Kentucky 'Dancing Well' Project for Veterans with PTSD OK'd for Study by Connecticut University

Dec 29, 2016

Military veterans, family members and friends take part in a demonstration of 'Dancing Well' at a VA Health Expo in Louisville.
Credit Rhonda J Miller

A Kentucky barn dance-style program for military veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury has been approved for a research study at a Connecticut university.

Deborah Denenfeld is a dance educator and leader who launched "Dancing Well: The Soldier Project" five years ago at Fort Knox, and since then has held sessions in Louisville. She said data collectors will survey the veterans on non-medical factors that play an important role in their daily lives.

“We’re going to be looking at measures of optimism and hope, feelings of connectedness, trauma symptoms, and how much people avoid participating in events and projects that have been meaningful to them in the past,” said Denenfeld, who is executive director of Dancing Well.

The study will document the experiences of veterans before and after a 10-week session of community dances. Denenfeld said the research is an important step in evaluating the impact of the program.          

“The basic question is, ‘Can a community dance help veterans, their families and loved ones recover from the isolating effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?’ "

Psychology Professor Robin Gustafson will conduct the study at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. She became interested in the project when she met Denenfeld at a workshop for traditional dance and song.

The research project is expected to begin in late January. The series of community dances will be held in Louisville for veterans, as well as family members and friends. Since the Dancing Well project began, about 90 people have participated.