PTSD

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.

A dance program is offering Kentucky veterans with mental health issues a way to ease back into civilian life.

The state’s Department of Veterans Affairs estimates thousands of Kentucky veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury. The program being offered in Louisville is called Dancing Well: The Solider Project.

Men, women and children are swirling in this demonstration of Dancing Well. It’s part of a Veterans Administration Health Expo in Louisville. 

Deborah Denenfeld is calling out the steps.  She’s a dance educator who created Dancing Well four years ago. 

"The psychiatrist who worked at Fort Knox contacted me thinking that perhaps I would come and call a couple of evenings of contra dancing for the soldiers," said Denenfeld.  "He thought that perhaps the movements and the music would help improve their memories.

Contra is similar to square dancing, but it’s done in two long lines. Denenfeld decided to adapt very basic community dances to meet the physical and emotional needs of soldiers with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI.  

"People have issues with balance and vertigo, and that affects what I teach," she said. "So if there's a swing, I will show them how to do a very simple, two hands, walk around, slow swing."

Denenfeld got advice from dance therapists. She got good feedback from the Fort Knox sessions, and then had a 10-week session in Louisville a couple of years ago. So far, about 20 veterans have taken part in Dancing Well.