The Power of Music and Dance

Dance and music can be enjoyed by everybody.  Music has the power to help us relax or it can energize us. People of all abilities can engage with dance and music informally for pure enjoyment, or through formal programs that include therapeutic goals.

The simple act of listening to music can have health benefits.  For example, the 2014 documentary Alive Inside: A story of music and memory, chronicled the impact that listening to carefully selected music had on people with memory problems.  Many people found that specific music could trigger memories of past events that they had otherwise been unable to access.

A more formalized use of music is music therapy.  Music therapy is defined as the purposeful use of music within therapeutic relationships to support development, health, and well-being.  It is an evidence-based health profession in which music is used in many ways, including in physical rehabilitation programs to facilitate movement.

The Music Therapy Association of British Columbia has resources to help you find a credentialed music therapist in your area.

Opportunities for dance

Dance is not only fun, it can also help to improve movement and provide a cardiovascular workout. By participating in movement through dance, people with disabilities can experience an inclusive social activity that can potentially provide therapeutic benefit.

There are many ways people with cerebral palsy can participate in music and dance.

Children and youth with various disabilities can have fun while they participate in dance, creative movement and games through the Dance Without Limits program offered by the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC.  These adapted dance programs are currently available in Surrey, Victoria and Kelowna.  More information about these programs is available on the Association’s website.

Adults with disabilities may find movement and dance programs through their local community centre.  For example, in Vancouver, the Roundhouse Community Arts Centre and the Trout Lake Community Centre offer programs that bring together people with and without disabilities to explore movement as a means of creative expression.

What the research says

We know that dance and music can have beneficial effects, but do those effects add up to functional improvements for people with cerebral palsy? Studies have shown that dance can improve balance, posture, gait and walking in people with cerebral palsy. In addition, dance and music can support emotional expression and facilitate well-being, improve self-esteem and it may even improve social communication. Dance with music and rhythm may be integrated into rehabilitation and physical and occupational therapy to increase participating and enjoyment of therapy.  A summary of that study can be seen here.

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Brenda Osmond


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