From the lab to the dancefloor

Investigating the therapeutic benefits of dance for Parkinson's.

Parkinson’s disease affects up to 2% of the population aged over 65, and there is a need for non-medical approaches to improve quality of life for those living with this neurodegenerative condition. Dance could offer an effective - yet enjoyable - option that may be beneficial not only for movement but also in a range of other areas that can be affected in Parkinson’s, such as motivation, mood and cognition. Although there is some evidence to support the effects of dance in motor and non-motor domains in Parkinson’s, little is known about how particular aspects of dance may contribute to these outcomes.

Researchers in the Body Eyes and Movement (BEAM) Lab has been investigating the involvement of internal action representations, through observing, imitating and imagining movement, in dance for people with Parkinson’s. The research, which has been conducted in collaboration with dance artists and Parkinson’s representatives, aims to increase understanding of action representation in dance, and identify potential improvements in everyday movement and communication for people with Parkinson’s.

Read more about the project 


  • Principal investigator: Dr Judith Bek, Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology, University of Manchester
  • Manchester Co-Investigator: Dr Ellen Poliakoff, Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology, University of Manchester
  • Dr Matthew Sullivan, Manchester Metropolitan University 
  • Equilibrium Dance and Arts
  • English National Ballet 

Research outputs

  • Findings of this research have been presented both nationally (Parkinson’s UK Research Conference) and internationally (Research in Imagery and Observation, Germany; American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, USA; University of Western Ontario, Canada).
  • The team were invited to present to the patient and public groups including Parkinson’s UK Research Support Network and North West Coast Clinical Research Network.
  • Researchers from the BEAM Lab were invited to a Parkinson’s UK funded network meeting ‘Measuring Music, Movement and Motivation for People with Parkinson’s’ at the Dance Psychology Lab, University of Hertfordshire.
  • The research was also featured in an article on dance and Parkinson’s in The Guardian