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Health and wellbeing
A new website for dance in health and wellbeing

In working together, One Dance UK and People Dancing aim to better support dance artists, teachers and organisations to make dance and its health, social and creative benefits more accessible and inclusive, including reducing health inequalities and tackling physical inactivity. We will do this by building strong strategic relationships with the health and wellbeing sector, advocating the diverse benefits of dance, and strengthening the evidence and knowledge base through research and resources.

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Dance in health and wellbeing

A new partnership between One Dance UK and People Dancing

Two major national dance organisations join forces, aiming to embed dance in the Government’s Health & Wellbeing agenda in England. 

One Dance UK and People Dancing today (23 March 2017) announced the launch of a new initiative to strengthen the role that dance plays in improving the health and wellbeing of England. The partnership between these two major dance bodies, brings together the expertise of People Dancing, in community dance and inclusive dance, and of One Dance UK in youth dance and dance in education. 

The Strategic Framework for Dance in Health and Wellbeing will advocate for dance, and influence at a national strategic level, as well as help create new opportunities for dance participation across England. Similar initiatives have been set-up in other UK nations; for example, in Scotland YDance (Scottish Youth Dance) have been successfully delivering projects such as YDance Active, getting girls and young women active through dance with funding from sportscotland.

As a form of cultural expression, dance is uniquely placed to respond to a wide range of health and social issues.  Dance combines physical activity with the engagement of the creative spirit, and encourages emotional and artistic expression in individuals, as well as connecting people socially.

Public Health England has identified physical inactivity as a major priority, as recent evidence has shown this contributes to 1 in 10 deaths in the UK, which is equal to the impact of smoking. It also costs the UK economy £8.7 billion a year. The UK’s population is less active than those of most other developed countries, including the USA, and women and girls are more inactive than their male counterparts. Dance is a popular activity, and is particularly effective in engaging women and girls in physical activity, so it has an important role to play. Not only will dance get people more active, but research shows it can also improve mental health, and reduce social isolation - a big issue, for example, with older people.

One Dance UK and People Dancing have joined forces to raise the profile of dance, and to demonstrate that making dance more widely available is an effective way of addressing some of the big issues for Governments - such as health inequalities, obesity, mental health, and inactivity.

Andrew Hurst, Chief Executive of One Dance UK, commented: “We are really pleased to be working with People Dancing in this important area; developing with them a Strategic Framework for Dance in Health & Wellbeing. This important initiative builds upon One Dance UK’s advocacy programme, and we look forward to making a stronger case for dance, and to strengthening partnerships with public health, social care and education.”

Chris Stenton, Executive Director of People Dancing, added: “Engaging in the health and wellbeing agenda is not about changing what dance artists and teachers do - it’s about having confidence to know when and how to reframe the multitude of health and wellbeing benefits of dance and dancing. There are excellent examples already. Our ambition, through this new partnership with One Dance UK, is to scale this up so dance artists and organisations can make the most of new opportunities, engage in professional development and training, and access the latest research on how dance can improve health.”

There are other reasons to anticipate such opportunities ahead. Sport England has allocated £245 million of funding to tackle inactivity. It defines ‘physical activity’ as: sports, dance, walking and cycling, and it refers to the need for a wide and varied provision of dance. The PE (Physical Education) and School Sport Premium will also receive an increased investment of £160 million in September 2017, to get more children active, therefore influencing primary schools to spend more on high quality dance will be an immediate focus of this initiative.

Working closely with the public health, social care, education and sports sectors, the partnership will embed dance firmly within the health and wellbeing agenda.  

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People Dancing Summer School 2016. Photo by Rachel Cherry. 

The government, together with the health and sports sectors, is already focusing on tackling issues that include physical inactivity, obesity and mental health. Public Health England’s Everybody Active Everyday has set out a helpful framework for action. Making the case for dance in health and wellbeing is important if we are to raise the profile of dance and how it can improve the health of the nation.

The government’s latest strategy Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation is focused on getting people physically active to improve health and social outcomes. Sport England has £245 million of funding allocated to tackle inactivity, as outlined in its Sport England Strategy: Towards an Active Nation. It has defined physical activity as: sports, dance, walking and cycling and this represents a major opportunity for the dance sector to contribute to tackling inactivity through dance

The One Dance UK and People Dancing partnership is developing a Strategic Framework for Dance in Health & Wellbeing. It also aims to offer workforce development opportunities and share the emerging evidence on how dance improves health.

More information on commissioning dance to improve health and wellbeing is available on the Public Health England National Obesity Observatory - Commissioning Dance for Health and Wellbeing: Guidance and Resources for Commissioners.

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Making the case for dance in health and wellbeing

Physical inactivity

  • Physical inactivity contributes to 1 in 10 deaths in the UK. This is equal to smoking and costs the UK economy £8.7 billion a year. It is the fourth largest cause of disease and disability in the UK
  • Public Health England’s Everybody Active Everyday campaign has set out a framework for action to get more people active. Dance can engage people of all ages in physically activity and so can help improve health and wellbeing

Gender inequality

  • In the UK women and girls are more inactive than their male counterparts at every age across the life course
  • Only 38% of girls achieved the recommended hour of physical activity each day compared with 63% for boys (Griffiths 2013)
  • 19% of men and 25% of women do less than 30 minutes a week (PHE 2014)


  • Dance is popular and effective at engaging women and girls in physical activity
  • People Dancing’s surveys show £4.78 million people take part in dance each year in England and most of these are women and girls
  • The DCMS Taking Part Survey 15/16 shows that 41 % of girls aged 5 – 10 years old took part in dance outside of school compared to 18% being part of a sports club[1].

Reducing inequalities

  • Dance can be effective at engaging disadvantaged communities
  • Eg Over the last five years the Dance Action Zone Leeds (DAZL) dance programme, commissioned by Leeds Public Health, has engaged over 8,500 children from the most deprived areas in regular dance activity. 75% were girls and more than half were otherwise “inactive” beyond school.

Benefits of dance through the life course

  • Early Years: Dance improves cognitive and physical development and enhances social skills
  • Children and young people: Dance increases cardiovascular fitness, can prevent or reduce obesity and improve self-esteem
  • Adults: Dance can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and CHD and help maintain a healthy weight. It can also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Older People: Dance is a social activity that helps maintain cognitive function, reduces cardiovascular risk and risk of falls.

Dance in School

  • Dance is a compulsory part of the PE curriculum from Key Stage 1 to 3 (5 to 14 year olds)
  • The PE & Sport Premium provides at least £9,000 to each primary school (rising to around double this figure from September 2017) to support the delivery of high quality PE and Sport in School. This has already had a positive impact on dance. The 2015/16 report showed that dance was the most commonly cited new extra-curricular activity and the second most common new curricular activity, as a result of investment from the Premium
  • Numbers of students taking dance qualifications at Key Stage 4 and 5 have reduced and Governors and School Leadership Teams should be supported and encouraged to reinstate and improve their dance provision - see Guidance for Governors and Trustees. At a time when the mental and physical health of teenagers is an area for concern, taking part in dance can provide mental and physical health benefits as well as a valuable area of study in itself.

Regular dance sessions can provide a way for communities to be active, have fun and engage socially with others.

Community dance performances bring people together to share their achievements and can provide a positive and celebrational focus for disadvantaged communities.

Dance can communicate health education messages in a lively interactive way.

[1] Department for Culture, Media and Sport Taking Part Survey 2015/16

Tackling inactivity through dance

The government’s latest strategy Sporting Future: A New strategy for an Active Nation is focused on getting people physically active to improve health and social outcomes. It has defined physical activity as: sports, dance, walking and cycling and this represents a major opportunity for the dance sector to contribute to this national priority. The aim is to get the nation physically active and meet social outcomes through sport and dance. The five outcomes in the new DCMS Sporting Future strategy are:

  1. Physical wellbeing

  2. Mental wellbeing

  3. Individual development

  4. Social and community development

  5. Economic development.

Sport England has £245 million of funding allocated to tackle inactivity and outlined in their Sport England Strategy: Towards an Active Nation. Sport England has now widened its remit to include: Sports, Dance, Walking and Cycling for leisure. It will further widen its remit to include:

  • Children aged 5 years upwards (previously 14 years upwards)

  • A major focus now put on under represented groups and getting the most inactive groups active. These are women and girls, disadvantaged communities, people living with disabilities and older people

  • A focus on meeting social outcomes through active recreation; and improving health and wellbeing, individual development and social cohesion.

The strategy claims:

“Sport England will fund wider forms of walking for leisure and dance than we do today by investing in what is most appealing to our target audiences, and will deliver on the outcomes. We will not displace existing funding (eg from Arts Council England) and will not intervene where there is already a strong commercial offer.”

This is an exciting opportunity for participatory dance that is ideal to meet multiple outcomes. It represents a significant source of funding for the dance sector. However, it will need to evidence meeting social outcomes and engaging inactive and underrepresented groups. 

Organisations, artists and practitioners will benefit from strong partnerships with the sports, health and social care sectors.  Also building links with sports partners at a local and regional level will mean dance can be better embedded in broader physical activity programmes.