Engaging in dance can help young people manage stress, develop their confidence and improve their overall quality of life, a study has found.
The research, carried out by development organisation Yorkshire Dance and the University of Leeds, makes the case for dance as a holistic “health intervention” for young people, particularly from less privileged backgrounds.
It is the latest study arguing for the health benefits of arts participation, and comes amid growing discussion around the merits of using culture alongside more traditional care methods.
The two-year project investigated the impacts of dance on health and well-being by monitoring two groups of young people, aged between 10 and 20, and their families, from deprived areas of Leeds.
They attended weekly dance sessions, which were followed up by in-depth interviews, informal conversations and questionnaires. The participants were also observed during the classes and research was undertaken to understand the impact from the perspective of parents, carers and teachers.
Findings from the final report describe dance as a valuable way of empowering young people who live in deprived urban areas to be proactive in improving their health and well-being.
The report said: “There is a need within the sector to promote the unique role that dance can play in meeting not only the physical needs of young people, but, when framed around quality of life, also their physical, psychological, social and environmental needs.”
This includes boosting confidence and improving social skills, as well as helping manage stress and allowing young people to receive support in an environment “characterised by mutual encouragement”.
Wieke Eringa, artistic director of Yorkshire Dance, said the project had provided an opportunity to back up “instinctive and observed ideas about the benefits of dance with 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 providing stimulating learning. It clearly strengthens the case for investment in dance within schools and in healthcare to support well-being and self-efficacy,” she said.
The research, funded by Arts Council England, has been published to coincide with a symposium exploring the intersection of arts and health in London.