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Dance is popular in New Zealand

Dance one of the most popular recreation activities for New Zealanders

Dance is the 8th most popular physical activity for New Zealanders, the new SPARC 2007/08 Active New Zealand Survey has revealed. 16.8% of those aged 16 years and above listed dance among the sport and recreation activities they participate in. In fact for women, dance ranks fifth, higher than cycling, jogging/running and pilates/yoga with 22.6% of New Zealand women dancing. Dance is a key component of Maori, Pacific Island and other migrant cultures, where it expresses core cultural values and identity. Dance is ranked 6th most popular activity with Maori and Asian, 5th with Pacific island, 8th with NZ European and 7th with Others, who are largely Middle-Eastern, Latin American and African ethnicities. DANZ worked with SPARC to include dance in this research and also advised on the questions in relation to dance.

“The fact that 549,112 adult kiwis dance is a delightful statistic and comes as no surprise to us…” says Tania Kopytko, Executive Director of DANZ, the national organisation for dance. “dance has always been popular in New Zealand. The report shows that we dance across all ages and cultures.”

Dance has grown immensely in recent times. New Zealand holds some of the largest dance festivals in Australasia, such as the Secondary Schools PolyFest with 8,500 performers and 90,000 audience. Since 2000 there has been an explosion of dance events such as hip hop competitions and dance festivals and dance was introduced into the New Zealand school arts curriculum five years ago. Dancing with the Stars is the highest rating TV programme in New Zealand’s history with around one million people tuned into each season finale.

We also know that dance is highly popular with children who are not included in this study. There are over 90,000 students taking classes in dance studios across the country. Dance is the fastest growing subject in senior secondary schools and NZQA talks about there having been an ‘explosion’ of dance at NCEA level. Dance clubs have been set up by students in 80% of New Zealand schools, in particular for hip hop and cultural dance.

The power of dance to positively influence the well-being of individuals has been shown in international research. After eight weeks of regular dancing, improvements are seen in cardiovascular function and improved body composition.[1] Dancing at a moderate intensity can reduce blood pressure among women.[2] People forget they are exercising and get caught up in the music, rhythm, social atmosphere and the many other aspects of dance. It has health, wellbeing, artistic, creative, recreational, therapeutic, educative and cultural importance.

DANZ congratulates SPARC on the new research and for including dance as part of recreation, which it clearly is. The Active New Zealand Survey, has highlighted New Zealander’s participation in physical activity based on popularity, gender, age and ethnicity. It makes excellent reading.

This new research will enable the dance sector to lever more support for their activity, not only financially, but also through greater recognition by media and various national and regional support agencies. By working with the diversity of New Zealand dance we can achieve some of our health and community and audience development targets.

1 The improvement effect of Modern Balinese Baris Dancing Exercise on body composition, blood pressure and heart rate. Adiputra IN,1994.

2 Lipid and lipoprotein changes in premenstrual women following step aerobic dance training. Mosher PE, Ferguson MA, Arnold RO, 2005.

Tania Kopytko DANZ

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