From effects to affect
: The multidimensional impact of dancing with Parkinson’s

  • Anna Carapellotti

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Parkinson’s is a progressive neurodegenerative condition characterized by a variety of motor and non-motor symptoms that can lead to increasing disability and complex psychosocial challenges. While medical treatments can help people living with Parkinson’s to manage symptoms, they do not fully address many challenges associated with the condition, including balance issues, stigma and unpredictability. Art and exercise are increasingly being recognized as therapeutic for people living with Parkinson’s, and dance interventions have been demonstrated to improve several motor and non-motor symptoms and quality of life (QOL) in a number of small studies. Outside of laboratory and clinical settings, dance programs for people living with Parkinson’s have been implemented in communities worldwide, yet more research is needed to characterize their effects and understand their broader impact. This thesis aims to assess the effects and impact of dance using mixed methods. First, a systematic review of randomized controlled trials was conducted to assess the efficacy of dance for people living with Parkinson’s and the quality of existing evidence. Then, the feasibility of implementing a dance program for people living with Parkinson’s and conducting an intervention trial in Northern Ireland was assessed and preliminary analyses were conducted on dance’s effects on motor and non-motor outcomes. Based on feedback from participants in our feasibility study and in the literature that dancing can have an immediate, short-term effect on mobility, mood and energy, a follow up study was conducted to investigate the short-term effects of dance on several motor and non-motor outcomes. The final participatory study explored the lived experience of dancing in people living with Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis and its impact on the body, self and relationships with others using a range of qualitative methods, including semi-structured interviews and observations analyzed using a phenomenological approach. This thesis concludes that dance has the potential to impact movement of the body, one’s state of mind, relational health, and the quality and movement of life in people living with Parkinson’s. Many people living with Parkinson’s and other chronic illnesses who dance seem to make it a part of their lives due to its holistic impact on several dimensions of health and the passion that develops from the practice.

Thesis embargoed until 31 December 2024.
Date of AwardDec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsThouron Award, Netherland-America Foundation and Fulbright Commission & Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorMihalis Doumas (Supervisor) & Matthew Rodger (Supervisor)


  • Parkinson's disease
  • dance
  • systematic review
  • feasibility study
  • quality of life
  • participatory research
  • Multiple Sclerosis

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