Griffith University: Ballet pilot to benefit those living with a brain injury

A pilot program aims to revolutionise rehabilitation for people living with a brain injury by using ballet.

Ballet for Brain Injury, a 10-week program launched by Queensland Ballet (QB), is supported by a review of existing research on dance for brain injury and related conditions by Griffith University researchers Joel Spence, Associate Professor Naomi Sunderland and Adjunct Research Fellow Belinda Adams.

The first of its kind and developed in partnership with The Hopkins Centre, the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre and Citrine Sun Entertainment, Ballet for Brain Injury aims to develop a new evidence-informed approach to engaging people living with brain injuries. Ten participants have been attending weekly classes along with their carer.


The program uses ballet-based movement, music and artistry to enable participants to experience the enjoyment, creative expression and wellbeing benefits dance can bring.

Griffith University program director and research co-lead Professor Elizabeth Kendall commended QB’s pilot for its inclusivity and the opportunity it provided to further the world of rehabilitation.

“We know exercise is healthy for our brains, and for people with brain injuries the opportunity to engage in physical activity is limited, but it could really improve their rehabilitation outcomes,” Professor Kendall said.

“QB is providing a fun way for people with brain injuries to keep healthy and could revolutionise the way we do rehabilitation in future.”

The program follows the format of a standard ballet class, with participants starting at the barre with smaller movements before learning sequences, choreography and partnering work.

Beyond the ballet movement, the class has an inherent focus on creativity and social expression.

Associate Professor Sunderland said accessing arts and culture was a fundamental human right for all people, but particularly those with disabilities.

“Opportunities to engage in arts and cultural activities as an active participant can be limited for people who experience traumatic injury and their carers due to limits in the way programs are designed,” Professor Sunderland said.


“Ballet for Brain Injury has been developed to offer evidence-informed and flexible dance opportunities for people who have experienced brain injury and their carers.

“It is an incredible step forward to systematically include arts and cultural activities such as this in community rehabilitation and care.”

Queensland Ballet Education Manager Martha Godber said QB was deeply committed to creative health and exploring ways dance can be a vehicle to improve the lives of people living with injury, illness or disease.

“QB Teaching Artists have consulted with physiotherapist Kerry Read and occupational therapist Peter Irving to develop a program that is tailored to the needs of the participants and ensures the class is inclusive, enhances wellbeing and provides an authentic ballet experience,” Ms Godber said.

Also Citrine Sun Entertainment’s director, Belinda Adams initiated the program after experiencing first-hand the impacts of people living with a brain injury.

Her son, Dylan, sustained life-threatening injuries in a car accident in March 2012 and was transferred to a brain injury rehabilitation unit after spending two weeks in a coma.

“Being my son’s carer, I’ve learned first-hand the lack of rehabilitation options and resources for people affected and the ongoing barriers they face such as loss of identity, neurofatigue and feelings of isolation,” Ms Adams said.

Citrine Sun Entertainment is producing a documentary on the program, looking to raise awareness of the invisible barriers people with a brain injury face and offer participants a platform to share their experiences.

It is hoped the pilot program will lead to further research in the area, with a commitment to continue delivering the classes at QB studios in West End.

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