The use of dance as a vehicle/instrument for enhancing communication and relationship building when supporting people with dementia.

Funded by the Research Investment Fund at De Montfort University, this project began in September 2017 and was completed in November 2018.

Role: Lead Researcher


Dance has been noted as a non-pharmacological intervention commonly being used to support people to live well with their dementia.Though there is a groundswell of practice in this area, the evidence to demonstrate its positive effects for people with dementia remains scant and piecemeal – largely due to such work being judged by practitioners on an intuitive basis , as well as the methodological challenges for conducting such research . The aim of this project was to investigate the use of dance as a vehicle/instrument for enhancing communication and relationship building when supporting people with dementia – with a particular focus on whether practices can be replicated by carers and family members. 


As this study was a pilot, it involved a small scale qualitative study using a case study approach. The first stage of this project involved a systematic literature review to explore the various dance interventions that have been delivered for people with dementia and the ways in which these have been evaluated – the findings of which informed the research design and dance intervention for this project. Three pairs of consenting participants (person with dementia and a family member/carer), were recruited to participate in a dance intervention delivered in their home by a dance professional. The intervention was visually recorded for evaluation purposes. Families were then provided with a guide for delivering a similar intervention in their own time within one week for the first intervention and to note their experiences of this. They were also asked to keep a journal. A follow up interview was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness.


The dance intervention when delivered by a professional showed improved mood, and concentration from the person with dementia. There was also visual evidence of improved communication between the person with dementia and their family member/carer.

When family member’s delivered the intervention they found that they required more than written guidance and that visual footage would be easier to follow.  Even though the attempt was not the same as the one delivered by the professional dancer, family carers reported an improved sense of wellbeing and a ‘release’ just by ‘having a go.’ They also reported that the dance intervention was successful in breaking what they described as ‘the loop’ – whereby their loved one essentially goes on repeat with repetitive questioning.


The small scale pilot study highlighted some of the benefits for family carers being able to deliver dance interventions for their loved one with dementia in their own home, and has suggested some of the ways in which this can be achieved. A larger study would further prove the benefits of this, and test a visually recorded intervention for use in peoples home.