benefits can be obtained, who dance is good for (e.g. people with mild or more severe symptoms, people who have never danced previously, people whose onset is on either the right or the left etc.), whether the same benefits are seen in both men and women and whether age has an effect on the effectiveness of dance. Obviously this is a lot of questions to ask but we think the answers will valuable.

So, our hope is to work with existing dance groups around the country and to set up new dance groups and then to use our physical and psychological assessment techniques to collect data from the broadest range of people with and without Parkinson's so that we can try to find answers to these questions.

We'll add Essex to our list of potential venues. In the meantime we're starting our first sessions in London (Islington) and Manchester (Oldham) in early June.

Best wishes

(Dr Peter Lovatt, Principal Investigator, Dance Psychology Lab, University of Hertfordshire)
To Peter Lovatt: Presumably this work on dance and PD will validate, complement or build on the work of Gammon Earhart in the USA: E.g. G M Earhart, “Dance as therapy for individuals with Parkinson disease,” European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine 45, no. 2 (June 2009): 231-238. and more papers like this. Which novel aspects are you expecting to explore?

I also note that Dr Lucy Annett is associated with this project. Because she has done work with rats examining how exercise can protect dopaminergic neurons, are you planning to explore any disease-modification effects in the project or is it only looking at symptoms?

There is a tango group for people with Parkinson's in Leicester and I have alerted the person who runs this to your project.
Thanks for your post and for pointing out the Earhart work. Yes, we are familiar with it and our research aims to build on their findings. A great deal of the work carried out by Hackney and Earhart, their colleagues (and others) has raised some really interesting questions about the relationship between dance and Parkinson's and we hope to drill into some of these questions in our study in further detail. One of our main questions is: What is it about dance and movement that helps reduce some of the symptoms? One of the reasons we are running a 2 centre study is so that we can use different forms of dance in each centre. In London we are using a modern form of contemporary dance whereas in Manchester we are using modified versions of traditional social dances. Based on the Hackney & Earhart work we predict that people may respond differently to each of these forms of dance.

In addition, we are also extending previous research studies into dance and Parkinson's in a unique way. In the Dance Psychology Lab we have observed that dance can influence the way people solve thinking-based problems. We have found that different forms of dance can help people solve different types of problems. We know there is a reported link between problem solving, creativity, dopamine and Parkinson's and so we are interested to see whether dance can also enhance problem solving skills in people who have Parkinson's. Again, we are expecting the different forms of dance in London & Manchester to have different effects.

I hope this goes some way to answering your question but if you would like more information please don't hesitate to get in touch.

I haven't addressed your question as it relates to Dr Annett's (Lucy's) work as I'm sure she'll answer in due course.

Best wishes

I am sure Peter knows about this, but for anyone else interested there is a You tube video called, "Why dance for P.D. "it is well worth viewing.I suppose my name gives away my feelings about dance.
Thanks for the heads up English County Dancer, what fabulous work by the Mark Morris Company.
My name is Maxine and I'm working with Peter on the project up in Manchester. I'm likely to be doing dances like the Pat-a-cake polka and the Cumberland reel. I hope you approve :grin:
Hi all

For a little more information, please see the following news article about the study:

In response to the query about disease-modifying effects, this is a very interesting question for a future investigation, whether participating in dance can slow changes happening in the brain in Parkinson’s. Evidence from exercise effects in animal models of Parkinson’s suggests that it might. However, the purpose of the present study is to explore which types of dance people with Parkinson’s find useful and best help symptoms. We need this information before embarking on what would be a much larger study, involving following participants over longer periods to record disease progression and including brain scans, if the purpose were to investigate potential disease-modifying effects. If such a study were planned, then it would be important to choose a dance regime that had already been shown to be suitable for people with Parkinson’s. At present there is only very limited published scientific data on dance for Parkinson’s and probably not sufficient to risk the funds that would be required for a disease-modification trial. Our aim through studies such as the one currently planned is to investigate key questions about dance for Parkinson’s so as to be in a position where a future disease-modification trial might become a realistic possibility.

Thank you for your interest in our project.


Dr Lucy Annett
Senior Lecturer in Biological Psychology
School of Psychology
University of Hertfordshire
Readers of this thread might be interested in looking at videos of the presentations at a conference on Exercise and Parkinson's (including dance) that was held by SPRING (part of Parkinson's UK) in September 2009. There were some first rate talks at it:
Here's the link to our research news article on the dance study:
Today I went to a dance and exercise class for p.w.p.
I nearly didn't go. I'm so glad i did.
I am more likely to be seen in the audience of a ballet , or musical. I love this kind of spectacle and have a couple of 'Dance ' films which are well worn.
As for me actually doing it , well, the short answer; in my dreams.
Some of you know I'm trying to deal with oedema , and this morning, on waking - i decided the dance class was the last place on earth I wanted to be.
I then thought a bit more, and decided to at least go and have a look. After 10 mins of gentle warm up, we were off. I think i'd call it 'freestyle.'
The teacher had a good understanding of what we feel like and where our particular needs lie. It was fun. I was moving 'gracefully' at times , then really fast and I even ran ! Yes, I ran.
We have 'homework'. I have just pushed my furniture to one side and am in the middle of 'doing' it now. Elton John is accompanying me.
My mood is lifted, and i'm not even aching (yet)
I'll report again soon.

All the best.
Where is this class Lorna

we are trying to set one up in Worthing West sussex
Have sent you p.m.
The Michael J Fox Foundation is focusing on exercise during the month of June and has set up an exercise page: There is an interesting audio podcast there and also a link to a page on dance which has a very interesting - and inspiring - video on a dance class. Check it out!
Hi Droflet,
Thanks for that information , just viewed the video, shame it wasn't longer.
I would encourage anyone who has the chance , to seek out more of these groups, or try to set one up in your locality.
I go to my 3 rd class tomorro -- and know it will be good.
Last week , we learned basic Samba moves , and ended with a short , simple routine which we did , facing each of the four walls, alternatively , and together in sequence to the music of the cricket test match theme. You'll know it well, Mr Sunshine ! I'll expect you to do a bit of a boogie next time you hear it, even if from the chair!
The teacher glanced over her shoulder , when we were almost at end of the sequence and called out delightedly, ' You're all together' !
And we were, in more ways than one.
Tell you soon about next session.
All the best.
Lorna ( sometimes known as Sandra)
Anything that get's you moving and involves a concentrated effort to co-ordinate your body has to help in the long run. This is definately an area that deserves some serious investigation rather than relying on anecdotal evidence.

My own personal tip is
1) select Pendulum cd
2) turn hifi up to 11
3) hit 'play'
4) just go with the flow
Below is a link to a video on the BBC website which talks about the dance study at the University of Hertfordshire.

Parkinson's patients to dance for Islington study

How exercise affects Parkinson's and ageing is a really exciting topic. There's a really good podcast on MJFF website:
:grin: Yes, dance does help with Parkinson's symptoms!

It has been widely observed and there has been much research to support this view. One of the distinctions that should be made between the types of 'dance' for people with Parkinson's is in the balance between pure physiotherapy and sheer enjoyment. These elements are not mutually exclusive.

The UK Dance for Parkinson's network is a collection of teachers and interested parties across the UK who have benfitted in some way from the Dance for PD Programme set up 10 years ago by Mark Morris Dance Group and Brooklyn Parkinson's Group. This Programme is widely accepted as the most advanced of its kind. Not only does the movement have benefits for the particpants but it is an enjoyable experience with real dancers in a real dance environment, live music and to one which partners and caregivers are invited. It is a real dance class. Rather than explain more here, if your interested have a look at

Some of the UK network is listed on this site and includes ballet, modern and tango based classes. It is not an exhaustive list and others teaching dance to people with Parkinson's are invited to join in this collaboration to share experiences in order to extend the provision of dance to more Parkinson's sufferers. The site also includes a list of the research already done in this field. The most recent is an excellent study by University of Roehampton and English National Ballet. More details are on

I add to the post above and am writing to inform all of you who may be interested that there are a number of specialist dance classes for people with Parkinson's around the UK. The growing teaching network in the UK is nourished in part by the Mark Morris Dance Group’s on-going collaboration with Dance Umbrella. David Leventhal, program manager for the Mark Morris Dance Group in New York says “The UK network is among the most knowledgeable, professional and teams of Parkinson’s dance teachers in the world. They have developed a system of best practices and have worked diligently to build sustainable collaborative partnerships with local communities in order to provide a valuable and efficacious arts-based program to people with Parkinson’s in England and Scotland."

This group of UK teachers includes Gemma Coldicott, Danielle Jones, Joanne Duff, Anna Gillespie, Marina Benini, Amanda Fogg, Mo Morgan, Anthony Howell, Ute Scholl, Anna Leatherdale, Daphne Cushnie and Melanie Brierley along with Toby Beazley, the Executive Director of Dance Umbrella and researcher Dr. Sara Houston of Roehampton University. In addition, the Foundation for Community Dance, the national organization supporting community dance artists and their work in the UK has expressed its commitment to supporting the work of the network.

The network is currently working to set up a contacts page here in the UK. In the meantime you can FIND A CLASS NEAR YOU by going to the following site: Go to: Find a Class Go to: United Kingdom
This excellent website also has a wealth of information about dance classes for people with Parkinson's.

You can also check our site for classes in London: