Dance, Arts And Other Relevant Research Studies

The Effects Of Dance Or Mindfulness Programs On Well-Being

Research report in partial fulfillment of BA(Hons), School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University
Date submitted: 2010
Author / Researcher: Heidi Ch’ng

This study investigated the separate and combined effects of dance and mindfulness on well-being. Sixty adults (10 males, 50 females, M = 39.3 years) from the general community self-selected into an Improvisational Dance, Mindfulness Meditation or Contemporary Dance program for a five-six week period. The Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, Orientations to Happiness Measure, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule and Satisfaction with Life Scale measured subjective well-being (SWB). Demographic circumstances were also recorded.

The main hypothesis that the Improvisational Dance group, as a combination of dance and mindfulness, would yield greater increases in SWB over the baseline to post-program period compared to the other groups was not supported. The prediction that mindfulness would increase the most over time for the Improvisational Dance and Mindfulness Meditation groups was not supported either. However, results partially supported the hypothesis that SWB would increase for each group over time as significant improvements were observed for mindfulness, engagement orientation, life satisfaction and negative affect. The benefits of Improvisational Dance to well-being were similar to those elicited by the separate dance and mindfulness components. Findings can contribute to the effectiveness of dance and mindfulness interventions, although replication with a full experimental design is recommended. Copy of thesis can be obtained by emailing Heather at

Cultural Dance As Life Experience: Perceptions Of Māori Performers In Melbourne

M.Ed. thesis, University of Melbourne
Date submitted: 1996
Author / Researcher: Kim Dunphy

This study examines the significance of cultural arts in the lives of seven performers in Te Ruawhenua, a Maori cultural group based in Melbourne, Australia. Respondents covered a diverse experience of age, gender and cultural backgrounds. Through qualitative analysis of interview transcripts supported by observations of rehearsals and performances, data were distilled into themes related to cultural identity, social benefits, individual expression and connected arts. Literature from a range of sources was reviewed as background to the topic and also to interpret the findings. Categories of literature included culture and ethnic identity, Maori culture, and cultural arts, particularly dance.

This research has revealed both benefits and challenges of cultural group involvement. Membership of Te Ruawhenua provides role diversity adding to members’ lives a dimension which may have been a continuing affirming experience. It also offered opportunities for the intrinsic enjoyment of performing, the challenge of competing and pleasurable experiences that all members of a family could share. Te Ruawhenua members indicated that the group functioned like a supportive family, one which shares similar values and actively endeavours to pass them on to the next generation.

This study reinforces earlier theories that Maori cultural arts activities offer a realm of positive benefits including cultural identification, social community and personal empowerment. Te Ruawhenua seemed to give members a sense of place and belonging which may have been traditionally provided by the tribe. At the same time, it also provided a focus towards the future, dealing with current concerns and issues for group members living in a western culture.

In overview, frequent reference to cultural arts as offering both immediate pleasures and a deeper sense of identity and belonging was conveyed by seven Maori performers from a multi-generational context in Melbourne, Australia.

Full text available at:

The Role Of Participatory Arts In Social Change In Timor-Leste

PhD thesis, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University
Date submitted: 2013
Author / Researcher:  Kim Dunphy

Participatory arts initiatives are increasingly utilised as tools for social change in international development contexts. However, theories of change for these interventions are often poorly articulated, making planning processes less effective and reducing their suitability for evaluation. At the same time, formal evaluation processes that provide a full assessment of outcomes are infrequently undertaken. This research responds to this situation by presenting and trialling three new models for participatory arts initiatives: two theory of change models to support planning and a holistic approach to evaluation.

Five participatory arts initiatives provide case studies to which the models are applied, facilitating both examination of the usefulness of the models and the effectiveness of the initiatives. These case studies are all based in the half-island nation of Timor-Leste, an emerging democracy that faces many challenges after centuries of colonial oppression. The research demonstrates that the models can contribute to evidence-based planning approaches and effective evaluation. The theory of change models applied to the case studies indicate potential for improved planning processes of participatory arts initiatives, by facilitating alignment of organisational values, goals, intended outcomes and activities, and enabling evaluation against desired goals. The holistic evaluation model provides a viable solution to the conundrum of the purported intangible nature of the arts and its impacts, as well as calls from the human progress movement for consideration of outcomes beyond economic and social.

In applying the evaluation model to the case studies, it is apparent that these participatory arts initiatives offer significant positive outcomes for program participants, particularly in the dimensions of social, cultural, and personal well-being. Skill development and engagement with new ideas that lead to new opportunities and realisation of potential were the most significant benefits for individuals. Direct and indirect positive outcomes on the wider community and broader society were also evident, including reduced family and community disharmony and increased positive engagement with the wider world. One recurring challenge for case study organisations was the issue of appropriate leadership models that are empowering and affirming for Timorese leaders while still providing effective support and skills transfer. Factors in achievement of successful project outcomes included the use of creative participatory processes, direction by skilled leaders and modelling of inclusive and respectful relationships. Additional benefits were obtained in programs that gave credence to Timorese culture while also introducing new ideas and possibilities.

Full text available at:

Thesis in hard copy held at University of Melbourne library (not for loan)

The Therapeutic Effects Of Music And Dance On The Health Of New Mothers

M.App.Sc thesis, La Trobe University
Date submitted: 2002
Author / Researcher: Beth Rankin

A randomised controlled trial, pilot study was conducted to test the hypothesis that active participation in music and dance classes would make a difference to the health and well-being of new mothers.

A total of 84 new mothers were recruited from Maternal and Child Health Centres in the inner north eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The women were randomised into groups with other new mothers and offered twenty weeks of active music and dance classes with their babies present. The women were randomised into ‘early’ groups and ‘late’ groups. The ‘early’ groups started the classes immediately while the ‘late’ groups waited four to six months before starting the intervention classes. Participation was noticeably different between the ‘early’ and the ‘late’ groups, with a significant drop out rate from those who were asked to wait.

Health outcomes measured included the SF-36 Health and well-being questionnaire, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and the Sarason Social Support Questionnaire (SSQ). Participants answered self administered questionnaires before and after participating in an interactive music program. The results are presented as descriptive analysis.

The purpose of the pilot study was to test the methods and to make recommendations for a larger trial. The study concluded that a large trial was warranted with some minor changes recommended in the definitive study design.

Full text available at:

Thesis in hard copy (including CD of songs/dances) available at La Trobe University library