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Dance for Health Research

The focus of our ‘Dance for Health’ projects is to help address various health issues that we hold as a county such as high rates of childhood obesity, loneliness and social isolation for both families and older people and low rates of physical activity. All of these factors also contribute to longer-term poor mental health.


All of our activity, in the programmes mentioned, includes 30 - 60 minutes of activity per session where participants develop and test their motor and cognitive learning, are active in the activity so increasing mobility, fitness and coordination and overall general physical health and wellbeing. After each session is delivered we then include 30 – 60 minutes where the participants socialise with other like-minded people, supporting them in discussion and encouraging them to create relationships to support in the reduction of social isolation for families, older people and those with long-term degenerative disorders . 


Click on the links below for further details on projects or continue to read our summary below. 


Evaluation of the 'Dance on Prescription' Programme

Shabnam Sagar and Vanessa Baxter, from the School of Health and Social Care

at the University of Essex, designed a survey to be completed by participants at the start of their attendance at the dance sessions and a follow-up survey to be completed around six months later to track changes.

These surveys were completed on paper, with the help of one of the Dance Network’s members of staff where needed, and then entered onto an online form. Each person was given a unique ID in order to be able to compare data from the two-time points at an individual level.

The questionnaires included several self-report measures: the Brief Resilience Scale; GAD 7 anxiety tool; and the Campaign to End Loneliness Measurement Tool.

To read the full evaluation and to view the findings, click here 


Interactive Family Dance for 0 – 5 year old children and their parents/carers in Essex 


The Interactive Family Dance Programme came about when 'we' (The Dance Network Association) received funding for a pilot dance project from the Essex Challenge Prize (Essex County Council supported by NESTA for the Families Included Prize 2016). This project was delivered over a 6-week  pilot which took place between September and December 2016 devised and delivered by our director Gemma Wright and Dance Artist Lucy Blazheva in Harlow venues a Children's Centre and a Gallery Space. 

From this pilot, we were awarded further funding from Essex Prize Challenge as the runners-up to Families Included Prize and won £5000.00. This has allowed us to explore more thoroughly the impact of the project upon reaching our aims and developed our workforce as we have been able to mentor new artists to roll out this programme in new areas. 

Our successful and award-winning programme (Essex Prize Challenge/Nesta) has proven a reduction in social isolation with parents and carers with children between the ages of 0 -5 years of age.


The focus of our idea is to explore the impact that creative dance, paired with providing basic nutritional information in family centres/locations, can help address various health issues including childhood obesity, loneliness and isolation. We will advise, support and educate both young dancers and their parents/carers in a fun and non-patronising environment involving hourly dance sessions of physical activity. These will be followed by a space where families can come together, talk, discuss, make friends and socialise over a cup of tea and healthy snacks.


All of this will contribute to creating happier lives as we will be providing physical activity for 60 minutes per week which for children and adults to improve their health. Through creative tasks, children will develop their motor and cognitive development and for both child and parents supporting their social skills by being with other like-minded families and reducing social isolation.


The award that we received from the Essex Prize Challenge allowed us to deliver a 10-week programme of activity in Harlow, and also enabled us to bring on board Elsa Urmston, a Dance Science Researcher, to create a literature report and track our families and delve a little further into how the project is supporting a reduction in social isolation.

Here is the Harlow Report

We subsequently explored our findings further afield in two new areas of Essex, Colchester and Chelmsford. Both programmes were supported by grants from Essex County Council. While the Chelmsford class does not yet have a dance science reporting stream attached to it, please see our Colchester Report

After winning the initial award in Spring 2017, we pitched the idea in Barking and Dagenham (B&D) with the Borough's Public Health Department, with the aim of demonstrating the same outcomes in a more diverse and multi-cultural area than in the Essex projects. Dance artist Louise Klarnett and a team of supporting artists deliver the B&D programme at The Broadway Theatre each Thursday and we very much look forward to seeing a film documentary of the work soon!

Here is the initial report, written again by Elsa Urmston Barking and Dagenham Report.

Virtual Dance Class

Schools Research

Dance Network Association: Primary and Secondary School Research
Evaluated by Louisa Petts, March 2021

This evaluation document focuses on understanding the impact of dance programmes run by The Dance Network Association for primary, secondary and sixth form schools. The current provision of dance in schools nationally is argued to be in decline due to funding cuts and a focus on ‘more academic’ subjects.

The purpose of this evaluation is to explore how the dance programmes the Dance Network Association offers can be tailored to suit the educational needs of schools in Essex and the surrounding areas. This evaluation report builds a body of empirical evidence to support the continued provision of dance activity in schools.

2016 Braintree Dance Festival - Schools Photos by  DNA team (270).jpg
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