Health benefits of dance: Yorkshire Dance

Yorkshire Dance, the dance development organisation for the region, and researchers from the University of Leeds have published a report on the impact of dance on the health, well-being and sense of empowerment of young people.

The research, funded by Arts Council England’s Research Grants programme, focused on two groups of young people, aged between 10 and 20, living in a deprived area of East Leeds.

Over ten-months, they took part in free dance sessions for up to two hours every week at Yorkshire Dance’s home on Quarry Hill, Leeds.

Researchers from the university’s School of Biomedical Sciences used a combination of interviews, participant observation, informal conversations and questionnaires to collect data throughout the ten months. Study results suggest that the young people experienced improved perceptions of their quality of life because of dance.

Recreational dance helped them to feel happier, increase confidence, develop social skills, express themselves in creative ways, and promote active lifestyles and healthy habits. It also played a role in reducing stress by helping them to cope with difficult issues they faced in their lives. Dance, as an art-form, offered a unique opportunity to empower young people to take charge of their own health and well-being.

A school teacher said that the dance programme had improved the young people’s social skills; the way they communicate. They have to work together when performing and devising… but also the confidence to speak out in front of others.

She went on to point out that they are making changes… drinking more water to prevent dehydration. They’ve been more perceptive and aware of their own health and well-being, even with what they eat.

For some of the participants, dedication to dance and the significant amount of time devoted to the activity resulted in tensions and conflicts with an already busy life – an effect often found when young people take part in sports and activities while trying to balance demands at school.

A small number of the younger participants highlighted occasional tensions within their groups, within the overall context of a positive, beneficial and well-organised sessions.

Wieke Eringa, Artistic Director of Yorkshire Dance:

We’re delighted to have been able to work with the team from University of Leeds to back up our own instinctive and observed ideas about the benefits of dance with their robust, rigorous academic research. This kind of research evidences how dance can support young people in meeting a growing number of challenges as well as proving stimulating learning. It clearly strengthens the case for investment in dance within schools and in healthcare in order to support wellbeing and self efficacy.

The company of young people, Yorkshire Dance Youth, continues to meet every Wednesday evening. Anyone aged between 11 and 19 is welcome to join, whatever their level of experience. Yorkshire Dance offers full and partial bursaries to ensure that anyone is able to take part.

This programme complements an existing partnership between Yorkshire Dance with the University of Leeds studying the health and well-being benefits of dance for older adults. The long-running collaboration, supported by the University’s Cultural Institute, provides a tangible example of how knowledge created by researchers and creative practitioners coming together can have a significant impact on people’s lives, contributing new evidence of the impact of dance to health, well-being and empowerment.


The full report is published here: