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Darcey Bussell: Dancing to Happiness

Dame Darcey Bussell explores the value of dancing in improving mental health and meets a range of people using dance as therapy.

Darcey Bussell knows how important dancing has been throughout her life. As a prima ballerina, she found it gave her structure and confidence. And when she retired from her professional career 12 years ago, she realised just how crucial dancing had become. 'About a year afterwards it came in this massive wave that I was missing something about who I was as a person, and it was dance basically.' So today she still dances, 'different styles of dance but just not taking it to the obsession I did with classical ballet'.

Since her retirement from professional ballet, Dame Darcey Bussell has become a formidable advocate for promoting dance at all stages of life, and to help not just the body, but just as importantly the mind. She has piloted dance classes for schoolchildren across the country and spoken in Parliament calling for dance to be a key part of the curriculum to help children's fitness. She is aware that tackling our mental health crisis is an important challenge that affects many in the UK today and strongly believes that the value of dancing is undervalued in improving our mental health. So in this programme, Darcey's mission is to meet a wide range of people using dance as therapy and as a result experiencing the joy of 'dancing to happiness'.

In Manchester Darcey meets an inspiring choreographer and dancer, Kevin Turner. Kevin draws on his personal mental health experiences to help young people across the world and has returned to his home town to start a therapeutic dance project for young women who have been referred by a local support group. In the last 25 years, depression amongst teenagers has risen by 70% in the UK and the girls Kevin works with suffer from a range of conditions that affect all aspects of their lives. Darcey takes part in a six-week course to see if Kevin's work can help the girls learn, often for the first time, just how much they can achieve.

At the University of Hertfordshire dancer turned scientist Dr Peter Lovatt is now at the cutting edge of dance research. He is part of a growing movement of practitioners using dance to help with mental health. Peter and his colleagues are researching to find out if the psychological benefits of social dance have a positive effect on people with degenerative conditions. They are focusing on Parkinson's and at the class they run Darcey finds their work is delivering some surprising results.

In Bury, the Silver Swans are using dance to overcome the isolation and loneliness which so often troubles people when they retire. Darcey joins their weekly ballet class and hears their stories about the value they see in dancing. To the class's surprise, she even takes them through one of their dances! In Edinburgh, Darcey meets the ladies and gentlemen of Morningside to understand how those lost to dementia - a condition that affects over 850,000 people in the UK - might be helped through music and movement.

At the end of her journey, Darcey returns to Manchester for the final rehearsals before the girls let their families see them perform. She talks to both girls and their mums about what the dance class has meant to them, and watches the hugely impressive dance they have created. It is a very emotional moment for all.

59 minutes

Last on

Sun 24 Apr 2022 23:20

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:00

    In The Style of Jorja Smith Fe

    Let Me Down

  • 00:02

    Jorja Smith

    Let Me Down (feat. Stormzy)

  • 00:13

    Agnes Obel

    Citizen Of Glass

  • 00:18

    Dean Martin, Dick Stabile

    Pretty As A Picture

  • 00:19



  • 00:21

    Allman Brown

    Dust & Heat

  • 00:21

    Allman Brown

    Dust & Heat

  • 00:24

    Tom Walker

    Fly Away With me

  • 00:30

    City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra

    The Letter That Never Came

  • 00:38


    All I Wanted

  • 00:43

    Tom Walker

    Leave A Light On

  • 00:59

    Professor Green

    Read All About It (feat. Emeli Sandé)


Role Contributor
Presenter Darcey Bussell
Director Pamela Gordon
Editor Ian Garvin
Executive Producer Ross Wilson
Producer Jonathan Skuse
Production Manager Paul McCaffery
Production Company Matchlight


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