Herbert Simon once famously stated: “design like science is a tool for understanding as well as for acting.” What might be examples of principles, methods, processes, and strategies of a successful art/design and science integration that may accelerate our ability to both innovate and act?
Kevin Morris, NAKFI Science Writing Scholar
Let’s dance. The team was asked to use creativity, innovation, and action to generate a project that bridges art and science in a substantial way. In doing so, the group decided to “unveil” the power of dance and validate the cultural, health, and psychological benefits that dance has on individuals and communities. This project would integrate mind and body through dance to enhance the capacity for groups of individuals to navigate the path through complex issues in a way that is collaborative and relatively free of friction. In addition, this project would further highlight the advantages that result from using dance as more than just an art form.
The idea that dance has beneficial effects on individuals is not new. In fact, dance is commonly used to aid in the treatment of a variety of diseases, reduce stress, and influence cultural change. Consisting of members from
the dance community, the group was widely aware of the anecdotal benefits of dance but also the lack of rigorous studies that support these benefits. The group noted that there have only been a limited number of small-scale studies to support the beneficial effects of dance. These studies were often restricted to the individual physical health benefits of some dance forms. The lack of a large-scale study of the universe of dance and movement and its efficacy on individual and community health and well-being then emerged as the targeted issue of the group’s focus. A project of this kind would lessen the divide between science and art, as it would scientifically test the parameters of dance on human problems.
In order to make this study as thorough as possible, the group needed a method that targeted a diverse group of individuals and incorporated a variety of different dance forms. After hours of debating, the group proposed an app-based approach to collect data on the benefits of any and all types of dance in a comprehensive, rigorous, and innovative way. This proposal utilizes citizen science and crowd-sourced methods to collect data on individuals of all ages and nationalities who are participating in dance. These self-reported data would then be analyzed to measure the impact of dance on an individual’s overall health and well-being. This large-scale data collection would constitute the first phase of the study. The second phase would consist of an onsite study that measures how dancing affects individuals in a workplace or classroom setting. The greater lessons from this study could extend far beyond dance. Although focusing on dance, this idea has the power to serve as a template for measuring the benefits of different types of art forms, such as musical or theater arts, on individuals.
For the first phase of the project, the group wanted to employ a technology that is easy to use and familiar to diverse groups of people. Drawing inspiration from current culture, the team adopted the premise that an app located on people’s smart devices would be appropriate. The app enables everyday people to collect data on the effect dancing has on others. By partnering with businesses, hospitals, schools, and other institutions or organizations, the group will expand its resources for the study and maximize participation. Individuals would enroll in the study by downloading the app and creating a profile. Participants would then self-report their frequency and type of dance, along with indicators of their biological, psychological, and social well-being. The study would also take advantage of digital technologies to automatically monitor aspects of health such as heart rate or sleep quality. All of this information would be synchronized with the self-reported data into the app, allowing for a comprehensive analysis.
As a second phase of the study, the group wanted a way to take all of the acquired data and test the efficacy of the study in a controlled environment. This pursuit would be accomplished by complementing the group’s citizen science project with a study at a place-based study. Using an environment such as a workplace or a classroom, the group envisions incorporating a structured dance program into the routine of the individuals. The group can then measure the same biological, psychological, and social aspects that were reported in phase one. In doing this approach, the citizen science data can be compared to the environmental data in phase two. The major ability of phase two would be the ability to extend the study to evaluate the use of embodied learning on individuals’ performance and their interaction within a group.
An extended phase of this study would be the establishment of permanent dance centers in need-based areas. These areas include underserved communities and schools but also work environments that could benefit from the use of dance. These dance centers would implement a curriculum that would be derived from the data collected from the study. A person would enroll in the center and be given a dance program to help alleviate problems and better navigate personal challenges. Use of these centers would improve the overall health and well-being of a workplace or a community.
All in all, the team sought to unveil the power of dance by creating a scientific measure of the benefits of dance. The major and most immediate outcome of the project is a data-driven description of the impact of dance. With strategic implementation, this assessment can be used to spark institutional and personal change. By validating the benefits of dance, this study has the power to also restructure the way institutions visualize and use dance. A hope of the group would be to create a society where institutions establish a common practice to include dancers in business teams, city councils, or schools. On a personal level, individuals will learn to regularly use dance as a method to fight workplace stagnancy, disease, and social isolation. By reuniting the mind and body through dance, individuals will learn new ways to navigate through the complex social and personal issues that confront them.
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