Dancing In Time

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Yorkshire Dance - Dancing in Time - July 2015 (c) Sara Teresa
Yorkshire Dance - Dancing in Time - July 2015 (c) Sara Teresa
Yorkshire Dance - Dancing in Time - July 2015 (c) Sara Teresa

The aim of this project was to examine the effect of a 10- week contemporary dance programme on both physical and psychosocial risk factor for falls. The Intervention’s acceptability and feasibility was addressed by documenting:

  • Attrition and adherence rates
  • Changes in physical and psychosocial risk factor for falls
  • Participants’ views of the intervention and how it affected them through focus groups

Funding Sources:
Dancing In Time was commissioned by Leeds Public Health.

Timescales/Delivery:
The project consisted of delivering 3 x 10 week long dance programmes between January and December 2015

Context:
In January 2015, Public Health Leeds commissioned Yorkshire Dance and the University of Leeds to investigate the feasibility and acceptability of implementing a dance programme to improve the health and well-being of community-dwelling older adults in Leeds, with a specific focus on modifying factors which we know can contribute to falls. The Older People Team within the Office of the Director of Public Health Leeds overall focus is to improve the lives of older people particularly focusing on active ageing, falls prevention, and living with frailty.

Yorkshire Dance is a development organisation which champions the value of dance and its development in Yorkshire by raising standards, increasing knowledge and understanding and fostering creativity and innovation. It creates opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to participate in high quality dance rooted in their lives and communities and works with partners in the public and private sector to build a region-wide infrastructure for dance development.

University of Leeds: Researchers from Sport & Exercise Sciences are embedded in the Cardiovascular and Sport Sciences research group of the School of Biomedical Sciences and their research was ranged 1st for ‘World Leading’ 4* research in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

Location and Setting:
Programmes were hosted by 3 local neighbourhood networks:

  • Richmond Hill Elderly Action: Richmond Hill Community Centre
  • Middleton Elderly Aid: St Cross Church’s community hall
  • Woodhouse Caring Together: Woodhouse Community Centre

These were selected from a call out to the most deprived inner city wards, as identified by Leeds Public Health.

Description of the arts activity

The programme comprised twice-weekly sessions of 90 minutes of contemporary dance over 10 consecutive weeks, led by specially trained dance artists from Yorkshire Dance. Contemporary dance is a low-impact physical activity open to all regardless of their physical condition. It offers the opportunity to improvise or interpret the music at a person-centred level, either individually or as part of a larger group through movement which includes elements of aerobic exercise, balance activities, low-level resistance exercise, and moves to enhance flexibility. The structure of the sessions was always organic and fluid which allowed for the continual responsiveness of the artists to the needs of the group and individuals. Sessions often included:

  • A combination of didactic movement instruction and creative task setting that were often repeated within sessions and from week to week.
  • Basic low impact aerobic movements
  • Active and passive movements of all joints
  • Improvisation
  • Conscious use of breath
  • Standing in a circle (non-hierarchical)  
  • Ongoing dialogue between the dance artists and participants
  • Cross- lateral movement
  • Exchange of weight (Movement from one foot to the other)
  • Balance exercises (holding a chair or free-standing)
  • Changing orientation (face different directions, turning)
  • A varied range of music and rhythms, stimulating different dynamic movement responses and expression

Details of the project participants

Participants were recruited from the 3 neighbourhood networks by meeting with possible participants in person and through printed material.

A total of 38 people (aged 60-85 years of age) completed the dance programme, and all but one was female. On average they attended over 70% of offered sessions. Of these 38, 22 agreed to take part in the research element of the dance programme, and these people attended on average 85% of the all the 22 sessions offered.

Project management

Within Dancing In Time the dance programmes were project managed by Yorkshire Dance and the research was managed and undertaken by the University of Leeds.

There was no cost to the participants to take part in the dance programme or research elements.

We assured quality in the project by working with skilled and experienced dance artists and providing training prior to the project. The programme also aligned to principles around high quality community dance as set by Arts Council England. The research proposal was passed through ethics at the University of Leeds, informed consent was collected with the option to opt out of the research and continue with the dance activity.

Participants were recruited from the 3 neighbourhood networks by meeting with possible participants in person and through printed material.

A total of 38 people (aged 60-85 years of age) completed the dance programme, and all but one was female. On average they attended over 70% of offered sessions. Of these 38, 22 agreed to take part in the research element of the dance programme, and these people attended on average 85% of the all the 22 sessions offered.

Evaluation methods and findings

Researchers from the School of Biomedical Sciences (Sport and Exercise Sciences) used a variety of questionnaires and motor activities (including a Timed Up and Go) to examine the impact of participation on physical activity patterns, balance, fear of falling and mood. A group discussion with all participants explored their experiences and perceptions of how participation had affected them and how to encourage others to take part in dance in the future.

Three acceptability-related themes were extracted from the research:

  1. The dance programme as a means of being active
  2. Gains in behaviour, health and wellbeing
  3. Physical, social and dance-related barriers and facilitators

The data from the research showed the following findings:

  • 85% adherence rate for those that took part in the research
  • Decreases in the amount of time spent sitting in the week
  • Increase in moderate and vigorous physical activity patterns during the week
  • Statistical significance in time taken to complete Timed Up and Go
  • Decreases in fear of falling
  • Increased levels of happiness

The information from the group discussions showed that participants:

  • viewed the dance positively as a new way of being active
  • enjoyed the group nature of the programme
  • observed health benefits that they attributed to the dance (reduction in pain, easing of stiffness in joints, increased energy levels, better balance and co-ordination, felt more relaxed and happy)

We have demonstrated the feasibility and acceptability of a Contemporary Dance programme to modify physical and psychosocial risk factors for falls, and improve overall health and wellbeing in community dwelling older adults.

A research paper is currently in its first draft and will be ready for publication in the autumn

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England