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Dance Science

Dance Science

15 July 2017

Erin Sanchez reports on this relatively young area of work

What is dance science? 
Dance science aims to improve dancers’ performance, physical health and mental wellbeing and ensure safe and healthy training practices by integrating artistic and scientific expertise and applying disciplines such as physiology, nutrition, biomechanics, neuroscience and psychology to dance. 

People working within dance science can include researchers, healthcare practitioners dance teachers, artistic directors and performers. Dance science is a relatively young area of work, starting in about the 1970s with initial research and some early activities and becoming more formalised in 1990 with the creation of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. 

Now, dance science has grown to include the provision of dancers’ healthcare and education around the world including within English National Ballet, the Royal Ballet, Rambert, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Alvin Ailey, The Lion King and Strictly Come Dancing. 

Why is Dance Science important? 
Dance science is important as a way to learn more about healthy training and effective teaching methods for teachers, as well as a way to help dancers reduce the chances of injury and support mental health during challenging training. Dance science also provides a platform to explore the health benefits of participating in dance for young people, those with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, in the community, and for older adults. 

What does your job of Dance Scientist at One Dance UK involve? 
I work at One Dance UK as the Manager of the Healthier Dancer Programme, which is just one aspect of the education work of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS). My job is to support and provide education for the dance sector in topics around dancers’ health and dance science. 

My day to day life includes giving educational workshops to students, professional dancers, teachers and choreographers about things like nutrition, building confidence and managing anxiety, mental preparation for performance and developing fitness. With my colleagues within One Dance UK and NIDMS, we also create educational resources to support dancers and teachers such as guidance on managing injuries, developing positive motivation, and the importance of hydration and warming up and cooling down. 

The Healthier Dancer Programme also has conferences, and this year we focused on training and health for hip hop and street dancers (11th May, Stratford Circus Arts Centre) and we will have a conference on mental health and the psychology of injury on 26th November at Trinity Laban. 

One of our other key resources is the provision of free healthcare for injured dancers in three ways; through free NHS clinics in London, Birmingham and Bath, our listing of private dance specialists on the One Dance UK Healthcare Practitioners Directory, and a preventative and injury care cash plan called the Performance Optimisation Package. All of these services seek to help all dance professionals manage injuries and maintain health for long and successful careers. To learn more about the Healthier Dancer Programme and NIDMS, you can visit: www.onedanceuk.org/programme/healthier-dancer-programme

Is dance science applicable to some dance forms more than others? 
This is my favourite question, and one that I often hear. Many research projects in dance science have looked at ballet or contemporary dance. However, research has been expanding to various styles. For example, Seema Chopra, a dancer and dance scientist, has been developing Kathak conditioning workshops. Nefeli Tsiouti, aka BGirl sMash, has developed a method to reduce injuries in breakers. And researcher and dancer Helena Kruusamäe has studied bone health and posture in Dancesport. Although research is still developing, some of the main concepts of dancers’ health, safe and healthy training and performing at your best are universal. All dancers benefit from healthy eating, good floors, fitness and confidence. 
Interview by Tamsin Moore

If you are interested in this dance science article you may like to participate in our Healthy Dancer courses led by One Dance UK: 

Saturday 5th August 2017 – Mental Health for the Dancer 
Teachers can deepen their knowledge of how to prevent, recognise and support mental health issues that can occur during dance training. 

Sunday 6th August 2017 – The Adolescent Dancer and Developing a Dancers’ Physique 
This course examines two key issues in dance training, the changes that occur in adolescence, and how to train and develop a dancer’s physique, which requires optimum fitness, strength and flexibility. 

For more information and to book, visit: www.istd.org/courses-and-training/uk-courses-congresses-and-summer-schools/ residential-summer-school-2017

The ISTD also offers the following as part of our qualifications: 

DDP Unit 5 A – Applied Dance Science 
This unit is assessed by Safe in Dance International (SIDI) and will give you the skills and understanding to interpret and apply evidence from research in dance science and medicine. You will critically evaluate best practice and consider how to apply this in your teaching practice in order to promote the health and performance of your students. The unit will broadly draw from the fields of psychology, physiology, anatomy and kinesiology, nutrition, medicine, pedagogy, and human biological and psychological development as applied to dance pedagogy. These topics reflect the needs of the dancer as an artist and athlete, considering the dancer’s health and wellbeing within and outside the dance studio. The broad range of theories and practices covered in this unit will be introduced and discussed in lectures and practical sessions. 

For more information please contact the Education & Training Department at ISTD HQ on +44 (0)20 7377 1577. 

This app has been designed to help dancers, performers, choreographers and teachers to quickly and easily find specialist treatment or reliable resources on dancers’ health. Resources on the Performers’ Health Hub are drawn from a consortium of organisations at the forefront of dance medicine and science research and advocacy including the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science, One Dance UK, Safe in Dance International and the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine, and will be continually updated as research progresses. 

Director of Dance Longer Dance Stronger, Claire Farmer, says: “By housing this vital information in one place, the app removes the need to spend precious time searching the internet and attempting to establish the quality and reliability of the information available there. Dancers can quickly find dance specialist healthcare practitioners and clinical services, providing the expert knowledge that can help dancers then return to the studio quicker.” The app can be downloaded from the App Store or Google play.

Visit www.dancelongerdancestronger.com/performers-health-hub for more information about the Performers Health Hub app.

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