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Dancers have the answers when it comes to dance floors

Posted By Luke Hopper, Monday, January 26, 2015

 
Pictured: Luke Hopper, Talia Wheeler; Photographer: Ray Marsh of Harlequin Floors

So you are starting a new school or planning a performance tour, you check out the venue, look at the floors and some red flags go up. All of a sudden you have a difficult decision to make. Is this floor sprung and going to be ok for my dancers? Here are a few tips from some recent research that can help you if you have experienced this common problem.

Sprung floors are basically made to absorb and return energy during dancing. Absorbing energy can decrease impact on a dancer’s body and energy return can help jumps. The top surface of a sprung floor normally sits on a foam or basket weave structure so that it can move up and down with the dancer returning and absorbing energy. So the first thing to do when checking out your new floor, is try to get an idea of the floor structure. Unless you are lucky enough to have the actual floor details or specs, this often means getting on your hands and knees and trying to see what lies beneath. Doorways and barre posts are often good spots where you can get a good look underneath the top surface of the floor. If you think the floor structure might be ok then it is time to quiz your dancers.

Standards

First of all, there are standards that are apply to the manufacture of dance floors. These standards are typically developed from the sporting industry and have their limitations for dance. Dancers generally prefer a soft floor that falls within the upper ranges of the standards for shock absorption. Nonetheless, if you are going to purchase a new floor you should always ask the manufacturer if their products have been approved by the standards for your region of the world.

Dancers have the answers

When it comes to deciding if a floor is appropriate for dance, recent studies have shown that dancers know what they are talking about when it comes to floors. When interviewed as a group, dancers were able to give a good estimate of dance floor properties compared to the standard measures. Therefore asking your class or company dancers what they think of a floor is a really valuable way of getting a better understanding of a floor. Here are a few tips to help you along;

·        Every dancer will have a different sense of the floor.

Just like different dancers prefer different shoes. Therefore it is important that you get a group response about a floor. Individual dancer preferences for floors are not a reliable measure.

·        Let dancers make their own decisions.

This means getting dancers to develop and give their opinions anonymously. This way they don’t feel pressured into the ‘expected’ response.

·        Use specific and open questions.

Asking specific questions is important but also give the dancers the opportunity to express their own opinions. Often these dancer perspectives will make you stop and look at the problem differently.

·        Make sure the dancers use the whole floor.

Just hopping up and down on the spot is not enough to get a good feel for the floor. The dancers need to experience the whole floor space using lots of different movements. Choreographing a short routine for the all the dancers to test the floor with can be a good way of getting them moving.

·        Give yourself a comparison.

If you have access to another floor that you know meets the standards and is appropriately sprung, get the dancers to repeat the questions on the other floor. This will give you a better scale of how the new floor rates for the dancers.

Once you have the responses from the dancers it is ultimately your call whether or not to go with the floor. Although, hopefully the dancers have helped you with your decision. If you decide to use the floor but still have your reservations, make sure to structure the first classes and rehearsals at a low intensity. This will give the dancers the time to adjust to the floor and help you identify any problems along the way. No one wants to have to stop classes because of an inappropriate floor so working with your dancers in the interests of their own safety is important for a safe and effective dance environment.

 

Luke Hopper, PhD, is a postdoctoral scholar at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University.

Email: l.hopper@ecu.edu.au

Phone: +61 8 6304 8234

 

Recommended readings

Hopper LS, Wheeler TJ, Webster JM, Allen N, Roberts JR, Fleming PR. Dancer perceptions of the force reduction of dance floors used by a professional touring ballet company. J Dance Med Sci. 2014:18(3):121-30.

Hopper LS, Alderson JA, Elliott BC, Ackland TR, Fleming PR. Dancer perceptions of quantified dance surface mechanical properties. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part P: Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology. 2011:225(2):65-73.

Tags:  dancers  floors  teachers 

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Getting involved in IADMS! - A Student Perspective

Posted By Sarah Beck, Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I attended my first IADMS annual meeting in Birmingham, UK. I remember being too scared to approach esteemed researchers and practitioners didn’t have the confidence to ask questions following presentations. I remember hoping that in the future I would be more confident and wanted to be much more involved in the association. I had applied to be on the student committee and just after the Birmingham meeting was delighted to hear that I had been elected as the Chair. I have received a great deal of support and encouragement from IADMS staff, Board members, and other committee chairs and have been able to develop the student committee under this.

Committees perform invaluable work on behalf of IADMS, ranging from designing the academic program for annual meetings, producing and translating educational resources to gaining supporters and fundraising. A common aim of all of this work is to continually expand the association and increase our reach within the wider dance, scientific, and medical communities. The student committee in particular works across a range of initiatives to ensure that IADMS continues to foster and develop the next generation of dance medicine and science practitioners, to secure the future advancement of our field.

Committee work is a fantastic way to become more involved in IADMS and to work with amazing colleagues from all over the world. For students in particular, I wouldn’t underestimate the potential of this for networking and personal and career developing experiences. From being a shy student in Birmingham, to presenting in Washington DC, and moderating in Seattle, it hardly does it justice to say that my personal confidence has grown and that I have had enriching experiences through my IADMS committee work. There is plenty of opportunity for all IADMS members to be involved (on some level) with committee work so my advice would be consider what you could contribute and GET INVOLVED!

Tags:  involvement  students 

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What has the “Anatomy of the Hip Joint” got to do with Louis XIV?

Posted By Maggie Lorraine on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Classical Ballet is a dynamic art form. The art of ballet has undergone change since its birth in the mid-17th to early 18th Century. It is interesting to review the description of the organization of the body, codified by Pierre Beauchamp (1631-1705). The five positions of the feet are described as turned out from the hip to an angle of 45 degrees. It was emphasized that the feet should never be turned out more than 45 degrees.

Over time, there has developed an expectation for Ballet dancers to turnout each foot to 90 degrees creating a 180 degree shape with the feet.  By studying human anatomy it appears that Beauchamp was more anatomically sound in his recommendation of the 45 degree turn out “from the hip” than the current 180 degree placement “of the feet” that we now often see.  There are many anatomical factors contributing to the effective use of turn out.

The Bone Anatomy of the Pelvis

The pelvis is formed from the fusion of three bones: ilium, pubis, and ischium. Each of the three bones contributes to the hip socket or acetabulum.


The Ball and Socket

The hip joint includes two main parts, the ball and socket. The ball of the hip joint consists of the round head of the femur or thigh bone and the femur articulates with the hip joint to enable the leg to rotate outwards.

There are three factors that affect turnout from the bony structure of the hip joint and most researchers agree that these conditions cannot be altered with training:

1.      Angle of femoral anteversion

On average, the neck of the femur is angled 15 degrees forward relative to the shaft of the femur (see Figure 3A). An increase in this anterior angulation, called anteversion, often will cause someone to toe in when they walk, (see Figure 3B). People who are born with more anteversion, the orientation of the femoral shaft in the hip socket makes the knees face towards each other when standing or walking. In ballet class, when they turn out their legs from the hip, the knees face the front, leaving little additional hip rotation to create the expected angle of outward rotation visible at the feet.

However, a decrease in this angulation, called retroversion, will allow one to have greater turnout (see Figure 3C). People born with retroversion have a much easier time with turnout. Just standing in neutral, the knees and feet tend to face outward. By adding external rotation at the hip, they can achieve a larger angle of outward rotation visible at the feet than the average person.


2.      Orientation of the acetabulum

The socket of the hip faces out to the side and somewhat forward.  The socket that tends to face more directly to the side with a less forward facing will allow a greater amount of turnout to come from the hip therefore greater movement range.

3.      Shape of the femoral neck

The neck of the femur is subject to some variability. A longer and more concave neck allows a greater range of motion at the hip and is therefore considered to be advantageous.  A shorter and less concave neck will have the opposite effect and limit turnout resulting in less movement range.

Bearing these anatomical differences in mind, it is more important to encourage dancers to use the turnout they have, rather than working against their anatomical make-up to achieve an unrealistic position.  Louis XIV was happy with 45 degrees, we can safely move beyond that if we apply a good understanding of anatomical structure and function.

Further Resources:

Wilmerding V, Krasnow D.  Turnout for Dancers - Hip Anatomy and Factors Affecting Turnout, IADMS Resource Paper. 2011.
Available HERE

Krasnow D, Wilmerding V. Turnout for Dancers – Supplemental Training. IADMS Resource Paper. 2011.
Available HERE

A useful tutorial on the hip joint, range of motion and function:
Sechrest R. Hip Anatomy Animated Tutorial, 2012.
Watch it HERE

A great tutorial on hip function in squats with additional images on bone structure, which may govern why people may need to approach movement in different ways:

De Bell R. The Best Kept Secret: Why People Have to Squat Differently, 2015.
Watch it HERE

Tags:  anatomy  dancers  hips  teachers  turnout 

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First IADMS Blog Post! - How to stretch for dance class

Posted By K. Michael Rowley, Thursday, January 8, 2015

Welcome to the IADMS Blog !

The purpose of the IADMS blogs are to connect the public – the dancing public, the teaching public, the researching public, the clinical public – with current happenings in the field of dance medicine and science, in order to promote educational, medical, and scientific excellence. For more information see www.iadms.org/blog. For now, let's jump right in with a research study published in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science.

Sitting and stretching passively or stretching with repetitive motion - which is safer for a pre-class stretch? Personally, I've been told to stay away from "ballistic", or dynamic, stretching and instead to spend at least 30 seconds in a stationary, or static, stretch position. Research by dance scientists, however, says that's not the optimal technique to maximize safety and performance in class.

Niamh Morrin at the University of Bedforshire and Emma Redding at Trinity Laban conducted a study published in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science in 2013 about stretching techniques during a dance class warmup. They found that their ten dancers performed best when both static stretches and dynamic stretches were done after a cardiovascular warmup. What does "performed best" mean for these researchers? Their subjects had significantly higher jump heights, better balance, and more range of motion in their hamstring muscles. It appears that the warning I have always received about avoiding ballistic stretching, however, is not entirely off base. When their subjects did only dynamic stretches and left out the static ones, they actually showed decreased range of motion in the hamstrings. On the flip side, when they did only static stretching subjects failed to show improvement in balance or jump height.

Morrin's and Redding's conclusion? "...a cardiovascular warm-up, followed by 30 seconds static stretches, followed by 30 seconds dynamic stretches, provides the optimum performance of vertical jump, balance, and hamstring range of motion."

Morrin N, Redding E. Acute effects of warm-up stretch protocols on balance, vertical jump height, and range of motion in dancers. J Dance Med Sci. 2013;17(1):34-40.
http://dx.doi.org/10.12678/1089-313X.17.1.34

Photo Credit: Dan Dunlap, Pamela Oppenheimer

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  dancers  stretching  teachers 

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