Re-imagining ‘how’ community dance affects the health and wellbeing of older adults


  • Francine Hills Creative Arts and Industries, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Ralph Buck Creative Arts and Industries, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Rebecca Weber Creative Arts and Industries, University of Auckland, New Zealand



Dance, health, aging, qualitative, worldview


We are currently experiencing unprecedented population aging worldwide, with people over 65 projected to outnumber youth for the first time in human history.  As such, the need to support this demographic’s health and wellbeing has never been more acute. There is a growing recognition that engagement with dance and arts provides numerous benefits for the health of older people, with existing research existing primarily within a biomedical model of efficacy.  Driven by the primary research question “how does dance affect the health and wellbeing of older adults”, we reflect on the potential insights gained by returning to the root of research aims and methodologies.  Sitting in conversation with dance and health scholarship and leaning into critical gerontology debate, this article broadens discourse to consider not only how evidence is articulated, but as importantly, how it is being asked.  Through a series of exploratory “how” questions that critically engage with literature from practitioner, participant, and sector perspectives, we consider elucidating the origins of research enquiry as fundamental to broadening and deepening our understandings of the benefits of community dance for the health and wellbeing of older adults. 


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Author Biographies

Francine Hills, Creative Arts and Industries, University of Auckland, New Zealand


Francine Hills, MA Dance Practices (Distinction) from Liverpool John Moores University was awarded the Rosemary Buchanan Scholarship through University of Auckland to pursue PhD research in community dance as falls prevention.  She also holds a post graduate diploma in Movement Pyschotherapy. Through her fifteen years of working within a community dance framework, her practice and research interests have become centred around community dance for older adults and those living with Parkinson’s.  Particular interests include: practice and pedagogy for diverse community groups, arts in health, gerontology and falls prevention. She has presented at conferences throught the UK and internationally.  

Ralph Buck, Creative Arts and Industries, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Ralph Buck, (PhD), Associate Professor, is Head of Dance Studies, and Associate Dean International, University of Auckland. His research focuses on dance education curriculum, dance pedagogy and community dance. Ralph is the UNESCO Chair on Dance and Social Inclusion, and executive member of World Alliance for Arts Education (WAAE). Ralph’s work has been recognised by several University of Auckland awards such as, Distinguished Teaching Award, 2008; Award for Leadership, 2010; Excellence in Equal Opportunities 2006; and, Research Excellence Award, 2016. He has delivered invited keynotes and master classes in China, Australia, Columbia, Sweden, Finland, Singapore, Denmark, New Zealand and Fiji.

Rebecca Weber, Creative Arts and Industries, University of Auckland, New Zealand


Rebecca Weber, PhD, MFA, MA, RSME/RSMT/RSDE, THE, FHEA is a lecturer in Dance Studies and Course Director for the Master in Dance Movement Therapy degree at the University of Auckland. She is an ISMETA-registered somatic movement/dance educator/therapist, whose PhD in Dance Psychology from Coventry University was funded by the Leverhulme Trust. As co-director of Project Trans(m)it and director of Somanaut Dance, Weber’s choreography has been presented internationally. Associate editor for Dance, Movement, and Spiritualities, Weber’s research interests include: somatics, wellness, creativity, dance psychology, digital technologies, choreography and interdisciplinary creative practices, and pedagogy.