News: BUPA Foundation Prize for dance research

Monday 28 November 2011

Dr Sara Houston and Ashley McGill from the University of Roehampton with Professor Parveen Kumar, Chair of Bupa Foundation.

Programmes run by English National Ballet in London and Mark Morris Dance Group in New York, working with people who are affected by the incurable degenerative condition Parkinson’s, have been demonstrating the very real value that dance has in helping people to live with challenging medical conditions.

In the UK, English National Ballet have run their progamme in association with the University of Roehampton. Dr. Sara Houston and her research team in the Dance Department examined English National Ballet’s Dance for Parkinson’s classes over 12 weeks using ethnographic and scientific research methods. They demonstrated how dancing boosts physical and social confidence, as well as encouraging more fluid and comfortable movement.

Now their work has been recognised by the Bupa Foundation, who have awarded Dr Houston its Vitality for Life Prize for her groundbreaking research. She said: “It is tremendously exciting to win such a prestigious award. It signals the importance of dance research, of the seriousness behind having fun. For people with Parkinson’s, dancing offers a physical, creative and social outlet that addresses healthy living in a holistic way. The Prize is a real boost to dance’s acceptance as a credible alternative to straightforward exercising.”

Bupa’s group medical director and deputy chairman of the Bupa Foundation, Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen, said: “There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, so sufferers can live with the condition for up to 30 years. Dance is always a joyous and sociable activity, but Dr. Houston and the English National Ballet have proven that it can also tangibly improve lives. The Bupa Foundation is delighted to recognise this groundbreaking research which we hope will improve the quality of life for people in the UK and beyond.”

Dr Houston received the Bupa Foundation Prize at a ceremony at Lincoln’s Inn in London on 10 November 2011. She also received a cheque for £15,000 to help further her research.

Meanwhile, English National Ballet have now extended their programme and the University of Roehampton is embarking on a second phase of research in partnership with the company to look at the experience of dancing with Parkinson’s long term over three years.

More on English National Ballet’s Dance for Parkinson’s Programme

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