Using dance fitness to improve student wellbeing

Darcey Bussell

Dame Darcey Bussell DBE is the most famous British ballet dancer of her generation. Former Strictly Come Dancing Judge, Darcey is patron of 14 charities, including being President of the Royal Academy of Dance, Campaign President of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and the overseas Patron of the Sydney Dance Company. Darcey founded DDMIX (Diverse Dance Mix), a dance fitness program, whose primary aim is to have dance fitness incorporated into an expanded physical education in British schools.

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Following on from her presentation at BETT, entitled ‘Using dance fitness to improve student wellbeing’, Dame Darcey Bussell is delighted to share her passion to get more children into dance fitness to improve overall wellbeing.

Given the low level of participation in physical activity in the UK, we clearly need more ways to engage and inspire children. I‘m not saying we should replace team sports and athletics, but it’s time to add another element. In addition, we are entering an era where today’s students are going to spend most of their adult working lives and social lives in front of a screen, so physical activity must match the current stimulation of the digital urban world.

It is even more important than ever to give them the tools to create balance in their lives. It sounds so simple, but dance-based exercise has the tools to create this balance. When you add music, inclusivity, culture, diversity and fun, you capture the child’s interest and maintain it. I believe that every school should implement dance fitness into PE, allowing all students to gain a concentrated package of wellbeing. I am convinced that teaching dance fitness in PE can be as natural as teaching netball, football or athletics.

I know that the school day is short, classes are large, and the amount teachers do in a five day week as educators is extraordinary, so teachers need a tool that will fit with their schedules and deliver lots of benefits to their students really quickly. Professor Wendy Suzuki, a neurologist, states in her TED talk that “Exercise is the most transformative workout for the brain. It instantly gives you longer protection of your memory, helps focus attention and puts you in a better mood…. Reactions are quicker, you get an energy boost, you are less tired.”

But dance fitness goes even further than just regular exercise. The complex mental stimulation that dance movements require increases coordination and balance skills, aids logical sequencing and provides an appreciation of rhythm and teaches musicality.

It is another form of expression, allowing a young person to express feelings they might not be able to do otherwise. It also increases their own self-confidence by breaking down inhibitions, as it is not a judgmental win or lose activity. It is inexpensive, non-competitive and completely inclusive giving every child the opportunity to experience the numerous benefits of dance - and not just those who can attend classes outside of the school day.

At DDMIX, which is a social enterprise, we have spent the last four years working on creating the perfect toolkit to incorporate dance fitness directly into PE, making it simple to deliver, fun to teach, and effective. Our programme can make confident dance fitness teachers out of everyone in any school by providing a programme that they want to teach, without having to spend lots of time planning. We have Schemes of Work for KS1, 2 and 3 which include all the resources you need, and our insets can be held either at your school or online. With dance fitness embedded in your PE curriculum and producing more physically active children, we will have a much larger pool of children in the UK interested in sport, in the arts, and having the confidence to explore their own creativity in other fields… and, most importantly, their wellbeing will be much improved.

To find out how DDMIX can work for your school, please visit

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