Dancing Well: The Soldier Project
Dancing Well: The Soldier Project is a two-year program to provide restorative community dance experiences to soldiers and veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). Through a dance experience uniquely tailored to the needs of afflicted soldiers, veterans, and their families, these individuals will be able to benefit from the powerful healing, bonding, and socialization offered by traditional music and dance.
In a similar program offered to soldiers with PTSD and TBI two years ago at the VA Healthcare Center in Fort Knox, Kentucky, 100% of participating soldiers reported:
- improved physical health
- decreased sense of anxiety
- feeling more at ease around a group
- improved outlook on the future
- benefits from socializing and networking with other soldiers and families
In addition, 90% reported that their memory, mood, and relationships with others had improved, and 50% reported a decrease in their physical pain level.
“There is a real need for programs like this among soldiers and veterans with PTSD and TBI. The dancing helped their pain level, it helped their memory, and it helped with their anxiety. For some, it provided an outlet for the whole family. It gave them something fun to do together, and they all seemed to blossom.” - Edwin O. Walker, MD, MSPH, Staff psychiatrist, Ft. Knox dance series
For more information about the project at Fort Knox, please read my article that appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Country Dance and Song Society News. You can read it by clicking here.
Dancing Well hopes to achieve similar outcomes in three dance series for veterans with PTSD and TBI to be held in the first year of the program. Each dance series will feature ten ninety-minute sessions of family dance for veterans, their spouses, and their children 10 and over. Sessions will include live music, refreshments, child care for younger children, and experienced volunteers to dance with veterans lacking a partner. Dances taught will be traditional “barn dances” with simple steps, a dance caller, and small group interaction.
Description of photo at left: All participants wear a red ribbon on their right hand as a memory aid: Red for Right hand. As the dance series at Fort Knox progressed, soldiers, their partners and children began to cherish their red ribbons, some refusing to remove them between sessions. They became our uniform, our Red Badge of Courage, uniting us in our courageous actions toward wellness.
The program will also include development and implementation of a comprehensive curriculum to train dance callers, VA activities directors, social workers, dance therapists, and others to facilitate traditional dance responsibly and effectively with afflicted veterans and their families. While Dancing Well will be piloted in Louisville Kentucky, with logistical and recruitment support from the Robley Rex VA Medical Center and the Veterans’ Voices of Kentuckiana Mental Health Consumer Council, it will ultimately become a national program, positively impacting thousands of veterans and their families.
The project has earned the support of the Country Dance and Song Society, which is a non-profit organization supporting traditional dance and song. They are serving as the fiscal sponsor for this phase of The Soldier Project. If you would like more information about the project or wish to be notified of future trainings, please contact me.
Please support this important work with your financial contribution. No donation is too small or too large. When you click on the link at right, you will be directed to a webpage of the Country Dance and Song Society, where you can enter the details of your donation. Thank you for doing your part to bring the joyful and healing effects of dance to soldiers and veterans who truly need our help.
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