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Identity Matters

Posted By IADMS Newsletter, Sunday, July 14, 2019
Updated: Monday, July 15, 2019

Invited author info: Lynda Mainwaring, PhD, CPsych,
Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto.


Who am I? Who am I now that I am injured? Who am I when I am no longer a dancer? Who am I, if I am not recognized in the way in which I perceive myself? Dancers may ask themselves these questions along their career paths. The questions relate to how we perceive ourselves, how we describe ourselves, how we value ourselves, how we perceive our identity, and how we are perceived by others and the way in which that influences us.


Most of us typically begin our self-description in terms of what we do or in relation to our work.1,2 But what about other identities such as gender identity, national identity, ethnic identity, cultural and racial identity? Are these important matters for dance medicine, science, education and psychology?


In terms of gender identity, should we include LGBTQQIA+ education in medical schools, for example? Emerging initiatives say there is a need to provide clinical education with the lesbian, gay bisexual, and transgender patient in mind.3 And what about dance training and practice? Le pas de deux, as a model, implies there are binary roles for men and women. How do we reconfigure partnering and dance training within broader perspectives? In the last few years the questions of identity, in particular those related to gender and related concerns of inclusivity, harassment and sexism, have emerged as matters of importance in studios, schools and in the media.


Identity refers to how one describes the self, and according to the Oxford Dictionary, it refers to the characteristics that determine who or what a person or thing is. For example, one could describe someone by any number of characteristics: age, race, gender, height, weight, percent body fat, employment, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, education level, birth order, years of training, dance genre, marital status, political persuasion, mental health, etcetera. One’s identity, however, is more than a list of variables. It is a personally and socially-constructed understanding of who we are. It varies overtime, and is thus dynamic. It is a complex and multi-faceted concept and process related to how we see and value ourselves: Identity, can be examined through both psychological (identity theory) and sociological (social identity theory) perspectives.


Identity development and consolidation is an evolving process that involves personal, interpersonal and community levels of interaction. Identity for dancers is acutely enmeshed in the body, performance, training, the aspirations, structures and messages of the dance culture and the environment with all its trimmings. How would you complete the sentence that begins, I am . . . ? For an example, and an informative piece on identity in dance, see Rowley’s “Discover the Rainbow.”4


Pickard (2012)5 suggests that evolution of identity as a ballet dancer is riddled with commitment, sacrifice, physical and emotional pain and suffering (p. 42). From her qualitative study of 12 young dancers, she concluded that ballet has a powerful dominant belief structure related to perfection and beauty that objectifies the body as separate and machine-like. She embraces the concept of habitus-- an acquired set of dispositions that have been incorporated into the body (p.86)6 -- introduced by Bourdieu, the French sociologist. She suggests a dancer’s body and habitus are produced and perpetuated through the embodiment of pain and suffering for ballet as an art. With that frame of reference, how do dancers develop an identity that transcends self-denial or destruction and incorporate a healthy relationship with physical and emotional pain? How do they overcome or manage mental and physical health problems that are a result of a culture that ignores them? How do we, in our professional community, support, care for, and encourage dancers across the identity spectrum? How do we overcome our own myopic view with its stereotypical underlying assumptions?


Dancers, dance educators, medical personnel and scientists, do not typically consider dancer identity. Certainly, dancers identify with particular genres such as contemporary, ballet, Flamenco, or ballroom, for example. This we understand. But, what is Dancer Identity as a psychological or sociological phenomenon, and why is it important? What role does it play in the dance community, dance itself, science, dance training, education, development, performance, transition, retirement, injury, self-respect, mental health, maltreatment, body image, dancer image, self-esteem, self-concept, personal and professional relationships, and in life satisfaction and general well-being? Despite, contributions from a few published studies and philosophical papers, I suggest that we do not have much literature, nor much understanding about dancer identity and how it relates to dancer health and well-being. It warrants more attention across research, teaching, education, clinical practice and personal care. Why might that be?


In sport psychology, athletic identity has been examined extensively. It is “the degree to which an individual identifies with the athletic role” (p. 237)7. In essence, a person with a strong athletic identity places a great amount of importance on athletic involvement and on the perception of the self in the sport domain.7 Transposing this definition to dance then, we can define dancer identity as the degree to which a dancer identifies with the dancer’s role within the dance environment and culture.


We know from sport psychology that some personality traits such as perfectionism and trait anxiety are associated with high risk for burnout8, that athletes with strong athletic identities have higher burnout levels9 and that high athletic identity predicts burnout10-14. Also, athletes with strong athletic identities have a willingness to train more with an associated performance improvement.7,15


Murphy Petitpas, & Brewer16 found that athletic identity was positively associated with identity foreclosure. That is, if athletes identify strongly with, and commit to, their roles as athletes without exploring other roles in life, they risk limiting opportunities for themselves or may be vulnerable to mental health difficulties. Brewer7 found that athletes who “over identify” with their role in sport are prone to depression if they have career-ending injuries. In the modern world, over identification with particular roles may occur because of the great demands and expectations placed on elite performers. There is no question that in dance there are great expectations and demands that prescribe, dictate or encourage roles that are strongly tied to specific physical and aesthetic ideals.


For some, a limited, or foreclosed, identity may lead to career transition challenges. Difficulty with transition into retirement and post-sport life has been associated with the strength and exclusivity of athletic identity.17-22 A recent systematic review of the dance-related literature (1987-2017)23 concluded that more research on psychological and physical implications of career decisions in dance is needed, and that to date, there is no formal research on career transitions for young dancers.


Similarly, there is a dearth of research on dancer identity. The little research that we have suggests that dancer identity is similar to athletic identity and that more research is needed. Langdon and Petracca24 found that identity as a dancer was negatively associated with body appreciation and perceptions and cautioned those of us who work with dancers to be aware of the subjective aspects of identity and work toward enhancing dancers’ perspectives of their bodies.


In the upcoming annual meeting of the minds (and bodies) in Montreal, Canada, “identity” is on the table for discussion. I hope this article serves as a catalyst for discussion and formulation of questions about dancer identity, gender identity in dance, individual and collective identities, and their relationship with mental and physical health.


We might also question our own collective professional identity. Who are we as a professional body? Are we unique with an authentic identity? Or, are we hovering on the shoulders of sport science and medicine and sport psychology? In my long standing experience with sport and dance science, medicine and psychology, I have come to highly respect and regard the scholarly and practical aspects of dance medicine, science, education and psychology and my esteemed colleagues in IADMS. Yes, there is a shared knowledge and similarities between sport and dance; however, dancers, dance educators, dance artists, scientists, and clinicians across the professions have unique knowledge, experience, environments, challenges, qualities and embodied behaviours and attitudes. Therefore, establishing our own empirical evidence, and standards of care for dance is critical. Moreover, in this 29th year of IADMS, perhaps it is time to examine or reexamine our collective identity, values, goals, influence, magnificence, shadows and highlights. As we move toward our meeting in Montreal--a place with a distinct cultural identity (one that you will sense when you visit old town Montreal)-- let us think about identity—what we know, what we do not know, and what warrants examining and questioning in 2020, our 30th year as an association.




1. Riffkin, R. (2014, August). In U.S., 55% of Workers Get Sense of Identity from Their Job.
2. European Commission. Directorate General for Research and Innovation. (2012). The Development of European Identity/Identities: Unfinished Business.
3. Anderson, J., Stoner, A., Jackson, A…Myles, D. (2018). Standardized patient modules in medical school with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patient in mind. Osteopathic Family Physician, 10 (3), 16-20.
4. Rowley, Michael. Discover the Rainbow: Unpacking the LGBTQQIA+ acronym with a discussion about the intersection of identity and biology. (
5. Pickard, A. (2012). Schooling the dancer: the evolution of an identity as a ballet dancer. Research in Dance Education, 13:1, 25-46, DOI:10.1080/14647893.2011.65119.
6. Bourdieu, P. (1993). Sociology in question. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
7. Brewer, B. W., Van Raalte, J. L., & Linder, D. E. (1993). Athletic identity: Hercules' muscles or Achilles heel? International journal of sport psychology.
8. Gustafsson, H., Kenttä, G., & Hassmén, P. (2011). Athlete burnout: an integrated model and future research directions. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 4(1), 3-24.
9. Martin, E. M., & Horn, T. S. (2013). The role of athletic identity and passion in predicting burnout in adolescent female athletes. The Sport Psychologist, 27(4), 338-348.
10. Coakley, J. (2009). From the outside in: Burnout as an organizational issue. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 2(1), 35-41.
11. Gustafsson, H., Martinent, G., Isoard-Gautheur, S., Hassmén, P., & Guillet-Descas, E. (2018). Performance based self-esteem and athlete-identity in athlete burnout: A person-centered approach. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 38, 56-60.
12. Gustafsson, H., Kentta, G., Hassmen, P., Lundqvist, C., & Durand-Bush, N. (2007). The process of burnout: A multiple case study of three elite endurance athletes. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 38, 388-416.
13. Harris, B. S., & Watson, J. C. (2014). Developmental considerations in youth athlete burnout: A model for youth sport participants. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 8(1), 1-18.
14. Tabei, Y., Fletcher, D., & Goodger, K. (2012). The relationship between organizational stressors and athlete burnout in soccer players. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 6(2), 146-165.
15. Ahmadabadi, Z. N., Shojaei, M., & Daneshfar, A. (2014). The relationship between athletic identity and sports performance among national rowers during different seasons of competition. Pedagogics, Psychology, Medical-Biological Problems of Physical Training and Sports, 10, 62-66.
16. Murphy, G. M., Petitpas, A. J., & Brewer, B. W. (1996). Identity foreclosure, athletic identity, and career maturity in intercollegiate athletes. The Sport Psychologist, 10(3), 239-246.
17. Grove, J. R., Lavallee, D., & Gordon, S. (1997). Coping with retirement from sport: The influence of athletic identity. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 9(2), 191-203.17 Lally, P. (2007). Identity and athletic retirement: A prospective study. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 8(1), 85-99.
18. Lavallee, D., Gordon, S., & Grove, J. R. (1997). Retirement from sport and the loss of athletic identity. Journal of Personal and Interpersonal Loss, 2(2), 129-147.
19. Lally, P. (2007). Identity and athletic retirement: A prospective study. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 8(1), 85-99.
20. Stier, J. (2007). Game, name and fame — Afterwards, will I still be the same? International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 42(1), 99-111.
21. Warriner, K., & Lavallee, D. (2008). The retirement experiences of elite female gymnasts: Self- identity and the physical self. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 20(3), 301-317.
22. Lavallee, D., & Robinson, H. K. (2007). In pursuit of an identity: A qualitative exploration of retirement from women's artistic gymnastics. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 8(1), 119-141
23. Griffith, Gearhart, Sugimoto, Geminiani, & Stracciolini (2019). Career transitions for the young dancer: Considering psychological implications, challenges with athletic identity, and need available resources. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 34 (1), 47-52, doi: 10.21091/mppa.2019.1005.
24. Langdon, S. & Petracca, G. (2010). Tiny dancer: Body image and dancer identity in female modern dancers. Body Image, 7, 360.363.

Tags:  IADMS Newsletter  identity 


The Effect of Age on Spinal Range of Motion - A brief overview of the literature

Posted By Janine Bryant on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The learning objectives of this article:


·      To share a brief overview of the literature on spinal range of motion and aging

·      To consider how aging affects dancers but also how dancers, as exercisers, can have a built-in advantage over the aging process

·      To focus on the mechanism of aging with regards to collagen and skeletal muscle


Embed from Getty Images


In talking about aging, people always ask me to focus on the positive aspects as opposed to the negative. Although there are aspects of the aging process that can be viewed as negative, the concept of 'positive aging' is something I have recently come across in my research. How we choose to define, view, and accept the inevitable changes that come with aging is crucial to our ability to 'age gracefully'. We are living longer and this requires thought and planning. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines positive aging as: 'The process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age'.12


Because spinal mobility is important and can be viewed as a determinant in whole body function.1, understanding key aspects of spinal wellness is essential for dancers. In this next installment, we will look at some of the literature on aging and spinal range of motion and ways that dancers, who are physically very active, already have an advantage to aging well. Because there is little to no research on aging dancers' spines, it is necessary to consider the broad category with regards to other populations. For our purposes, the research included athletes, clinical, general and elderly populations.


The changes that occur with aging, such as loss of lumbar flexion, extension and lateral flexion, may be responsible for decreases in spinal range of motion (ROM).2,3  The literature links loss of bone density and flexibility to increased risk for postural changes and disc fractures that contribute to loss of ROM and participation in activities of daily living. Quality of life (QoL) is affected as aging populations experience decreased mobility due to age-related changes in spinal health. Information found, especially relating to collagen, points to physical and biochemical changes to collagenous frameworks with increased age resulting in decreased extensibility especially in aging skeletal muscle.


DANCER ADVANTAGE: The good news is that while it is understood that bone density loss may have an effect on bone strength and increased risk for osteoporosis, both women and men can help prevent bone loss with regular exercise. Exercising (and dancing), when supplemented with strength training, can also help us maintain muscle strength, coordination, and balance, which in turn helps to prevent falls and related fractures thus improving QoL.


Embed from Getty Images


Characteristics of the Aging Spine

Important characteristics of the aging spine include damage that results in a decrease in elasticity and joint motion restriction leading to a decrease in flexibility (loss of ROM).4 Increased intramuscular connective tissue stiffness can also result in decreased ROM.2 Long-term complications associated with aging affect spinal health and can cause significant functional impairments in activities of daily living.8,9


The Role of Collagen

Collagen is a protein made up of amino acids that are found in the human body. There are more than 22 types, grouped according to structure and function. The word comes from the Greek word 'kolla', which means 'glue'. Common types of collagen are Type 1: Skin, tendon, vascular, organs, bone, teeth, scar tissue. Type II: Cartilage, ocular collagen, and Type III: Cells of skin, muscles, lungs.5,6 It is important to understand the role of collagen and how age-related changes to collagen matrices are linked to the declining mechanical properties of aging bone and joints.3,5  Physical and biochemical changes occur to collagen with increasing age, resulting in decreased extensibility. These changes include an increased formation of intramolecular and intermolecular cross-links that restrict the ability of the collagen fibers to move past each other as tissue length changes.2 Cross-linking involves two different mechanisms, one a precise and enzymatically controlled cross-linking during development and maturation, and the other an adventitious non-enzymatic mechanism following maturation of the tissue.  This non-enzymatic cross-linking, known as glycation, is the major cause of dysfunction of collagenous tissues in old age.  


The process of cross-linking and the presence of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) seem to be major determinants in the loss of ROM and strength.6 AGEs naturally form inside the body when proteins or fats combine with sugars (glycation). This non-enzymatic reaction affects the normal function of cells, making them more susceptible to damage and premature aging.


DANCER ADVANTAGE: There is a direct link between the quality of energy intake and the accumulation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Dancers may be more aware of the quality of their energy intake, and could therefore be less susceptible to the detrimental effects of AGEs that can come from consuming foods such as fried eggs, butter, cream, margarine, mayonnaise and foods cooked at extremely high temperatures.


Aging and Loss of Bone Mass

Two parallel but independent processes characterize the aging spine: a) the development of degenerative discogenic changes and bone mass reduction, and b) osteopenia/osteoporosis, or reduced bone mineral density, which increase the risk of stress fractures.7 In focusing on the relationship between these two processes, both independent researchers and the American College of Sports Medicine underline the need for further research on osteoporosis.10 A study evaluating factors related to spinal mobility in patients with postmenopausal osteoporosis revealed that skeletal fractures are an important clinical manifestation of the disease, with older female patients the most severely affected8. Multiple vertebral fractures can result in postural deformities, which could cause functional impairments in ADLs 8,9  and have a significant impact on quality of life.


DANCER ADVANTAGE: Again, it is important to note that regular exercise, including activities that move against gravity whilst staying upright, help build bone.


The benefits of weight training are well-documented and, specifically for dancers, can help enhance strength, bone health and improve task-specific dance skills, such as lifting and partnering, jump height, balance and control, and increased ROM.11 The value of cross-training for dancers is commonly understood and loading can act as another activity toward performance enhancement.10

The overall goal of this research is to promote awareness of the importance of spinal health. Dancers have an advantage in that they are exercisers, already benefitting from moderate to high-levels of activity that includes resistance and techniques that increase ROM and strength. Awareness is key as a healthy spine is essential to whole body function.11


Janine Bryant, BFA, MA, SFHEA, PhD Candidate, is a Registered Provider and Quality Assessor for Safe in Dance International and International Education Advisor to The University of Wolverhampton, UK. She has presented her research on aging and range of motion in Brazil, UK, USA, and Finland. Janine is a guest speaker for The Royal Ballet School, UK and The University of the Arts, USA.




1. Cupon, L.N., & Jahn, W.T. (2003). Current standards for measuring spinal range of      motion for impairment. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 2(1), 8-12.  

2. Wallmann, H.W. (2009). Stretching and flexibility in the aging adult. Home Health      Care Management Practice, 21(5), 355-357

3. Jackson, A.R. Transport properties of cartilaginous tissues. (2009).  Current      Rheumatology Reviews, 5(1), 40

4. Charlifue, S., Post, M.W., Biering-Sorensen, F., Catz, A., Dijkers, M., Geyh, S., &        Horsewell, J. (2013). International spinal cord injury quality of life basic data set.   Spinal Cord 2013, 50, 672-675

5. Zioupos, P., Currey, J.D., & Hamer, A.J. (1999). The role of collagen in the declining   mechanical properties of aging human and cortical bone. Journal of Biomedical            Materials Research, 45(2), 108-116

6. Avery, N.C., & Bailey, A.J. (2005). Enzymic and non-enzymic cross-linking     mechanisms in relation to turnover of collagen: Relevance to aging and        exercise.  Scandanavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 15(4), 231-    240

7. Phrompaet, S., Paungmali, A., Pirunsan, U., & Sitilertpisan, P. (2011). Effects of          Pilates training on lumbo-pelvic stability and flexibility. Asian Journal of Sports          Medicine, 2(1),16-22

8. Nattrass, C.L., Nitschke, J.E., Disler, P.B., Chou, M.J., & Ooi, K.T. (1999). Lumbar     spine range of motion as a measure of physical and functional impairment: An     investigation of validity. Clinical Rehabilitation,13(3), 211-218

9. Wong, K.W., Leong, J.C., Chan, M.K., Luk, K.D., & Lu, W.W. (2004). The flexion-    extension profile of lumbar spine in 100 healthy volunteers. Spine Journal,      29(15), 1636-41

10. Sinkov, V.T.C. (2003). Osteoarthritis: Understanding the pathophysiology, genetics,   and treatments. Journal of the Natlional Medical Association, 95(6), 475-482

11. van Marken Lichtenbelt WD, Fogelholm M, Ottenheiim R, Wasterterp KR, (1995).    Physical activity, body composition and bone density in ballet dancers. Br J Nutr.        Oct:74(4), 439-51.

12.  Doan, C., World Health Organization, What is Healthy Aging?, Retrieved from URL.


Tags:  aging  spine 

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Stability of the foot and ankle: the impact of daily habits on dance training

Posted By Nancy Romita and Allegra Romita on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Thursday, May 23, 2019

"The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art"
- a
ttributed to Leonardo Da Vinci


As you read this, freeze. Hold the position in which you currently find yourself. Do not adjust anything. Without judgment or shifting, notice the position of both feet. Does one foot have more weight on it than the other? Are both feet on the floor? Is there an even weight distribution? Is one foot or ankle a little more turned or rolled in or out? Are you sitting on one foot? Is a leg crossed and how does that affect the shape of foot and ankle?



There are 26 articulating bones in each foot to provide dynamic resilience. The ankle joint has a secure mortis and tendon configuration to generate stability during flexion and extension. The foot and ankle are elegantly designed to be stable enough to bear the weight of the body and resilient enough to navigate uneven ground, such as climbing rocks or walking through sand.


Stabilization of the ankle and foot is crucial for injury prevention and enhances the potential for efficiency in action. The foot and ankle provide the structural base of support for standing, walking, and dancing. 65% of dance injuries are related to habitual mis-stacking of the skeletal structure (Liederbach, 2018).  It stands to reason that conscientious awareness to distribute the load of the foot develops the foundation for the stacking the skeletal structure. Unconscious habits in standing, sitting, or how you hold your feet while driving a car can either support the stability needed for the rigors in dance training or it can insidiously compromise it.


Injuries to the ankle and foot comprise 50% of all injuries sustained in dance (Conti & Wong, 2001, p. 43). Strengthening the surrounding neuromuscular structures of the foot and ankle is vitally important, but all the wonderful work in technique class, cross training in the gym, working on a Bosu ball, or using Therabands are compromised if unconscious foot habits undermine these actions by rolling in (eversion) or rolling out (inversion).



One tool to let go of habitual stance is to consider an anatomical visualization to enhance the integrity of foot stance. The tripod of balance is depicted in the image below. The first point of this visualization is between the distal head of the first and second metatarsal. The second point is between the distal heads of the fourth and fifth metatarsal. The third point of reference is at the center of the calcaneus. The anatomical visualization of these skeletal landmarks can aid in moving out of habitual stance toward a balanced distribution of weight through the foot and ankle. The image provides a stable foundation for stacking the skeletal structure in static and dynamic balance. The three points are landmarks around which the muscles of the foot and ankle can navigate movement.




Try these self-explorations:


In the next few days, notice how your foot rests when sitting at a computer or while driving.  Is there a habit that relates to how your feet work while dancing?


The next time you find yourself between exercises at the barre or in teaching you are watching students move, notice your habit for the foot and ankle in standing.


Notice if your foot is sickled underneath the chair or you literally sit on one foot while reading or working at a computer. The toll on the lateral ligaments and tendons can create an imbalance and instability of that foot.


When you notice an imbalance, allow for a breath, release unnecessary tension in the feet, and visualize the weight evenly distributed through the tripod of balance.


In this approach of anatomical visualization through somatic practice, we invite you to consider balance, not as a station one arrives at, but rather as a way of traveling. Balance is not one position. It is a manner of being and shifts from moment to moment in lively response to the environment. 



Habits in sitting, standing, and driving can either support or adversely affect the structural stability of the ankle and foot. Dr. Kenneth K Hansraj has linked daily habits of how we hang the head down to look at cell phone and the impact on postural balance with the health of the cervical spine (Hasraj, 2014). Further research on the correlation between habit and ankle injuries in dancers is warranted to prevent insidious weakness in the structure of the ankle from affecting the risk of injury in dancers. Bringing mindfulness to habit, and visualizing a balanced foot stance is one strategy to move toward balance and stability and support both dancing and the actions of daily life.





Nancy Romita (MFA, AmSAT, RYT), Senior lecturer Towson University, Director of Alexander Technique Mid Atlantic Teacher Training, and co-author of Functional Awareness Anatomy in Action for Dancers.


Allegra Romita (MA, CMA, RYT) is Dance Education faculty at NYU Steinhardt and currently pursuing a second graduate degree in motor learning and control at Teachers College, Columbia University, NYC. She is co-author of Functional Awareness Anatomy in Action for Dancers.





Hasraj, K. (2014). The assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head. Surgery Technology International. XXV, 25:277-9


 Conti, S. F., & Wong, Y. S. (2001). Foot and ankle injuries in the dancer. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science. 5.2: 43-50.


 Leiderbach M. (2018). Epidemiology of dance injuries: Biosocial considerations in the management of dancer health: Strategies for the prevention and care of injuries to dancers. American Physical Therapy Association Orthopedic Section Monograph, Independent Study Course 18.1-3, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Tags:  ankle  dancers  foot  teachers 

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Regional Meeting Edinburgh 2019 – Control

Posted By Leanne Steel on behalf of the IADMS Student Committee, Monday, April 29, 2019

Between 29th-30th April, in collaboration with ACPSEM and the University of Edinburgh, IADMS hosted their regional meeting in Scotland which focused on the topic of ‘Control’. The meeting consisted of a full day Saturday exploring topics relating to control in aesthetic sports as well as an optional evening session on Friday about ‘Controlling hypermobility’.



Friday’s sessions included four presentations covering various aspects of hypermobility including the current state of hypermobility among dancers, an insight into hypermobility related injuries and surgery options, the psychopathological characteristics of hypermobility and the teaching and learning environment of dancers with hypermobility and those teaching them. Being someone who is interested in hypermobility, all presentations provided an insightful update on my current knowledge of the topic. Within the Friday session there were also practical workshops on how strength and conditioning, Pilates and Feldenkrais can be used to help dancers find enhanced control. These were particularly useful to physically experience exercises which could be used to inform hypermobile dancers who struggle with finding control but also to incorporate into my personal exercise sessions being a hypermobile dancer myself.



The main conference day on the Saturday had a much broader inclusion of topics relating to the main theme of the meeting ‘Control’. These topics included injury, training load, leadership and burnout. Throughout the Saturday it was interesting to have speakers from other aesthetic genres of sport including gymnastics, ice skating and also from performance companies such as Cirque de Soleil who have performers with varying performance skills and training backgrounds. It became clear to me that issues dancers face are also common among these other aesthetic sports and performers but that there are clear differences that should be addressed when working with a performer. It was therefore frequently suggested by multiple speakers that you should always consider the specific needs of the performer and the outcome they are wanting to achieve in order to gain the best results.


Pictured: Amy Longmuir and Saya Yamaguchi


A session that particularly interested me and took me by surprise was a session entitled ‘Extra Control - Breast health in athletes’ by Nicola Brown. In this presentation I was introduced to the structure of the breast and how little support is provided by our bodies structure alone, the consequences of exercising without appropriate support and the importance of wearing a supportive sports bra that is well fitted when exercising despite your cup size. It was also shocking to find out how only a third of women wear sports bras when exercising and that around three-quarters of women wear incorrectly fitted sports bras. This indicates a need for further education on breast health among women!



Being at the IADMS regional meeting opened my eyes to the impact of control on multiple elements of performers wellbeing and training but also that sometimes those working with performers need to reduce control to allow dancers to feel empowered.


Tags:  regional meeting 

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Trait versus Process Correction and Praise

Posted By Dr. Kveton-Bohnert on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Every dance class includes correction. Teachers serve as talking mirrors. Without feedback, dancers cannot develop discernment of detail or learn to self-correct. However, teachers must realize that what they say and how they say it has a marked influence on the dancer’s self-beliefs that manifest as confidence or anxiety. Instructors must be mindful of their phraseology when giving correction and praise.


David Howard rehearsing Tamara Rojo Photo: Johan Persson (2007). ARENA PAL 1106552   


Do you believe traits are fixed or malleable? I hope you answered malleable; research demonstrates that traits can be diminished or developed.1 The term growth mindset refers to this precept. Teaching from a growth mindset is optimal because it leads to process rather than trait correction and praise.


Growth-oriented instructors offer constructive suggestions; their key word is “yet.” For example, “You don’t have your double pirouette yet, but try this.” Or “Your ankles have insufficient flexibility for pointe work yet, but these exercises may help.” This is a constructive way to offer correction because it offers a path toward incremental skill-mastery. Students in a process-oriented classroom will assimilate correction more readily and will gain greater resilience and confidence with less performance anxiety because their instructor expresses that growth and change are possible. Classwork focuses on how specific efforts yield specific results.


Conversely, fixed-trait commentary develops an always or never fixed mindset: “You never point your feet” or “You always fall out of your turns.” This is a nonproductive and destructive form of correction because such statements offer no path toward change or growth. The student feels powerless, criticized, anxious, and defeated. Fixed-trait beliefs lead to fatalistic views about challenge and heighten fears of failure.2, 4


Even compliments can be trait-based. “You are so talented,” “you are so smart,” or “you have such long legs” are trait-based praises to avoid! Certainly, we mean these as compliments. Nevertheless, trait-praise raises performance anxiety because the recipient cannot identify a specific process to sustain such traits. Consequently, acute fear can arise when a trait-label is challenged. One may not look at all ‘smart’ or ‘talented’ when trying something new; this threatens the label and the loss of approval from those who matter most.1, 2, 3, 4


Process praise reduces performance anxiety because it illuminates a path to achievement. For example, “I see that you focused on your épaulement; now your variation looks more expressive,” or “Now that you are really using your plié, your jumps are getting stronger and higher.” Process praise describes something that the student focused on and its perceivable result. From process praise, students learn to trust that their effort is noticed and that correction and application yield progress. This builds students’ confidence and willingness to face new challenges. Difficulty is not perceived as failure or a threat to a trait. The process-praised student learns that difficulties can be overcome incrementally through application of correction and sustained, directed effort. Thus, these students develop greater confidence, perseverance, and resilience. Focusing on process rather than personal traits when delivering correction and praise is essential for students’ wellbeing.


Lisa Kveton-Bohnert, PhD, dance educator, coach, researcher, licensed myofascial release practitioner




Additional Reading


 Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.


 Molden, D. C. & Dweck, C. S. (2006). Finding “meaning” in psychology: A lay theories approach to self-regulation, social perception, and social development. American Psychologist, 61(3), 192-203.


 Blackwell, L. S., Trzensniewski, K., & Dweck, C. S. (2005). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University.


 Kamins, M. L, & Dweck, C. S. (1999). Person versus process praise and criticism: Implications for contingent self-worth and coping. Developmental Psychology, 35(3), 835-847.


 Dweck C. S. (2002) The development of ability conceptions. In A. Wigfield & Eccles (EDS.), The development of achievement motivation (pp. 57-83). New York, NY: Academic Press.


 Gunderson, E. A. Gripshover, S. J., Romero, C., Dweck, C. S., Glodin-Meadow, S., & Levine, S. C. (2013). Parent praise to 1-3-year-olds predicts children’s motivational frameworks 5 years later. Child Development, 84(5). 1526-1541. Doi: 10.1111/cdev.12064


 Kveton-Bohnert, L. A., (2007). The voices of classical ballet dancers: Alleviating maladaptive perfectionism through resilience, mindful learning, and self-compassion. ProQuest Dissertations & Thesis Global. 10278171


 Lovatt, P. (2018). Dance psychology. Norfolk, UK: Dr. Dance Presents.


 Mainwaring, L., & Krasnow, D. (2010).  Teaching the Dance Class: Strategies to Enhance Skill Acquisition, Mastery, and Positive Self-Image. Journal of Dance Education, 10(1).


 Pickard. A. (2012). Schooling the dancer: The evolution of an identity as a ballet dancer. Research in Dance Education 13(1). 25-46.

Tags:  dancers  feedback  teachers 

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Aging and range of motion for dancers: An introduction to a three-part series

Posted By Janine Bryant on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Monday, April 1, 2019

The learning objectives of this article:


 •       To broadly understand the aging process and its impact on function and quality of life for dancers

 •       To understand how this information can help dancers age well and therefore affect career longevity

 •       To encourage dancers to create an awareness statement based on this information on how they can help themselves age well as a dancer-athlete

 •       To help dancers understand how how the very act of dancing puts them at an advantage over the aging process in some ways.



The process of aging affects all of the body systems. Aging causes loss in bone density, flexibility and range of motion (ROM). Women experiencing hormonal changes are especially are at risk as the loss of bone density can cause increased risk for fractures.4


Much of the available literature on aging includes information on quality of life (QOL) issues such as diminished mobility. 10 When mobility is limited due to an injury or medical condition, a vicious cycle ensues, resulting in increased pain, stiffness and further diminished mobility. For dancers, this process can be life altering, as age is often a determinant in participation levels. 10


Certain conditions are more prevalent as we age, such as osteoarthritis (OA). OA is the most common arthritis and is one of the main concerns with regards to mobility as changes in collagen could result in loss of joint function. This is usually more common in the 65+ age categories.5 With regards to low calcium and oestrogen levels, specifically on bone, there are two factors at work. A calcium-deficient diet coupled with decreased oestrogen levels can affect healthy bones in unhealthy ways, leading to osteoporotic bone. For dancers, a hard schedule coupled with fractures of built up osteophytes from OA, in addition to increased load from aesthetic demands and big ROMs, have a cumulative effect over time and can result in decreased ROM and increased pain. In terms of bone mass, females generally peak around age 30 and begin to decrease more rapidly than men, who peak around age 40 and begin to experience bone loss around age 45, although the decline is more gradual. 10


Dancer's Advantage: It should be noted that the activity of dancing as exercise improves bone health and can also increase muscle strength, coordination, and balance, leading to better overall health. Bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Women and men who exercise regularly generally achieve greater peak bone mass (maximum bone density and strength) than those who do not. 7,9




In the above photo, it is clear that the 21-year old dancer does in fact have greater ROM in the first arabesque. However, there are some problems with muscle recruitment and stabilization that the 32-year old dancer has worked out for herself. We can see the dancer on the top of the photo is more over her forefoot, is utilizing her standing quadricep muscles to stabilize, and has a more lifted and closed ribcage. As with many older elite professional dancers that I see in my studies, although they cannot make the ROMs that the younger dancers can, their shapes are more stable and less dependent on flexibility alone. All dancers have somatic challenges that they must surmount that, in the excitement and artistry of performance, is often not evident to the audience and these examples provided are no exception.

Dancer's Advantage: The photo is simply offered to encourage a dialogue that, although the aging dancer is often at a disadvantage in the youth-driven dance world, they can in fact offer a body knowledge that is oftentimes more thorough, hard-earned and worth valuing.



Aging Collagen and the Accumulation of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)


Collagen is protein. Aside from water, collagen is the most plentiful substance in our bodies and is the building block for skin, tendons and bones. Over 90% of collagen in the body is comprised of Type 1 and 3 collagen. Collagen types that are commonly affected by the aging process likely to have an impact on dancer-athletes are collagen types 1, 2 and 3.  Collagen types contain different proteins (amino acids) and these serve separate but often parallel purposes within the body. Types 1 and 3 support structures and elements of high-tensile strength, bone, skin, tendon, muscles, cornea, and walls of blood vessels. Type 2 collagen is comprised of the fluids and function that supports cartilaginous tissues and joints, as well as intervertebral disks (IVDs), vitreous bodies, and hyaline cartilage. 6,10



Embed from Getty Images


As collagen ages, skeletal muscle fibers decrease in mass (sarcopenia), tolerance for exercise decreases and there are higher rates of fatigue and decreased ability to thermoregulate. In addition, there is an impaired ability to recover from injuries. The cyclical response to this is often increased pain and a general decrease in elasticity and flexibility. 9


The loss of skeletal muscle elasticity can be correlated with the presence of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Collagen becomes damaged when sugar and amino acid molecules bind together. The by-product of this process is oxidative in nature and causes AGEs to accumulate in cells. Accumulation of AGEs can wreak cellular havoc, and the increased oxidative stress results in chronic inflammation. 6,7


We consume AGEs mostly from food (specifically high-fat meats) cooked at high temperatures via dry heat, or processed foods, and absorb AGEs from tobacco smoke. Declined kidney function has also been implicated in the formation of AGEs and dancers with high blood sugar, familial history of such, or insulin resistance, could be at risk for an increased presence of AGEs. However, high levels of AGEs are found in many healthy older people as well as in those with chronic diseases. It is therefore unclear the degree this plays in human health and aging and so the current research remains inconclusive. The research does support the idea that a diet low in AGEs (one that avoids baking, grilling or frying food for long periods of time and at high temperatures) can in fact lower blood levels of AGEs, reduce insulin resistance and decrease markers for inflammation and oxidative stress. However, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of AGEs on the human body. 11


Dancer's Advantage: Aside from the mood and mind benefits, dancing can increase muscle fiber growth, and improve flexibility and balance, especially in populations over the age of 35, 7 possibly offering dancers some leverage over the aging process.


What should dancers think about with regards to aging well?


Intrinsic Factors: Dancers would benefit from knowing their genetics and family history, especially with regard to conditions such as diabetes, insulin resistance, arthritis, and other inflammatory responses. As well, dancers can think about their current hormonal status and age as fair markers to providing clues to their overall health status picture.


Extrinsic Factors: Dancers would benefit from safer training protocols from young ages and safer techniques to big ROMs. Factors such as quality of nutrition, amount of sleep, stress levels, and smoking can have a direct effect on how dancers age and can be controlled. Social support and networks have been found to have a positive effect on aging, as populations live longer, having and maintaining social connections is associated with mental wellbeing and a feeling of connectedness.


Above all, dancers should keep moving! The research supports that negative health outcomes are associated with impaired mobility and that health and wellbeing are enhanced through strategies that optimize mobility. 7,10


Based on the information provided in this article, dancers are encouraged to create an awareness statement supporting the idea of healthy aging and career longevity.


In the next article, we will discuss what the published literature says about aging and range of motion.


Janine Bryant, BFA, MA, SFHEA, PhD Candidate, is a Registered Provider and Quality Assessor for Safe in Dance International and International Education Advisor to The University of Wolverhampton, UK. She has presented her research on aging and range of motion in Brazil, UK, USA, and Finland. Janine is a guest speaker for The Royal Ballet School, UK and The University of the Arts, USA.




1. Wong KW, Leong JC, Chan MK, Luk KD, Lu WW. The flexion-extension profile of lumbar spine in 100 healthy volunteers. Spine. 2004; 29(15):1636-41.


2. Benjamin M, Toumi H, Ralphs JR, Bydder G, Best TM, Milz S. Where tendons and ligaments meet bone: attachment sites (‘entheses’) in relation to exercise and/or mechanical load. J Anat. 2006; 208(4):471–490.


3. Jackson AR, Gu WY. Transport properties of cartilaginous tissues. Curr Rheumatol Rev. 2009;5(1):40.


4. Papadakis M, Sapkas G, Papadopoulos EC, Katonis P. Pathophysiology and biomechanics of the aging spine. Open Orthop J. 2011; 5:335–342.


5. Ferguson SJ, Steffen T. Biomechanics of the aging spine. Eur Spine J. 2003; (Suppl 2):S97–S103.


6. Jaskelioff M, Muller FL, Paik JH, et al. Telomerase reactivation reverses tissue degeneration in aged telomerase-deficient mice. Nature. 2010;469(7328):102-6.


7. Hamerman D. Aging and the musculoskeletal system. Ann Rheum Dis. 1997; 56(10):578–585.


8. Rajasekaran S, Venkatadass K, Babu J, Ganesh K, Shetty AP. Pharmacological enhancement of disc diffusion and differentiation of healthy, ageing and degenerated discs: Results from in-vivo serial post-contrast MRI studies in 365 human lumbar discs. Eur Sp J. 2008;17(5):626-43.


9. Singh K, Masuda K, Thonar E, An H, Cs-Szabo G. Age-related changes in the extracellular matrix of nucleus pulposus and annulus fibrosus of human intervertebral disc. Spine. 2009;Vol. 34 (1):10-16.


10. Loeser RF. Age-Related Changes in the musculoskeletal system and the development of osteoarthritis. Clin Geriatr Med. 2010;26(3):371–386.


11. Chen, JH, Lin, X, Bu, C, & Zhang X. Role of advanced glycation end products in mobility and considerations in possible dietary and nutritional intervention strategies. Nutrition & metabolism. 2018;15:72.

Tags:  aging  dancers 

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Measuring a Pirouette: Tackling the challenge of quantifying dance

Posted By Catherine Haber on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Pirouettes are incredibly challenging for dancers to perform, but also for scientists to study! As we heard from January’s post, physical principles – such as torque, force couples, angular acceleration, and conservation of angular momentum – can help us gain better insights into performance. However, beyond these principles, there are a multitude of crucial elements that go into the performance of a pirouette. The dancer must balance in a proper passé position, reach a high relevé on the supporting foot, hold the arms in first, engage the core, spot his head, and many more! With all these components to coordinate, what should the dancer focus on, and what should the scientist measure?


With a double Bachelors in Dance and Physics, I was thrilled to begin working as a research assistant during my Graduate studies to Dr. Andrea Schaerli, in her research of the influence of spotting on postural stability in the ballet rotations of pirouettes and fouettés. We recorded dancers in motion capture labs performing rotations, and I was eager to direct my knowledge in physics to my passion of dance. I calculated everything from the displacement of the supporting foot, the trajectory of the center of mass (COM), the velocity of the head spotting, the separation of the head, trunk, and pelvis coordination, and many more variables that triggered my interest. However, it quickly became overwhelming when I realized the magnitude of possibilities for analysis. The question became not only what should we measure, but also – at the end of the day – what measure is the most relevant and applicable to the dance population? How can we as researchers find meaningful outcome measures that most closely capture the dancer’s experience of performance?


In a day and age of great technological advances, movement can be measured in many ways - from 2D video analysis to 3D motion capture, force platforms and electromyography (EMG) measures of muscle activation, and even the direction of eye movements. Yet dance inherently relies on experiential and aesthetic variable that can be challenging to quantify. Studying dance thus calls for the creation and validation of dance-specific measures. Therefore, we performed two small studies to integrate dancers’ impressions of performance into our analysis.


The first of these two studies was a pilot study that aimed to validate a balance measure that best predicts the performance of pirouettes. To this end, eight intermediate dancers performed many pirouettes in our movement lab and rated their performance after each turn, while the researcher independently did the same. Followingly, we correlated the most predominantly used measures of pirouette performance in dance science research with the dancers’ and researcher’s impression of the turn.


Here, it was found that the dancers’ performance was highly correlated with the angular deviation of the pelvis center from vertical – that is, how far off the center of the pelvis is from the vertical line drawn up from the supporting toe. This follows previous findings of smaller angular deviations between the center of mass (COM) and a vertical line from the base of support (here, approximated at the supporting toe) during successful pirouettes. In our study, the dancers gave their turns higher performance ratings when their pelvis – rather than the COM – was closer to this vertical line. This was an interesting finding for two reasons. From a research perspective, the deviation of the pelvis was highly correlated to the deviation of the COM (with this ‘true center’ actually residing within the pelvis of these female dancers during the pirouette). This means that researchers could use the pelvis center as an economical approximation for the tediously calculated COM during pirouettes. From the perspective of the dancer, while it may be challenging to have a clear understanding of your ‘true center’ throughout dynamic movements, being in tune to where your pelvis is can be a good starting point for pirouettes.


A second interesting finding was that from the observers’ perspective, performance was best associated with the instantaneous axis of rotation – that is, the deviation of the best-fit line through the head, torso, and supporting leg, from vertical. The observer perceived better turns based on this holistic impression of verticality. Therefore, this pilot validated additional measures of pirouette performance that best represented the impression of the dancer and the observer.


In a second effort to incorporate dancers’ opinions into research, we performed a Delphi Method survey to gather expert opinions on the characteristics and uses of spotting. While many measures have been used to describe balance in pirouettes, little research has been done on spotting itself. Therefore, we asked professional ballet dancers, professional ballet teachers, and dance scientists to participate in a Delphi Method survey, bringing together expert opinions over iterative rounds to generate ideas and to evaluate levels of consensus. After three rounds of first brainstorming ideas, then rating agreement on the group’s ideas, and finally ranking the most important ideas, the consensus of the group was actually quite low in defining the most important characteristics and uses of spotting. However, a novel variety of topics were proposed. Building on the traditional suggestions of spotting for balance and reduction of dizziness, spotting was suggested to have further functionality for orientation, rhythm, and particularly in multiple turns.


The value of integrated expert opinions was quite apparent when it came to aspects of rhythm. When splitting the group into dance practitioners (teachers and dancers) and dance scientists, it appeared that the practitioners had a great affinity for topics relating to rhythm. In contrast, dance scientists tended to rank these topics relating to rhythm very low. This survey was thus able to bring new perspectives to the understanding of spotting that can serve as meaningful hypotheses for future movement-based research. As such, we performed a study last fall capturing professional dancers performing the multiple rotations of fouetté and a la secondé turns to examine exactly these proposed functionalities of spotting.



Analyzing dance from a scientific perspective can be a challenging feat. However, we must not forget why we are motivated to do such research: to help improve dancers’ performance! Particularly from the perspective of movement analysis where one can become fixated on degrees of difference or centimeters in jump height, the perception of the dancer must not be lost. Dance is an interdisciplinary, physical system yet to be fully analyzed. With collaborative efforts of the community of practitioners and researchers, we can determine comprehensive, dance-specific measures and methodologies to benefit the well-being and training of dancers.


Catherine Haber is a Graduate student, currently finishing a MAS in Dance Science and a MSc in Sport Science Research, and a research assistant to Dr. Andrea Schaerli at the Institute of Sport Science at the University of Bern, Switzerland.

Tags:  dancers  pirouette  research  turn 

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Introducing 'Dance for Health'

Posted By Clare Guss-West and Emily Jenkins on behalf of the Dance for Health Task Force, Tuesday, February 19, 2019


IADMS enhances health, well-being, training and performance


by cultivating medical, scientific and educational excellence."


The forthcoming IADMS 2019 conference in Montreal will see an exciting development that reflects the evolution of the IADMS mission statement in the visionary field of Dance for Health (DfH). Capitalizing on IADMS Health for Dance (HfD) expertise, the Association enlarges the focus of its medical, scientific and educational research and activities to validate the role of dance in society and enhance the health of all dancing publics.


Whilst the benefits of dance as a physical activity are widely known1,  it is perhaps the components of dance that transcend physical activity which render it an effective, holistic movement form capable of improving our global health. As a physical means of self expression dance enables communication, both internally reinforcing mind and body unity, and externally promoting social cohesion. The creative and communicative elements of dance have attracted the attention of neurologists,2 3 4 physicians and social scientists.


Dance-based, Dance for Health interventions interconnecting with Arts for Health, use evidence-based, high quality, creative arts interventions to promote general health and well-being, stimulating physical, creative and social engagement for all. Arts in Health initiatives are currently impacting change in both national and international public health policies. In the UK, for example, ‘Social Prescribing’ is available from general medical practitioners5, and the National Institute for Health Research calls for research on ‘Participatory Arts to Improve Health and Wellbeing’. Furthermore, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPG) have asked for an accredited module to educate clinicians, public health specialists and other health and care professionals on the evidence-based and practical use of the arts for health and wellbeing outcomes.6 Inspired by the APPG model, The European Dance & Creative Wellness Foundation presented to European Members of Parliament in Brussels last year to highlight the potential innovative role that dance might play in response to some of Europe’s chronic health challenges.


Private healthcare is also actively seeking innovation in the face of global epidemics they identify such as, ‘Sitting’, Depression, Obesity, Type 2 ‘Lifestyle’ Diabetes and to address the healthcare needs of the ever-increasing senior population.7 Some are starting to recognize the opportunities dance offers as Begoña San José, clinical psychologist, Axa France observes,


We incentivise members for staying physically active. Dance however has multidimensional benefits: It’s music, coordination, fun, social and foremost a positive experience. Gym is also not for everyone. Dancing is!”8




‘Dance for PD’® (Parkinson's Disease) program director David Leventhal, from Mark Morris Dance Group NY, adds:

"In the US, we're starting to see large health management organizations like Kaiser Permanente, which operates in eight US states, approach dance organizations to deliver community-based dance for health programming. Kaiser just sponsored the first year of Dance for Parkinson's classes at San Francisco Ballet, and the program has been a great success."




Participation in dance fosters communication and cohesion both internally and externally. If the intra-systems of the body are not communicating then there is ill health, and similarly if social interaction and cohesion is not supported there is an unhealthy and fragmented society.  


“Dance . . . is part of our collective DNA. Our bodies and brains have evolved to dance in synchronized unison and dancing on a regular basis seems to change the way we think and interact with one another.”9  

 - Christopher Bergland, world-class endurance athlete, coach, author, and public health advocate


An example of how dance can promote interaction and social cohesion is captured in Dance Network Association’s (UK) Active Families project (pictured below). Situated in a deprived area for residents of a culturally diverse neighborhood, the project was designed to prevent isolation by bringing parents and children together to participate in creative dance. As participants spoke a variety of different languages, dance became an alternative means through which to communicate. Outcomes from the project detail that dance has the ability to transcend cultural, social and economic challenges, and bring people together to feel emotionally, physically and mentally connected10.




The potential of dance to enhance internal intra-system communication, as well as promote cohesion and global health, is motivating researchers to explore these exciting new territories. For instance, looking at how dance might build cognitive reserve and stimulate new synaptic connections11 in the case of Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease; enhance neuroendocrine and immune function12; and promote cell regeneration to support the treatment of chronic autoimmune disorders.


Dance-based interventions can support prevention, treatment and management of physical and mental illness. For instance AESOP's (UK) falls prevention dance program for older adults13, and The Alchemy Project (UK) which was designed to support the wellbeing of troubled young adults14. Dance has also been recognized in aiding rehabilitation, recovery and quality-of-life care, such as the work being done at St Elisabeth Hospital, Tilburg (NL), where dancing in the hospital is being explored to support and maintain patient autonomy; and Scottish Ballet’s new dance project ‘Time to Dance’, for people living with dementia and those who care for them, families, and friends15.


Other dance-based interventions may have focused aims, such as reinforcing healthy behavior, or easing side effects of specific pathologies. Examples include a randomized control trial dance intervention for adolescent girls to influence self-rated health (SE)16, and a project supporting women affected by cancer, which uses dance to alleviate negative side effects of diagnosis and treatment such as anxiety and fatigue (UK)17. Such projects have the ability to alter participants’ understanding of, and relationship to, their bodies;


“When you have cancer, you lose touch with your body. It becomes unfamiliar - even worse, it starts to feel as if it is an enemy. For me, dancing started to bring me back to my own body and its energy, strength and basic joyfulness.” 18                        

- Move Dance Feel participant




The joyful, social, creative and expressive elements of dance are perhaps the precise reasons for its efficacy within health contexts. It is the ‘not therapy’ status of Dance for Health programs, along with the physically communicative aspects, that might account for their success in terms of participant retention and commitment, allowing for long term improvements to health.


This is an exciting time in the development of Dance for Health, as research and international collaborations are solicited and flourishing. IADMS is in a strong position to draw on the breadth and authority of its international membership to lever strategic, institutional change in dance and health policy at a national and international level. IADMS promotes the validation of dance as a life-long partner for health and proactively contributes to deliver the solutions to the pressing needs of all dancing publics, of our society and of our time.


Clare Guss-West MA,

Director, The European Dance & Creative Wellness Foundation, IADMS DfH Task Force



Emily Jenkins MA,

Founder, Move Dance Feel, IADMS DfH Task Force (



Dance for Health Resources


Centres, Programs and Foundations for Dance for Health/Institutes and Lobby Groups

Australia Dance Health Alliance (AUS):

National Center for Dance Therapy, Les Grandes Ballets, Montreal, (CA):

The European Dance & Creative Wellness Foundation: (NL)

Dance for Health (NL):

Switch2Move (NL):

Danshälsa, Balettakademien Stockholm (SE):

Skanes Dans Teater (SE):

Dans for Halsa (SE):

Dance in Health and Wellbeing (UK):

People Dancing (UK):


Older adults dancing

Merom, D. & Johnson, N. (AUS) Dancing could help the elderly keep their feet. ABC News, Australian Broadcasting Agency. April 1, 2012. Available at:

‘dancing longevity’, Clare Guss-West, Tanz Senorinnen & Senioren, Konzert Theater Bern (CH):

Older people's dance activities - the first UK survey:

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance – Retired Not Tired, Evaluation Report by Dr Kate Wakeling:

Royal Academy of Dance - Dance for Lifelong wellbeing (UK):

AESOP (UK) - Falls Prevention dance-based Intervention:

Balettakademien Stockholm (SE), dancing 60+:

Celebrating the mature dancer who still are on stage
Kairos Alive, Maria Genee - Choreography of Care (USA)

Dance for Parkinson’s and MS

BrainDance (DE):

IntoDance e.V, Staatsballett Berlin, Soraya Bruno & Annelie Chasemore - (DE): participatory dance class with Parkinson’s and MS dancers. Contact:

English National Ballet (UK), Dance For Parkinsons: An Investigative (3 year) Study by Houston, S & McGill, A. (2015):

People Dancing (UK)

‘Dance for PD’ (USA):


Dance and Dementia

Dans Med Meg/Dance With Me, Pauline Hasse (NO): dance for elders and persons with dementia. Contact details:

Dance and Dementia, Pilot Study Research Findings, Smith, N. & Waller, D. (2012) (UK):

Going by way of the Body in Dementia Care, Dr. Richard Coaten (UK) (2011):

Green Candle (UK):


Dance and Mental Health

Duberg, A. et al. Influencing Self-Rated Health Among Adolescent Girls with Dance Intervention, A Randomized Control Trial (SE) (January 2013):

Restoke (UK) Man Up performance about masculinity and mental health:

Dance United (UK) The Alchemy Project:

Professor Peter Lovatt, Reader and Principal Lecturer in Psychology, University of Hertfordshire (UK), What is Dance Psychology? What types of questions are you trying to answer? (March 2017):


Dance and Cancer

Theatre Freiburg - Die Krone an meiner Wand (DE):

Move Dance Feel - Dance for Women Affected by Cancer (UK):


Dance with Visually Impaired

Royal Opera House (UK):

Rationale - Breakdance and Visual Impairment (UK): 


Dance and Psychology/Neuroscience

Bergland, C. The Powerful Psychological Benefits of Dance (2018):

Brown, S. & Parsons, LM. The neuroscience of dance. Sci Am. 2008; 299(3):78-83. (2008)

Poikonen, H. Movement and Neuroscience:





1. Fong Yan A, Cobley S, Chan C, Pappas E, Nicholson LL, Ward RE, Murdoch RE, Gu Y, Trevor BL, Vassallo AJ, Wewege MA, Hiller CE. The effectiveness of dance intervention on physical health outcomes compared to other forms of physical activity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine 48(4):933-951


2. Poikonen H. Dance on Cortex - ERPs and Phase Synchrony in Dancers and Musicians During a Contemporary Dance Piece, University of Helsinki, 2018. Available online.


3. Lossing A, Moore M, & Zuhl M. Dance as a treatment for neurological disorders, 2016. Available here. Pages 170-184


4. Brown S, & Parsons LM. The neuroscience of dance. Sci Am. 2008; 299(3):78-83. Available online.


5. Robinson A. Social prescribing: coffee mornings, singing groups, and dance lessons on the NHS, BMJ 2018;363:k4857. Available here.


6. All Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Annual Report 2017-18: Available here.


7. Woei-Ni Hwang P, & Braun K. The Effectiveness of Dance Interventions to Improve Older Adults’ Health: A Systematic Literature Review 2015. Available here.


8. San José B. Moving Towards Mental Wellbeing, Presentation, The European Parliament, Brussels 2018.


9. Bergland, C. The Neuroscience of Dance, Psychology Today, 2018. Available here.


10. Urmston E. Active Families Evaluation Report 2017. Available here. And their web page here.


11. Powers R. Use it or lose it: Dancing makes you smarter. Stanford Dance, 2010. Available here.


12. Liponis, M. Ultra-longevity. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2007.


13. Aesop. Dance to Health - An Evaluation, 2017. Available here.


14. The Alchemy Project, Dance United in partnership with the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College, 2016. Available here.


15. Time to Dance, Project Scottish Ballet 2019. Available here.


16. Duberg A. et al. Influencing Self-Rated Health Among Adolescent Girls with Dance Intervention, A Randomized Control Trial, 2013. Available here.


17. 18. Jenkins, E. Move Dance Feel: Exploring Dance and Wellbeing with Women Recovering from Cancer, 2016. Project Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Tags:  DfH 

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Does dancing in heels hurt your knees? This may be why.

Posted By Pamela Mikkelsen on behalf of the IADMS Promotion Committee, Thursday, February 14, 2019

Dancers know that the shoes we wear impact how our bodies feel after dancing. I know that dancing full production shows in heels left my knees sore in ways that wearing flat shoes didn’t. Some of this soreness can be explained by differences in choreography demands but how much of the soreness could come down to the shoes? There is little research on how performing the same task in different shoes changes how much the leg joints and muscles work. In a recent study published in Medical Problems for Performing Artists, we examined the impact of wearing heeled shoes on a basic dance jump: sautés.


We found that wearing heels causes the knee joint and muscles to work more while the ankle works less even when the choreography is the same. As dancers, we know the body has a great ability to adapt and perform under different conditions and this is a good demonstration but we can use this new knowledge to decrease injury rates in dancers. For instance, choosing flat shoes instead of heels during long rehearsals may be a safer choice with regard to minimizing knee pain for a show that requires heeled shoes for performance. Also, the footwear choice of a production may be influenced by understanding the demands of the choreography with the production team deciding on a flatter shoe to promote knee health of the performers. This research also demonstrates one potential benefit to wearing heeled shoes with the use of “teacher shoes” for instructors that have ankle injuries like Achilles tendon pain. The slight heel height may decrease the demand on the ankle and redistribute it to the knee for improved tolerance to being on one’s feet all day. This study provides further evidence to consider footwear, and especially heeled shoes, for performance and rehearsal with regard to potential overuse injuries.


The research was done by analyzing the mechanics of each joint of the leg during the sautés. The individual joints of the leg must each produce energy in order to do a movement like a jump. The amount of energy produced to create movement is called work and the different joints will do different amounts of work for different movements. Our study looked at how much work the hip, knee, and ankle each performed doing repeated sautés in bare feet and when wearing heeled character shoes. We had ten female dancers participate at the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Laboratory at the University of Southern California. We found that, when wearing heels, the work was significantly shifted toward the knee and away from the ankle. The ankle produced less energy while the knee produced more to do the same sauté. 



The figure shows the phases of a sauté: Contact Phase, when the dancer is on the ground, and Flight, when the dancer is in the air. The Contact Phase can be broken into Energy Absorption (landing) where the leg joints do work to decelerate the body as it comes down and Energy Generation (take-off) where the leg joints do work to push the body upward. We found that the knee does more work than the ankle during both the landing and the take-off of a saute when wearing heels.


We hypothesized a few different reasons for the differences seen when wearing heels. When wearing heels, the foot is in more of a pointed position and the ankle can’t move as much as when barefoot. This may cause the dancer to use the knee more when wearing heels. Other reasons include the dancer’s perception of friction and feeling less stable in heels. The increase in knee demand indicates that footwear may contribute to knee injuries seen in dancers and should be considered when making choices during rehearsal and performance.



The research was performed by me, Pamela Mikkelsen, PT, DPT, OCS; Danielle N Jarvis, PhD, ATC; and Kornelia Kulig, PT, PhD. I am a physical therapist that specializes in outpatient orthopedics in Los Angeles and an adjunct instructor of clinical physical therapy at the University of Southern California. In addition to working with the general orthopedic population, I work with dancers and have an interest in preventing injury this unique population. I worked as a professional dancer and teacher for over ten years and am excited to contribute to the scientific knowledge of this art form and help strive for safer practices.  

Tags:  ankle  dancers  heels  knee  research 

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Can Physics improve your pirouettes?

Posted By Margaret Wilson and Jennifer Deckert on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Successful completion of a pirouette (turn on one leg) can sometimes feel like an impossible task, but understanding more about the mechanics behind the turn may help you find more stability, produce more rotations and have better balance.  There are several principles from physics that are useful in understanding the preparation and turning action in a pirouette.

1.     Torque – a turning force that helps start the turn

2.     Force couple – torque that is created in the placement of the legs and feet in the preparation for the turn

3.     Angular acceleration – how to build up turning speed

4.     Conservation of angular momentum – how to maintain the desired turning speed. 


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But first, let’s examine Newton’s laws of motion to help put these principles into context and help describe our understanding of dance movement.  The first law has to do with inertia (the tendency to maintain the current state of motion or a resistance to change).  Newton's second law deals with acceleration and momentum and the third law describes action/reaction. Each of these laws comes into play in the preparation and continued turning motion in pirouette.  To start turning we must overcome inertia through the creation of torque – and we do this in the preparation for the turn.  While turns can start from a variety of positions of the legs, if we look at 4th position in external rotation, we can see easily see how the dancer creates torque to overcome inertia and begin the turn. The distance between the two feet, rotating away from each other creates an equal and opposite force which is transferred to the supporting leg in the turn. This generation of torque can be described as a force couple. In 4th position plié a moderate amount of torque is created, in 5th position, where the distance between the feet is very small, less torque is created. If a dancer takes an open fourth allongé (a lunge position where one leg is bent and the other extended), the torque generated is greater (Sugano and Laws 2002). 


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The force couple and torque help start the turn, but angular acceleration also determined by the contribution of all related body parts in a turn.  For example, when the arms and legs are extended away from the center of the body, as when the arms and gesture leg are à la seconde, rotation is slower since more mass further away from the body’s center of rotation. As that mass gets pulled closer to the center of rotation, conservation of angular momentum dictates that the dancer must turn faster. Dancers can feel this when they pull their arms in tight, and it is clearly visible on a low-friction surface like when watching figure skaters.


Angular momentum is lost to friction – the amount of surface contact for the turning foot.  A dancer will experience less friction en pointe than on a low relevé in plié as is sometimes seen in a jazz turn. The interaction of the surface of the shoe and the floor also contribute to the coefficient of friction: a satin pointe shoe on a vinyl surface has relatively low friction when compared to a bare foot on the same surface. The more friction the slower the turn, and therefore fewer rotations are possible.


Take Away Ideas:


1)     Develop a strong supporting leg: In a pirouette the dancer is rotating around a vertical axis so balance in the turning position is important. Imura and Iino (2018) found that dancers need good strength in the supporting leg to help find balance and endurance for multiple revolutions. 


2)     Focus on the arms in the preparation –Kim, et al, (2015) found that skilled dancers generated larger vertical angular momentum by skillfully using rotation of the upper trunk and arms. The closing arm after the moment of inertia makes the largest contribution to whole-body angular momentum – not the arm that opens as the trunk begins to rotate.


3)     While the supporting leg should be strong, the body should be slightly relaxed.  The same is true in pirouette.  If a dancer holds the body rigid, the slightest displacement from equilibrium will cause gravity to exert a torque on the body, and the dancer will topple. Keeping the body somewhat relaxed enables the dancer to make the slight adjustments necessary to correct for small perturbations from balance.


Additional Reading:

1)     Laws, K. Physics and the Art of Dance (2002)

2)     Sugano A and Laws K.  Physical analysis as a foundation for pirouette training.  Med Probl Perfom Art, 17 (1) 29-32.

3)     Imura A. and Iino Y. Regulation of hip joint kinetics for increasing angular momentum. The results suggest that dancers need to regulate hip joint torques along with the thigh angles in the pirouettes depending on the number of revolutions. Human Movement Science 60(2018)18-31.

4)     Kim J, Wilson M, Singhal K, Gamblin S, Suh CY and Kwon YK Generation of vertical angular momentum in single, double and triple-turn pirouette en dehors in ballet.  Sports Biomechanics, Volume 13, 2014 - Issue 3

5)     Lott, MB and Laws KL The physics of toppling and regaining balance during pirouette.  Journal of Dance Medicine & Science 2012, 16(4) 167-174.




Margaret Wilson, PhD

Professor, University of Wyoming


Jennifer Deckert, MFA

Associate Professor, University of Wyoming

Margaret and Jennifer are the co-directors of the Dance Science Program at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, WY USA


Tags:  physics  pirouette  teachers  turn 

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