Dance as a Form of Movement Therapy / Intervention

Play, laughter, silliness and movement are at the very core of what we do here at Canobolas Kids Health. A favourite way for us to incorporate all of these concepts is through DANCE!

What is the definition of dance? 

Dance is an art form, often classified as a sport, consisting of sequences of body movements with aesthetic and often symbolic value… Dance can be categorised and described by its choreography, by its repertoire of movements or by its historical period or place of origin. It is the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself.” 

Did you know that dance can be used as a movement therapy tool for your child? 

Dance movement practice (DMP) is a type of art therapy that has been entrenched in modern culture for 70 years. Dance provides benefits for participants that are both personal and independent, and also provides physical and mental well being (Tao et al., 2021).

There are so many benefits to dancing! When reading through “The Physiological and Psychological Benefits of Dance and its Effects on Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review”, the following benefits were mentioned: 

  • Easy access

    • Dance is an easy, accessible sport that can be performed in safe community spaces free of charge. Dance can be accessed via classes, online platforms, and even in your own living room 

  • Pain management 

    • Dance also seems to have a positive effect on certain neuromuscular and neurovascular conditions. Globally, 13.5% of school-aged children are affected by functional abdominal pain disorders (FAPDs). FAPDs include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, abdominal migraine, and functional abdominal pain (FAP). Abdominal pain is accompanied by other symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, reduced life quality, and school absenteeism (Högström et al., 2022). Dance is a relaxed rhythmical activity, and when combined with yoga, seems to provide physical and mental benefits that reduce pain. 

  • Its a social sport 

    • Opportunities to engage with new friends and to observe other children participating in a task increases motivation as well as engagement and overall enjoyment 

  • Motor Development

    • Motor development is the child’s ability to move and engage his/her surroundings. A randomised control study investigated a group who attended two classes of dance per week, over a 7-month period. Using creativity and spontaneous instructions, the intervention challenged the children to discover and experiment with new movement patterns. The results of the study demonstrated significant improvements in motor development capabilities of the students exposed to educational dance lessons, compared with a control group. As well as this, it was documented that the improvements observed for motor skill development were maintained following the program ending 

  • Psychological Benefits of Dance

    • Alleviation of Depressive Symptoms: A recent study examined 12 weeks of dance movement therapy in adolescents with mild depression. The results suggested that dance movement therapy demonstrated positive improvements in the symptoms such as somatization, obsessive-compulsive disorder, interpersonal sensitivity, depression, anxiety, hostility, paranoid ideation, and psychoticism. All these variables are related to negative mental health problems (Jeong et al., 2005).

  • Medical benefits 

    • Down Syndrome (DS) is a congenital, genetic disorder caused by the presence of an extra partial or complete copy of chromosome 21. Approximately fifty-eight percent of children with DS fail to meet the recommended 60 min of PA per day. Traditional neuromuscular training lacks fun, creativity, and movement exploration. As an aesthetic movement art form, dance also has a positive psychotherapeutic impact, which may improve the intelligence and dual tasking of children with DS. In addition, children express their creativity and emotions such as joy, fun and happiness in the process of practising and participating in dance, which provides children with body awareness, enthusiasm, and confidence. Ballet and Laban’s dance have been demonstrated to improve balance, rhythm, and autonomous control in children who were DS patients.

In conclusion, dance develops relationships, connects people, and increases feelings of joy and togetherness. Dance has virtually no venue restrictions. It can be practised at home, in isolation, in groups, or anywhere with suitable spaces. Dance requires no special equipment, and this characteristic is suitable for all families and financially limited regions and countries. In summary, dance can be used as an appropriate and alternative physical activity mode for children and adolescents. 

The Physiological and Psychological Benefits of Dance and its Effects on Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. Dan Tao, Yang Gao, Alistair Cole, Julien S. Baker, Yaodong Gu, Rashmi Supriya, Tomas K. Ton, Qiuli Hu and Roger Awan-Scully. SYSTEMATIC REVIEW published: 13 June 2022 doi: 10.3389/fphys.2022.925958