Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Derek Reid

Second Advisor

Susan McGuire


Throughout history, dance has been used as a means of promoting health and wellbeing and for healing the sick. These practices date back to some of the earliest Neolithic societies with the advent of the circle dance in shamanistic cultures and continue into today’s society. Notable examples of healing dances include dances devoted to Apollo in ancient Greek culture, the dancing manias of medieval Europe, and the tarantism of southern Italy that dates back to the fourteenth century. Today, the primary role of dance in healing is the use of dance/movement therapy which, according to the website of the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA), aims to use movement to “promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration” (ADTA; n.d.). This thesis explores the extent to which dance/movement therapy evolved from these historical dances of healing and its practical applications in treating contemporary diseases and disorders. In particular, emphasis is placed on the effectiveness of dance/movement therapy as a treatment option for individuals with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting approximately six million people worldwide, the incidence of which is expected to increase dramatically in coming years as the result of an aging population. The quantitative impact on both physiological and psychological symptoms of Parkinson’s is explored, as is qualitative evidence derived from interviews and surveys conducted with participants, caregivers, and instructors. In light of the evidence, potential avenues for further research or for widespread implementation of dance therapy programs specifically designed for individuals with Parkinson’s disease are explored.

Included in

Dance Commons