Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Register
Blog Home All Blogs

How are dancers coping with quarantine? Perspectives from the Houston Ballet

Posted By Carina Nasrallah on behalf of the IADMS Promotion Committee, Tuesday, June 2, 2020

I’m Carina, Houston Methodist Athletic Trainer for Houston Ballet and a member of the IADMS Promotions Committee.  We were proud to have Houston, Texas as the location of the #IADMS2017 Annual Conference.  As part of the Helping Dancers Help Themselves initiative, I wanted to share some perspectives from within our Houston community as to how we are adapting to the COVID-19 quarantine.

Ian Casady, Principal, Houston Ballet

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a monumental impact on my ability to train and stay performance ready.  It is impossible to adequately replicate the training environment that I am used to, and that is required, for staying in top shape while stuck at home.  Movement is limited both laterally and vertically, and even in spaces where I might be able to jump or turn, I am limited by the floor surface and hardness.   In addition to the constraints of my physical space are the constraints on the amount of time that I can dedicate to working out.  As the husband of a full-time elementary teacher and the father of an elementary student who are also both stuck at home, it has been difficult to find much focused alone time to keep a consistent training regimen.  I am taking a daily modified ballet class in my garage, and supplementing that with general full-body fitness exercises and HIIT sessions when I can manage.  For me, as with most of us now, work and life have melded into one, and the brain is constantly switching back and forth, from one to the other, throwing the idea of “work/life balance” out the window.


Allison Miller, First Soloist, Houston Ballet

A couple weeks back, Carina shared a plyometric training video with us which I loved and I plan on adding that in this week. I really appreciated Carina talking about floor awareness…I have been concerned for my fellow dancers, seeing them on social media jumping and doing a lot of moves on not-sprung floors. As a high school bunhead, I foolishly used to dance entire ballets on a cement pad in our back yard and that turned out very, very badly, though not immediately, and I ended up struggling with shin splints for a couple years. So I was glad to have her explain so explicitly how important it is to protect ourselves.


I had trouble getting on board with “hanging onto the counter” for ballet, and really took some time away from class the first few weeks of this thing. I’ve been biking a lot, and I have a handful of ex-dancer friends who teach Pilates and Gyrokinesis and now have zoom classes. It has been about four weeks of taking their classes (classes about 4 times a week) and I have been so happy to feel/see my muscles change. My hamstrings, which I know never want to work, are lit! My arms are feeling strong! My core is stronger and more articulate. I’m not using my neck for everything! It’s been fun to take this time and notice how my body feels different when you remove ballet all together.


I now have a floor (shower pan liner as fake Marley) and a little barre. I’m doing more ballet classes at home because I want to, and I’m excited to have shed the muscle baggage I usually have in a busy season and start fresh.



Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, Corps de Ballet, Houston Ballet

The Covid-19 crisis has influenced everyone's lives dramatically. I've gone back to my family in New Zealand for the time being, but have been able to stay involved with Houston Ballet online. I've found it difficult to balance rest and work, is this a good opportunity to let my body rest and recover from what was a really intense performance season, or should I push through to the end of June when our next scheduled break was supposed to be and remain in the best physical condition I can? I think the answer for many of us has been somewhere in between, and I think that’s the best for me mentally and physically.


I take a combination of ballet class and contemporary classes throughout the week, and I attempt to alternate. Mentally, ballet can be quite frustrating for me at home because I've realized I rely so heavily on having a good floor, I've been trying to work on port de bras and balances specifically, but contemporary/modern classes can feel more rewarding as I don't feel I'm compromising as much. Partnering is something I'm always focused on trying to improve, but it has been really hard without dance partners or access to gyms. I try to get in push-ups in a variety of positions most days of the week so that it might hopefully take me less time to get back to where I was when we return. I take one day off dancing and working out completely, usually Sunday. Things like jumping, turning and partnering are a bit out of my control, so I'm trying to focus on things I can control like equipment-less PT, Pilates Mat, little jumps in sneakers etc. Everything has been an exercise in creativity and as someone who hopes to choreograph one day, I'm trying to take the time to exercise the creative parts of me that can be easy to neglect during the usually busy work schedule. 


Michelle de los Reyes, Company Manager, Houston Ballet

Working from home when you work for a performing arts groups is just not something you ever imagined you’d do. Performing arts require collaboration throughout all aspects of the group and that is usually done in-person. Though some of the specifics of my job as Company Manager have changed, I am still doing many of the same types of work as before. Much of my day is still focused on managing the company of dancers and their doings. The big difference is that now I am doing all my work via phone or web. Communication is something that I think people take for granted when you see someone every day. But now, I am on the phone or web calls probably 60-80% of my day, making sure to stay in touch with the Artistic Staff and the company of dancers. All those little passing check-ins you can do when you see someone walking the halls now are deliberate phone calls or meetings. For me, this amount of digital connectedness, though extremely important, can sometimes be exhausting. One personal policy I have put in place is a hard start and end time for my day. Without it, I think working at home would allow ‘work time’ to creepy into and take over ‘home time’. So, unless something is urgent, I do my best not to work after 5pm. When that time hits, I change into my workout gear and do my daily work out and/or walk. I’ve found this to be a really great transition from being ‘on’ for other people to quieting down for my ‘me/family’ time.


Barbara Bears, Ballet Master, Former Principal Dancer, Houston Ballet

I’m walking 2-4 miles a day around the bayou. I try to keep a good pace, enjoying the nice weather and trying to keep my distance from others. I’m trying to stretch once a day. Also, I have 2 yoga mats that I set up in my kitchen to give myself a barre. I regret not grabbing my Theraband and Yamuna balls out of my locker but I’m making do with what I have.


Amy Fote, Ballet Master, Former Principal Dancer, Houston Ballet

As a ballet master with Houston Ballet, I often teach company class. Now, under COVID-19 measures, I teach from home on a slippery wooden floor (versus a sprung, Marley covered floor) holding onto a small ballet barre. In the studio, I’m used to hearing and sensing the reactions of the dancers, where now we do classes on Zoom. All of the dancers are muted, so when you make a comment, or a joke, or want to ask a question, you are met with silence on the other end (thank goodness for the thumbs up “Reaction” option on Zoom). When we first began Zoom classes, I had to use a CD with music dictating what comes next. It was a challenge to make combinations fit the specific track, from length to tempo. More recently, we have added a live accompanist to our classes so we’re also fortunate to have live (virtual) music again.


Our staff meetings are done using Skype for Business, where the person speaking appears on the computer screen. I’m not technologically savvy, so just to have someone’s face appear on my screen seemed like a big feat accomplished (and reason for applause in my own home)! But truly, we take for granted the social cues from one another when we’re sitting in the same room together. With this element missing, I feel our meetings have an in efficiency, not including the occasional Wi-Fi network issue, which causes me to miss even more. 


I still do video homework, but very different from notating steps/formations. We’ve been asked to create videos of our own, and to approve those submitted by our dancers for social media posts. In any video I’ve personally submitted, it has to be done in one go, because I do not know how to superimpose text in my video, or combine different takes. Often the video submissions from the dancers come in with details missing, so I need to look up the dancers contact information and text, email, or call them to ask if they can redo a section or two.

The challenges are many, but we are resilient and will come through this having learned more skills and appreciating the sense of community even more than before.


For myself, a day-in-the-life has required a whole new set of skills and responsibilities.  Since my outreach responsibilities at the Houston Ballet have been dialed back almost completely, as an employee of Houston Methodist, I was re-assigned to our main hospital at the Texas Medical Center.  I have assisted with employee and patient screenings which involves taking temperatures and asking about symptoms or possible exposures to COVID-19 prior to entering the hospital facilities.  I have also worked in the hospital’s central supply delivering various types of equipment and supplies throughout the hospital.  Most interestingly, I have served on a medical intensive care unit assisting the medical staff with positioning intubated COVID-19 patients to optimize comfort and respiratory function.


All of these tasks have been challenging with unique physical and mental demands that I have had to adjust to.  Trying to be flexible with a constantly shifting schedule and never knowing quite what to expect when I head in for a shift takes a lot of energy and mental preparation.  When I am not working at the hospital I have tried to stay in touch with the Houston Ballet dancers, checking in to see how they are doing and making sure they have adequate resources for coping and staying physically fit during this unusual time.  It has been helpful to have resources from IADMS that I can pass along to them to help guide them through this season safely and mindfully.  Furthermore, I have been so grateful for a strong support system at home and lots of large parks and trail systems nearby where I can get outside often while still protecting myself and others.


IADMS has produced and collected resources for dancers during this difficult time. Our initiative – Helping Dancers Help Themselves – includes weekly webinars on Performing Artists’ Mental Health posted to our YouTube Channel, live panel discussions on safe dance during quarantine on our social media platforms, and more. For a list of medical resources, mental health resources, and online dance and exercise classes within IADMS and beyond, please visit


Thank you to the Houston Ballet for sharing your processes, struggles, and successes during this time.

Tags:  COVID-19 

PermalinkComments (0)

Healthy Dancing for Every Body

Posted By IADMS Newsletter, Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2019

Invited authors: Rebecca Barnstaple, Ph.D. candidate, York University, Toronto, Canada
Lucie Beaudry, Ph.D. candidate and assistant professor, Université du Québec à Montréal
Professor Sylvie Fortin, Université du Québec à Montréal


IADMS has recently expanded its mandate to include a focus on Dance for Health (DfH) with the aim to promote and validate dance as a life-long partner for health and well-being for all publics. The development of innovative research related to a variety of healthy dance practices is a key aspect of this initiative. In this brief report, we present core aspects behind the rationale for this new direction of IADMS, followed by a description of a substantial DfH research collaboration in Montreal, Québec, Canada, host city of IADMS 29th Annual Conference.


While dance is historically connected with healing in many cultures, medical and scientific interest in applications of dance within rehabilitation, therapy, health care and well-being are more recent, accompanied by an emerging body of research exploring the efficacy and mechanisms of dance-based interventions through a range of methods. These may be qualitative, quantitative, mixed, or art-based, reflecting the inherent complexity of dance as a holistic activity encompassing art, physicality, sociality, and environment – essential aspects of our humanness (Fortin, 2018). Clare Guss-West and Emily Jenkins in their blog post Introducing Dance for Health (DfH) suggest that “The joyful, social, creative and expressive elements of dance are perhaps the precise reasons for its efficacy within health contexts”[i], and the DfH roundtable in Helsinki identified a primary need for research addressing “dance beyond physical activity”. We could add that DfH explores dance beyond psychotherapeutic uses of dance/movement, associated with dance/movement therapy.


DfH initiatives are not presented as therapy, but nevertheless can offer many therapeutic benefits. Dance has the potential to act as an adaptive and widely-applicable health intervention that is multimodal both in delivery and benefits. Beyond physical activity, dance requires complex coordination of motor skills, cognitive strategies, affective and attentional resources, and aesthetic components. Cognitive tasks such as learning choreography (Bar and DeSouza 2016) or responding to cues that invite improvisational problem solving (Batson et al 2016) recruit distinct brain regions and neural networks, while partnered dance forms and exercises can involve complex social strategies such as mimicry (in mirroring), communicative responses (partnered improvisation), and learned roles or vocabulary (such as in tango or salsa).


Interoception, proprioception, and kinesthetic awareness are all heightened by dance, which can improve body image as well as fine and gross motor control (Muller-Pinget et al, 2012; Gose 2019). Dance is also a creative form of emotional expression, which may be enhanced by music. Entrainment, or action that is synchronous with external cues such as music, has been shown to modulate neural entrainment (Thaut 2006). Finally, dance makes use of space in specific ways that extend beyond exercise studies. These broad engagements of the situated nervous system through dance demonstrate its relevance for all bodies; thus IADMS has expanded its activities to be inclusive of anyone dancing. However, research on dance in the context of health interventions can be difficult due to the involvement of, and interactions between, many factors. Interdisciplinary collaborations blending the best tools of science with the nuanced approaches of humanities and the creativeness of the arts may be optimal for addressing the challenges involved in developing meaningful research on DfH.


An example of this is found in Quebec, Canada, where the project Audace (2018-2020) brings together 11 researchers with different backgrounds (dance, creative arts therapies, education, kinesiology, neuropsychology, rehabilitation and sociology[ii]). This highly interdisciplinary team demonstrates the challenges involved in negotiating a shared language to develop and assess interventions across various population groups: adult out-patient rehabilitation service users; healthy inactive community-based older adults; children with neuro-visual problems; ex-homeless women with mental health issues and addictions; adolescents with cerebral palsy; people with Parkinson’s disease. The inclusion of various approaches in DfH is an intentional effort on the part of project members to go beyond labels (such as dance therapy, adapted dance, expressive/arts therapy, creative dance, modified dance intervention, developmental dance, Laban-based dance, community dance, etc.) and to focus on complementary relationships rather than abstract stances. Presuming that the content and the pedagogy can vary greatly under the same label, or that different labels might present quite similar content and pedagogy, one objective of the research is to open and explore details within the “black box” of different interventions.


While looking for compelling evidence of the effects of dance for health, we want to better understand the “active ingredients” of dance-based interventions in terms of pedagogy and content. We also want to go beyond these laudable intentions by recognising that dance, across cultures, is fundamental to our embodiment as human beings, and aspects of movement experiences may evade complete description or sophisticated analysis. For these reasons, the Audace project will culminate with a “creative act” engaging all parties involved. Organized in partnership with the National Centre for Dance Therapy, this will be a multi-media event bringing together many artistic modalities (live dance demonstrations, videos, pictures, projections, etc.), highlighting the myriad approaches and applications within dance that influence health and well-being.


With its innovative interdisciplinary design, the Audace project does not seek to establish the competencies of an individual practitioner, or a single professional role, or a specific research method, but rather to explore the potential inherent in people from distinct professional backgrounds coming together to create a unified field of practice and research. The future lies in our ability to collaboratively encourage all bodies to explore the myriad ways in which dancing can contribute to experiencing health, well-being, artistry, and agency throughout the lifespan.




Bar RJ & DeSouza JFX. Tracking plasticity: Effects of long-term rehearsal in experts encoding music to movement. PLoS ONE 2016;11(1):p. e0147731
Batson G, Hugenschmidt CE, Soriano CT. Verbal Auditory Cueing of Improvisational Dance: A Proposed Method for Training Agency in Parkinson’s Disease. Frontiers in Neurology 2016;7(2):215-215.
Fortin, S. Tomorrow’s dance and health partnership: the need for a holistic view, Research in Dance Education 2018, 19:2, 152-166, DOI: 10.1080/14647893.2018.1463360
Gose, R. Extraordinary dance requires extraordinary motor learning. Journal of Dance Education, 19: 34–40, 2019 Copyright © National Dance Education Organization ISSN: 1529-0824 print / 2158-074X online DOI:
Muller-Pinget S, Carrard I, Ybarra J, & Golay A (2012). Dance therapy improves self-body image among obese patients. Volume 89, Issue 3, December 2012, Pages 525-528.
Thaut MH. Neural Basis of Rhythmic Timing Networks in the Human Brain. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. First published: 24 January 2006.

[ii]Bonnie Swaine, Sylvie Fortin, Raymond Caroline, Duval Hélène, Lemay Martin, Lucie Beaudry, Louis Bherer, Guylaine Vaillancourt, Patricia McKinley, Frédérique Poncet, Sarah Berry


Tags:  Dance for Health  IADMS Newsletter 


Helsinki in Retrospect: Movement Session/Partner-Based Bodymind Warm-up

Posted By Meredith Lyons on behalf of the Dance Educators’ Committee, Monday, September 23, 2019

In preparation for #IADMS2019 in Montreal I was excited to reflect on a presentation I did with Betsy Miller last year in Helsinki at #IADMS2018. Movement sessions provide an important venue for hands-on application of research and group feedback.




Betsy Miller and I presented on how somatics has become commonplace in dance academia curricula. We discussed the importance of somatic movement patterns in connection to improvisation and partner work in undergraduate, graduate and professional dance studies. However, even as collaborators, Miller and I came to the conclusion that we have differing viewpoints on how to approach and teach these fundamentals. As we unpacked our movement histories and dance lineage of educators and choreographers, we found that the common landing place for us was the importance of somatic based partnership, which is what we taught in Helsinki. 

When looking at Thomas Hanna’s definition of somatics ‘the art and science of the inter-relational process between awareness, biological function and the environment, with all three factors understood as a synergistic whole’ (Fitt 1996: 303), questions formed on how to incorporate all three factors: What exercises help bring attention to both body and mind in relation to our individual selves and partner(s)? What are some key exercises/movement patterns to warm up our individual selves, while staying in tune to the partner(s) in space? Is physical touch essential in warming up the body to partnership? How does improvisation play a role? How can imagery be used within set movement material and improvised movement to prepare for partnership in dance? What are essential building blocks in the teaching of dance somatics? What are important takeaways? Is this even possible for participants in a conference setting, with limited time, and resources? As we distilled our thoughts we came to the conclusion that not only is somatics an important factor in improvisation and partner work, but the body and mind have a complicated and complex dualistic relationship. The purpose of the session was to provide participants with a framework and specific exercises to integrate somatics and partnering skills into a contemporary dance technique class, while promoting effective, healthy and mindful approaches to training and treating dancers.



 We first started the movement session by guiding participants in a floor based individual warm-up that combined elements of somatic principles such as Bartenieff Fundamentals, Feldenkreis, and Skinner release technique and that included imagery and experiential anatomy (these somatic techniques are commonly used in the modern dance classroom and are described at the end of this post). This later moved into physical touch in a partner-based warm-up that incorporated initiation with minimal weight sharing that could later be used for contemporary/modern dance classes. Throughout the movement sessions participants engaged in somatic exercises as either a mover or facilitator to explore possibilities for movement initiation, pathways, effort, weight, and mind/body integration. Throughout the workshop, Miller and I shared both set material and guided improvisation scores that were designed to enhance bodily awareness, mindfulness, specificity and efficiency, as well as prepare dancers for potential rigorous contemporary phrase work. The movement pathway of the session started from the floor, that led to the bodies moving up through and across the space. These movement pathways executed a wide range of partnering with both contact and non-verbal initiation, that allowed for individual improvisation within the duet. Somatic approaches such as Bartenieff Fundamentals, Feldenkreis, and Skinner release technique placed focus on releasing soft tissue while teaching the body to move freely without restrictions, instilling dynamic play and precision. The reported benefits ranged widely from improved range of motion, strength and alignment, to neuromuscular efficiency. Dancers stand to benefit holistically from cultivating an approach to movement that integrated body and mind experience. The movement session highlighted the relationship between initiation, pathways, effort, weight, and body-mind integration, with reference to execution in a wide range of contemporary dance techniques and partnering. Participants moved freely with one another, at moments finding autonomy while also bridging connections across the room. It was wonderful to witness the diversity of movement in space, exchange in the room, and the care given to not only their individual selves but to one another.


As I think back to the conference and our movement session, I keep coming back to the reference point that somatics is at the heart and soul of what we do as movers in contemporary dance practice. As a presenter I gained insight and feedback on how to continue to apply this movement session to students in higher education and the general public. What I found amazing was how open, willing and excited participants were to share in the dynamic play of partnership. The amount of risk they took within their own embodied logic, and in partnership, was such a joy to witness. It was a wonderful reminder that the continual practice of focusing on the inner locus of control incorporates not only the body, but the mind and spirit. It is what moves us as dancers and in partner work and helps us share the dance that we love and the dance that we seek.




Meredith Lyons, MFA, Full Apparatus Certified Pilates Instructor

2019 Performing Arts Peace Corps Response Volunteer, Dominica

Assistant Professor of Dance, Colorado Mesa University

Dance educator, scholar, Pilates instructor. Dance Pedagogy research informed by studies of Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Pilates, Yoga, Improvisation, Administration, Dance History, Choreography, Body Mind Centering, Experiential Anatomy, Kinesiology and Nutrition for Dancers.


Betsy Miller, MFA, Assistant Professor of Dance, Salem State University

Dance artist, scholar and educator. Pedagogical approach informed by studies of somatic modalities including yoga, Body Mind Centering, Spiraldynamik, Bartenieff Fundamentals and experiential anatomy.



A. Olsen. The Place of Dance: A Somatic Guide to Dancing and Dance Making. Wesleyan

University Press; 2014.


Geber P, Wilson M. Teaching at the interface of dance science and somatics. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science. 2010;14(2):50–57.


Fortin S, Vieira A, Tremblay M. The experience of discourses in dance and somatics. Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices. 2009;1(1):47–64.


Batson G, Schwartz RE. Revisiting the value of somatic education in dance training through an inquiry into practice schedules. Journal of Dance Education. 2007;7(2):47–56.


Eddy M. Dance and somatic inquiry in studios and community dance programs. Journal of Dance Education. 2002;2(4):119–127


Fitt SS. Dance Kinesiology. 2. New York: Schirmer Books; 1996.


Useful Descriptions:

Bartenieff Fundamentals


Skinner Release Technique

Body Mind Centering

Tags:  Annual Conference 

PermalinkComments (0)

Heels Down During Jumps…Technique or Physics?

Posted By Samantha Panos on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Friday, August 23, 2019
As dancers, we have all been told at one point to put our heels down when we land our jumps. As teachers, we may feel like we are constantly nagging our students to put their heels down. But why is preparing and landing from jumps with heels down important? Is it just good technique or does it play a larger role in performance capacity? 

First, it may be helpful to start with a brief review of lower leg anatomy. For the purposes of this post we will focus on the posterior (back) compartment of the leg and plantar (bottom) surface of the foot as the emphasis of this entry is on the importance of heels down. Additionally, the following concepts can also be applied to the anterior (front) thigh which I will reference briefly for a more complete picture. 

The posterior leg consists of two compartments of muscles, the superficial and deep posterior. The superficial compartment includes the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles which form the common Achilles or Calcaneal tendon, and attaches to the calcaneus (heel) bone. The resulting action of these muscles is planter flexion or “pointing” of the ankle. The soleus muscle is largely a postural muscle that is highly active in stabilizing the leg on the ankle while standing and balancing, while the gastrocnemius is a powerful muscle that plays a large role in high-velocity or forceful activities, such as jumping. The deep compartment includes the Flexor Hallucis Longus (FHL), Flexor Digitorum Longus (FDL) and the Tibialis Posterior (TP). The tendons of these muscles all pass behind the ankle, along the medial (inner) side, and enter the foot where they have various attachments as seen in Figure 1 below. These deep muscles have multiple actions but their common action is plantar flexion of the ankle.



Figure 1. Superficial Leg Compartment (Left two), Deep Posterior Compartment (middle), Plantar surface of foot (Right) showing the tendon attachments of the deep posterior compartment.


Next, let’s briefly review forces and energy. There are many types of forces that the body undergoes or can produce but for this article we will focus on tensile (tension) force. Tensile force is when a material, in this case muscles and tendons, is lengthened. The stretching or lengthening of muscles and tendons creates elastic or strain energy. Now, it is also important to understand that energy can neither be created or destroyed, it simply changes form. So, while the muscles and tendons are lengthened (tensile force) they are storing elastic potential energy and when they release and go back to their normal resting length, the energy transfers to kinetic energy. An example that is commonly used is a rubber band. Pull on the rubber band and you have elastic potential energy, let go of the band and kinetic energy is released. 

Now that you feel more comfortable with posterior leg anatomy, tensile force and transfer of energy, let’s move into the studio to see how everything connects!

Whether the allegro is to a heavy 4/4 or a brisk 6/8, technique tells us that you do a demi plie to prepare for and land from a jump. The demi plie is the most critical part of the jump as a whole because it is where the musculoskeletal system generates, stores and releases energy to perform the jump. In Figure 2 below, the red arrows are showing tensile forces in the leg during a demi plie. Again, for the purposes of this post we are focusing on the plantar surface of the foot and the posterior leg as they relate to the ankle joint (the arrow along the anterior thigh is showing that in a demi plie the quadriceps muscles and the quadriceps tendon are also under a tensile load, therefore the concepts of discussion and the importance of demi plie during jumps is also applied to this region and to the knee). As you can see in Figure 2, the plantar surface of the foot and posterior compartments of the leg are being stretched – they are under tensile load in a demi plie. Therefore, elastic potential energy is being stored in these compartments and is waiting to be released as kinetic energy during the jumping phase, only to land again in a demi plie and repeat the energy storage cycle. Having the heels down throughout the preparation and landing phase of the jump allows for this efficient transfer of energy back and forth and allows the tendons and muscles to undergo a full stretch-shortening cycle. A dancer that uses their plie and keeps their heels down will generate more power and be more physiologically efficient because they are properly utilizing and transferring their energy. You would be correct to expect that as a result this dancer will jump higher and have more endurance throughout the combination.



Figure 2. Force vectors indicating tensile forces in muscle groups during a demi plie.


 But now what happens when jumps are landed with heels off the ground? In this scenario the dancer will deplete themselves of all the benefits previously discussed. The muscles and tendons will still undergo a tensile load but of less magnitude, therefore less elastic potential energy will be stored and less will be released. Going back to the rubber band analogy, pull hard on the rubber band and it will shoot across the room when you release it, pull lightly (less stretch) and it will travel a shorter distance. Can you see how this is not optimal for your students or as a dancer yourself? Less potential energy means you will have to fight through the jumps and you will not recover in between each jump, in turn, fatiguing faster.


 Lastly, jumping with heels down will also help prevent injury by allowing for these compartments to go through their full stretch-shortening cycle. Landing with the heels up means the Achilles tendon and the smaller tendons of the deep posterior compartment do not get to fully lengthen during the impact of the landing. Repeated landing with heels up, such as during a petite allegro, means all the tendons of the posterior leg stay shortened to a degree and therefore are not able to absorb the force of impact, store adequate energy or release energy efficiently, so they are being taxed at a higher rate. Over time, this technique error will likely result in posterior leg/ankle overuse pathologies such as tendinitis including the most common Achilles tendinitis or the commonly under diagnosed FHL tendinitis as well as other inflammatory diagnoses. Dancers will complain of posterior ankle pain and most likely assume it is Achilles tendinitis which may or may not be the case, but addressing the proper use of their demi plie during jumps may help to calm or prevent the injury all together.


 Now, you may be thinking, does this information apply to other dance movements as well? Yes, it would. Consider repeated releve’s, pirouettes from fifth, fouette turns, etc. Any time the dancer is required to go from foot flat on the ground to demi pointe, full pointe or jumping, all of the information about the posterior compartments stretch-shortening cycle, tensile force, storage and transfer of energy is relevant in performance efficiency and prevention of injuries.



Recommended Readings

-Alexander RM. Tendon elasticity and muscle function. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A. 2002; 133:1001-1011.

-Kim S. An Effect of the Elastic Energy Stored in the Muscle-Tendon Complex at Two Different Coupling-Time Conditions During Vertical Jump. Advances in Physical Education. 2013;3(1):10-14.

-Silbernagel KG. Nonsurgical Treatment of Achilles Tendinopathy. In: Doral M., Karlsson J. (eds) Sports Injuries. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. 2014.

*Note: the recommended reading Nonsurgical Treatment of Achilles Tendinopathy is not to take the place of professional medical advice. If you or your dancer are experiencing posterior ankle pain, please seek medical attention from a physician or a Doctor of Physical Therapy to guide you through the appropriate treatment options for recovery. This reading is only intended to provide insight into the prevalence and potential causes of Achilles tendinopathy and to provide realistic expectations into recovery time frame.


Photo credits

Figure 1. Curtesy of Duke Anatomy Lab.

Figure 2. Panos, Samantha. (2006). The Physics of Ballet. (Unpublished Masters Thesis). University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.


Samantha Panos PT, DPT, MFA is a dance educator, former dance teacher and Physical Therapist at Dynamic Physical Therapy in Salt Lake City, Utah whose goal is to educate and inspire young dancers, encourage cross training for overall dancer health and to reduce injury by promoting proper technique to achieve maximal physiologic efficiency and performance capacity.




Tags:  heels  jump  physics 

PermalinkComments (1)

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 

PermalinkComments (0)

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 

PermalinkComments (0)

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 

PermalinkComments (0)

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 

PermalinkComments (0)

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 

PermalinkComments (0)
Page 1 of 16
1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  >   >>   >| 
Association Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal