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Feet: Skeletal and Muscular Structure

Posted By Elsa Urmston on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Over the next few months the Education Committee bloggers shine a light on the importance of the feet.  In June, Maggie Lorraine will write a two-part blog which focuses on potential foot injuries, structural issues, and working with them in dance.  We look forward to her insight.  By means of introduction to this topic, this short blog provides an introduction to the foot’s skeletal and muscular structure.

We all know that tired feeling in our feet at the end of a busy dancing day, don’t we?  They ache, they click, and let’s face it, dancers’ feet aren’t always the prettiest of things!  We look down at our bruised feet and hard skin, massage our insteps, and slather on moisturizer in an attempt to keep them as pliable as possible.  And no wonder, they work hard and we ask a lot of them!!


But what do you know about the structure of the foot?  It’s a hugely complex skeletal structure, comprising 26 bones, 34 joints and more than 100 muscles1, tendons and ligaments, all arranged to be weight-bearing in all sorts of different contexts from pointe to heeled shoes, from sliding across the floor in bare feet to taking off and landing on all surfaces of the foot.  And of course, the foot contributes to that sought-after, beautiful line from the toes and arch of the foot and into the rest of the lower leg in an arabesque.  Most importantly the foot is designed to create resilience and acts as a shock-absorber to the rest of the body. As Russell2 explains, “the foot’s structure, with its many bones intricately fitting together, provides a dynamic platform on which to support the body. The foot’s adaptability to the floor or ground, regardless of whether or not it is encased in a shoe, is what starts the process of pushing off the floor, absorbing shock when landing from a jump, changing direction in turns, and providing a surface on which to spin, to name a few of the foot’s functions important to dance.”


There are many super resources online which can help you learn the various bones and joints of the foot for example here and here, plus this interactive tutorial: Foot Anatomy Tutorial.


We provide a simple diagram here.

The foot can be divided into the posterior and anterior sections.  The ankle joint itself (a synovial hinge joint) is formed between the distal ends of the tibia and fibula and the talus where plantarflexion (pointing) and dorsiflexion (flexed foot) occurs.  The seven tarsal bones including the talus then make up the posterior portion of the foot, nearest to the heel, or calcaneus.  Each tarsal bone is roughly square in shape with flat articular surfaces and together the surfaces glide past each other to provide lateral stability just below the ankle joint itself; they contribute hugely to subtle changes in balance and it is here that inversion (sickling) and eversion (winging) can occur.  The five metatarsals and fourteen phalanges comprise the anterior section of the foot, extending away from the ankle joint itself down towards the toes.  These bones act as levers, alongside the muscular system of the lower legs and feet to allow the dancer to come up onto demi-pointe and ultimately to jump and locomote.


The skeletal structure of the foot also creates the longitudinal and transverse arches of the foot which are vital to spread the dancer’s weight across the whole foot.  The arches absorb shock from the ground in landing from a jump which is why it is so important for dancers to maintain strong, articulate feet.  The arches are reinforced by the ligament system and power is achieved by the muscles working on the joints to create motion through the foot’s resilient dome-like structure.


As you’d expect, the muscular system of the foot is also complex! They can be divided into two groups; extrinsic and intrinsic muscles.  The extrinsic muscles arise from the anterior, posterior and lateral areas of the lower leg and are mainly responsible for actions such as plantarflexion, dorsiflexion, inversion, and eversion.  The intrinsic muscles are responsible for more fine motor control actions such as the adaptation of the foot to the body’s weight and balance and the movement of individual toes.  These intrinsic muscles are layered through the foot to achieve the precision and intricate demands that dancers place on their feet – no wonder our feet and ankles fatigue!  These two great tutorials are a great interactive introduction to the musculature of the feet.


Intrinsic Muscles of the Foot: Dorsal Muscles


Intrinsic Muscles of Foot:  Plantar Muscles



So, the balance between strength and flexibility is of paramount importance in the dancer’s foot.  When it is achieved we are able to power through space, travelling with height, speed, and dexterity.  The simple directive of ‘using the floor’ is familiar to many of us.  Building strength and articulation can be achieved through emphasising the stroking of the sole of the foot on the floor in tendu and degagé, leaving the heel until last as the foot extends away from the body, and lowering it first as the foot closes back in.  This pressing of the foot into the ground strengthens the intrinsic muscles of the foot whilst also rehearsing the action of pushing into the ground to propel the body in a specific direction - fabulous conditioning exercise and a cornerstone of many dance techniques.  For more inspiration see The Royal Ballet’s class broadcast in 2014, a series of tendu exercises feature from about 6 minutes from the start of the video.


But what if strength and flexibility of the foot structure is compromised either through poor posture or dynamics in alignment of the body, or indeed due to an acute injury sustained whilst dancing? Our forthcoming posts will tackle these issues in June 2016.





1.  Clippinger, K.  The ankle and foot, Dance anatomy and kinesiology. Human Kinetics, 2007, 297-371.


2.  Russell, J.  Insights into the Position of the Ankle and Foot in Female Ballet Dancers En Pointe.  The IADMS Bulletin for Dancers and Teachers, 6(1), 2015, 10-12.  Available here.



Elsa Urmston, MSc, PGCAP, AFHEA, is the DanceEast Centre for Advanced Training Manager, Ipswich, UK and a member of the IADMS Education Committee.  She also sits on the One Dance UK Expert Panel for Children and Young People.


Tags:  anatomy  feet  foot 

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Bridging Dance and Health in Brazil III: Taking Action

Posted By Clara Fischer Gam, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

This is the 3rd installation of a series about the opportunities and challenges of Dance and Health in Brazil – through the eyes of the Brazilian IADMS members’ community! In a previous post, we discussed the current scenario for public policies and access to information in the field. Today, I will be taking you on a journey across the country to the projects that are taking action to bridge that gap.



Whilst information accessibility on dance and health to a broader audience is still a big issue in Brazil, there is an emerging movement for putting dance medicine and science into practice. I am part of a growing community of dancers, physicians, physical therapists and dance scientists deeply passionate about dance and faithfully committed to dancer’s wellbeing. We have been in service of dance either working one-on-one in private practice or applying our individual projects to larger groups.


As we have discussed in the 1st installment of this series, there seems to be a gap between science and the clinic. At the same time, recognition of dancer’s health demands within the dance sector is still an issue in Brazil. Therefore, it is possible to assume that finding dance medicine and science professionals working in dance companies and schools is not easy. It is indeed fairly rare to see health services being offered for dancers in these settings. Despite the obstacles along the way, there have been a few initiatives being put forward - some of those developed by IADMS members from different parts of Brazil aiming to bring dance and health together.


IADMS member Dr. Izabela Lucchese Gavioli wears multiple hats during the day: she is a physician, choreographer and dance professor at UFRGS, South Brazil. Having over 20 years of experience in the doctor’s practice, Dr. Gavioli firstly specialized in rheumatology and sports medicine for the aims of contributing to dancer’s health. She states, “A dancer myself, I was interested in understanding the dancer’s body from a clinical perspective”. Nowadays, most of her patients are dancers and dance teachers.


Kaanda Gontijo, another IADMS member in South Brazil, has been working on injury prevention and treatment for dancers in the clinic, the studio and the lab. Currently, she is taking the guide developed during her PhD to the Bolshoi School in Brazil as well as to some ballet dancers from the Miami City Ballet in Florida, USA. “This approach to injury prevention is deeply associated to technique enhancement, considering dancer’s individual body posture and psychological behaviour”, she explains, “My aim is to raise awareness of the ballet dancer as well as to increase longevity without diminishing technique”.




In the city of São Paulo, Flora Pitta – also an IADMS member, dancer, and physical therapist – firstly decided to study the dancer’s body after she was diagnosed with Psoas Syndrome, going through several surgeries and later rehabilitating with physical therapy. Nowadays, she works one-on-one with dancers at the clinic by applying her own method for injury treatment and prevention. Being a belly dance teacher, she teaches courses and workshops to this audience targeting topics on injury and performance.


A relevant project that took place in Quasar Dance Company, Midwest Brazil, is worth mentioning. Originally developed in 2000 by IADMS members Dr. Adriano Bittar and Professor Claudia Daronch, the Equilibrartes project’s goal was to reduce injury occurrence in the company by applying a pre-season conditioning program. The program entailed manual therapy treatment for injured dancers as well as strength, cardiorespiratory fitness and Pilates for the company. “We could also promote meetings with the staff for organizing technical preparation and discussing the daily classes program”, says Dr. Bittar. “Back at that time, I was both dance technique teacher and rehearsal director of the company, therefore it was easy to align the technical preparation to the demands of choreography”, Professor Daronch states. Throughout the project duration there was a 60% decrease in injury rates in the company.


Recently, the first studio specialized in dance conditioning was founded in the country. Directed by one of IADMS members, PhD student Barbara Pessali-Marques, the Bastidores Centre promotes fitness and rehabilitation for dancers in South East Brazil. Holding a multidisciplinary team of physiotherapists, physical educators and nutritionists with specific knowledge of dancer’s health, the studio also offers courses for dance teachers and conducts clinical studies on the topic.


Having experienced the potentialities and opportunities of Dance and Health in the UK, I returned to Brazil to find a fascinating atmosphere of rising possibilities in the field. Earning a Master in Dance Science from Trinity Laban, I co-founded the project “Fit Body, Arising Movement” (“Corpos Aptos, Gestos Livres” in Portuguese). Deeply rooted in this area of knowledge, it has the aim to promote dancer’s health and wellbeing through courses and workshops tailored to parts of the dance sector. Supplementary training programmes for dancers are the cornerstone of the project, which are developed in partnership with a physical therapist and physical educator, a somatics practitioner and a dance professor. By considering the physiological demands of dance, we work to enhance performance and prevent injuries in this population.




It is surely thrilling to see some of the work that is being put forward at this moment in Brazil. By taking action, we are all building the blocks to support the field.


Watch out for the next installment of Bridging Dance and Health in Brazil!

The Brazilian members of IADMS are:


- Adriano J. Bittar Sr

- Aline N. Haas

- Bárbara P. Marques

- Clara Fischer Gam

- Claudia Daronch

- Daisy M. Machado

- Flora M. Pitta

- Izabela L. Gavioli

- Kaanda N. Gontijo

- Marcia Leite

- Mariana G. Bahlis


Join us on our Facebook group “Dance Science Brasil”!



Clara Fischer Gam, MS

MSc Dance Science | BEd Dance | Pilates Instructor

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil






Integrando Dança e Saúde no Brasil, Parte III: entrando em ação


Esta é a terceira parte de uma série de postagens sobre as oportunidades e desafios da Dança e Saúde no Brasil - escrita a partir dos depoimentos da comunidade brasileira de membros da IADMS! Em uma postagem anterior, nós discutimos o cenário atual de políticas públicas e de acesso à informação no campo. Hoje, vamos embarcar numa viagem pelo país para conhecer alguns projetos que contribuem para preencher a lacuna existente entre Dança e saúde.


Embora o acesso à informação sobre Dança e saúde para um público mais amplo seja ainda uma grande questão no Brasil, vem surgindo um movimento para colocar a Medicina e Ciência da Dança em prática. Eu sou parte de uma comunidade crescente de bailarinos, médicos, fisioterapeutas e cientistas da dança, profundamente apaixonada por essa arte e também comprometida com o bem-estar do dançarino. Temos estado à serviço da dança de diferentes maneiras, oferecendo atendimentos individuais aos bailarinos, ou desenvolvendo projetos para grupos maiores.


Como já discutimos no primeiro artigo dessa série, parece haver uma lacuna entre a ciência e a clínica. Ao mesmo tempo, dentro do setor da Dança no país existe pouco reconhecimento quanto às demandas de saúde do bailarino. Portanto, é possível presumir que poucos são os profissionais da Ciência da Dança que atuam em companhias e escolas de dança. De fato, é bastante raro encontrar serviços de saúde sendo oferecidos para bailarinos nesses ambientes. Apesar dos obstáculos ao longo do caminho, algumas iniciativas têm sido desenvolvidas com o objetivo de unir Dança e saúde – muitas delas criadas por membros da IADMS de diferentes partes do Brasil.


Dra. Izabela Lucchese Gavioli, membro da IADMS, cumpre diferentes papéis no seu dia-a-dia: ela é médica, coreógrafa e professora de Dança na UFRGS, em Porto Alegre. Tendo mais de 20 anos de experiência clínica, Dra. Gavioli conta que decidiu seguir a especialização em Reumatologia e Medicina Esportiva pela vontade de contribuir para a saúde do bailarino. Ela afirma: "Como sempre dancei, tinha muito interesse em entender o corpo do bailarino da perspectiva médica". Atualmente, a maioria de seus pacientes são bailarinos e professores de Dança.


Kaanda Gontijo, outro membro da IADMS no Sul do Brasil, tem atuado pela prevenção e tratamento de lesões em bailarinos na clínica, no estúdio e no laboratório. Hoje, ela aplica o trabalho desenvolvido em seu doutorado na Escola Bolshoi no Brasil, bem como em alguns bailarinos do Miami City Ballet, na Flórida, EUA. Ela diz: "Essa abordagem para a prevenção de lesões está profundamente associada ao aprimoramento técnico, considerando a postura corporal individual do bailarino e aspectos psico-comportamentais.". "O meu objetivo...", explica Kaanda, "...é despertar a consciência do bailarino clássico para as necessidades de seu corpo, aumentando a longevidade artística sem detrimentos técnicos".


Na cidade de São Paulo, Flora Pitta - também membro da IADMS, bailarina e fisioterapeuta - decidiu estudar o corpo do bailarino depois de ter sido diagnosticada com Síndrome do Ressalto do Iliopsoas, tendo sido submetida a várias cirurgias e mais tarde à reabilitação com Fisioterapia. Hoje em dia, ela atende bailarinos em seu consultório, aplicando o método que desenvolveu para o tratamento e prevenção de lesões. Sendo também professora de dança do ventre, ela ministra cursos e workshops para este público, explorando tópicos sobre lesões.


Há algum tempo surgiu um projeto na Quasar Companhia de Dança, em Goiânia, que vale mencionar. Originalmente desenvolvido em 2000 pelos membros da IADMS Dr. Adriano Bittar, fisioterapeuta e bailarino, e Professora de Dança Cláudia Daronch, o objetivo do projeto Equilibrartes era reduzir a ocorrência de lesão na companhia através da aplicação de um programa de condicionamento anual. O programa envolveu serviços de tratamento com Terapia Craniossacral para bailarinos lesionados, bem como um trabalho de condicionamento que incluia o método Pilates, a musculação e o trabalho aeróbio para toda a companhia: "Tivemos a oportunidade de participar de reuniões junto a membros da equipe para organização da preparação técnica e discussão do programa de aulas diárias da companhia", diz o Dr. Bittar. "Naquela época, eu também ocupava o cargo de professora de técnica de dança e ensaiadora da companhia. Portanto, foi fácil alinhar a preparação técnica às exigências da coreografia", afirma a professora Daronch. Durante o período do projeto, houve uma diminuição de 60% na incidência de lesões na companhia.


Recentemente, o primeiro estúdio especializado em treinamento para bailarinos foi fundado no país. Dirigido por um dos membros IADMS, a doutoranda Bárbara Pessali-Marques, o Bastidores Centro de Treinamento promove condicionamento e reabilitação para bailarinos em Belo Horizonte. Abrigando uma equipe multidisciplinar de fisioterapeutas, educadores físicos e nutricionistas com conhecimento da saúde do bailarino, o estúdio também oferece cursos para professores de Dança e realiza estudos clínicos sobre o tema.


Tendo experienciado as potencialidades e oportunidades de Dança e saúde no Reino Unido, encontrei, ao chegar no Brasil, uma atmosfera fascinante de crescentes possibilidades no campo. Adquirindo o título de Mestre em Ciência da Dança pelo Conservatório Trinity Laban, eu co-fundei o projeto “Corpos Aptos, Gestos Livres”, atualmente baseado no Rio de Janeiro. Profundamente enraizado nesta área de conhecimento, a inicitiava tem o objetivo de promover a saúde e bem-estar do bailarino ao criar acessibilidade à informação para o setor da Dança através de cursos, consultorias e workshops. Um dos pilares desse projeto é o programa de cursos de preparação física para Dança, desenvolvido em parceria com um especialista em cinesiologia e educação somática e que conta com a contribuição de um fisioterapeuta, um educador físico e um professor de Dança. Ao considerar as demandas fisiológicas da Dança e as necessidades do corpo do bailarino, trabalhamos para aprimorar a performance e prevenir lesões nesta população.


É, sem dúvida, entusiasmante observar um pouco do trabalho que está sendo desenvolvido nesse momento no Brasil. Ao nos colocarmos em ação, estamos juntos construindo as estruturas para sustentar o campo.


Fique ligado, em breve estará no ar a próxima edição do “Integrando Dança e Saúde no Brasil”! 


- Junte-se a nós no Grupo “Dance Science Brasil”!


- São membros brasileiros da IADMS:


Adriano J. Bittar            

Aline N. Haas            

Bárbara P. Marques            

Clara Fischer Gam  

Cláudia Daronch         

Daisy M. Machado            

Flora M. Pitta            

Izabela L. Gavioli            

Kaanda N. Gontijo            

Marcia Leite            

Mariana G. Bahlis    




Clara Fischer Gam, Mestre Ciência da Dança

Licenciada em Dança

Administradora do grupo Dance Science Brasil

Co-fundadora do Corpos Aptos, Gestos Livres

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

Tags:  Brazil  translation 

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5 Questions With Andrea Alvarez and Siobhan Mitchell

Posted By IADMS Student Committee, Thursday, March 10, 2016

Our next featured members in the “5 Questions With…” column are Student Committee Members, Andrea Alvarez and Siobhan Mitchell. Andrea is a third year graduate student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, USA. Siobhan is a PhD student at the University of Bath, UK.


-How did you first get interested in dance science/medicine?


Siobhan - When I started training full-time we had an assignment to design a cross-training programme – I really got into the science of it and thinking about injury prevention and nutrition and ways to optimize my dance training and performance. A few years later when I was doing my undergraduate degree, we had a dance science module and this really inspired me to take my interest forward and apply for the Dance Science MSc at Laban – the rest is history!


Andrea - When I started taking classes about dancer wellness and health. While I was an undergraduate student, Texas A&M University was in the process of creating the dance science track kinesiology major. Since I was very active in the program, I decided to change my major once it was approved. It did not take long before I realized that was the right choice. I quickly started to find connections between all my science courses and how they could relate to dance and dancers. I remember sitting in my Athletic Injuries class thinking “I want to be an athletic trainer for dancers!” I was told there was no such thing, and I replied “well, I guess I am creating a new career.” Luckily, there are many of them now.


-Are you currently participating in research? Can you give us your elevator pitch or brief summary of your research area?


Siobhan - I am currently working on my PhD research exploring the implications of maturation timing upon psychological well-being in elite dancers. Current research suggests that maturation timing (whether an individual biologically matures in advance of their peers, later than their peers or at an average time) may be an important factor in how individuals cope with different learning experiences and social contexts and can therefore play a role in subsequent psychological wellbeing. My PhD research aims to explore this within the context of elite dance training and to investigate how we might use this knowledge within dance teaching contexts to promote and to optimise psychological wellbeing in adolescent dancers. I’m also working on a body composition research project with fellow IADMS member Jasmine Challis - we are trying to establish norms for a novel form of body composition assessment – we presented some of our findings at the IADMS conference in Pittsburgh!


Andrea - I am just starting my research this semester. I am working parallel to another institution, looking into how participation levels affect recovery among college dance students. Hopefully, I will have more details soon.


-What is the best thing about being a student member of IADMS?


Siobhan - The annual meetings and having the opportunity to network with and meet the people whose papers you’ve been reading all year! It’s great to feel a part of a community who share your interests and passion.


Andrea - Having the opportunity to meet and network with many professionals in our field of study/interest, and connecting with other students and young professionals from around the world who may be going through similar experiences. Also, having access to the Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, as well as many other resources like the Educational Opportunities Document, forums and blog, social media, etc.


-What has been your favorite IADMS experience?


Siobhan - Getting the opportunity to do poster presentations at the Annual Meetings in Seattle (2013) and Pittsburgh (2015) and of course being part of the student committee – it’s been a great experience so far!


Andrea - Oh there are too many. I would say the 24th Annual Meeting in Basel, Switzerland because it was my first time traveling overseas, and I was less shy about approaching professionals and talking to them and asking questions.  But also, the 21st Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. holds a special place in my heart because it was my first time attending, and I was the only student traveling with my professors.


-What would you say to a student thinking of joining IADMS?


Siobhan - It’s a brilliant opportunity to create a network of friends and connections who share your passion for dance science – it’s like a big family and it’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.


Andrea – Do it!! It is a great opportunity with amazing experiences!

If you are interested in the Student Committee and its initiatives, contact us at


Special thanks to the “5 Questions With...” sub-committee, Andrea Alvarez and Siobhan Mitchell.

Tags:  5 Questions With  dancers 

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Bridging Dance and Health in Brazil II: Raising Awareness

Posted By Clara Fischer Gam, Wednesday, February 24, 2016

This is the 2nd installation of a post series about the opportunities and challenges of Dance and Health in Brazil - taking the perspective of our fellow Brazilian IADMS members. In a previous post we started delving into the sector of Dance Medicine and Science in this country, a field still in its infancy. Today I am bringing to you a byte-sized overview of our current issues and aspirations to reach information accessibility and community engagement in Brazil. 



One of the main challenges we face nowadays is access to information on Dance and Health to the Brazilian community. Accessibility is key not only for enabling the daily use of dancers, dance teachers and choreographers at their work settings but also for raising awareness of the larger community about the needs of this sector.


 “There is a lot of room for improvement on information accessibility in Brazil”, attests Dr. Aline Haas, IADMS member and Dance Professor at UFRGS, South Brazil. Flora Pitta, also one of our members, who is a performing dancer and physiotherapist in the city of São Paulo shares the same opinion: “Apparently, institutions such as the Dancers’ Labour Union do not hold any booklets about dance injuries and prevention. Unfortunately, there is a lack of resources about health and wellbeing”.  It seems that most of our members take that as an important concern, as the majority of resources available were gathered in the Global North countries and are mainly written in English.


Considering that the implementation of public policies regarding healthy dance practice have become a hot topic within the dance sector in this country, research-based information on aspects of dance training and performance could play an important part in this process. It is worth noting that dance was only recently added to the political agenda in Brazil. Although civil organizations have been taking action for some time, laws concerning regulation of the career in dance are still proceeding to approval. Therefore, up to date knowledge could frame and legitimate the discourse for developing such policies – possibly speeding up the process.


What about national policies that specially safeguard dancer health and wellbeing? I wonder how far we are from establishing initiatives that could be applied nationally, such as into the Brazilian Health System (SUS). “Currently, projects of this kind come either from private institutions or from an individual’s initiative”, attests our IADMS member, Professor Claudia Daronch from UFRGS, South Brazil. “However, the fact that we are about to legally regulate the dance profession represents the first step for addressing dancer’s health in the political realm”. Another IADMS member, Dr. Adriano Bittar, physiotherapist at Quasar Dance Company and Professor at UEG in the Midwest lands agrees with that statement: “It definitely opens up the space for creating health related policies tailored to this professional.” He has been taking part in the debates at the Forum Nacional de Dança, a civil association that plays an important role in advocating for dance, “I am hoping to bring this topic to the table soon”. 



At the present moment, it is worth questioning ourselves with regards to how we could help inform the Brazilian dance community and serve its various needs. “To encourage public policies it would be important to have larger studies with nationwide samples that could show a more comprehensive perspective about Dance and Health in Brazil”, says member Dr. Bittar. Barbara Pessali Marques, Brazilian member, founder of the Bastidores Centre for Dance Conditioning and current PhD student at Manchester Metropolitan University, claims that “We need people working on research dissemination and accessibility for the dance professionals. This is certainly something I am pursuing with my work”.


It is about time for the Brazilian Dance sector to have the opportunity to see itself from inside out. As Dance Medicine and Science professionals serving the art form in this country, it is part of our job - and responsibility - to share this knowledge with our community.


Watch for the next installation of “Bridging Dance and Health in Brazil”!


The Brazilian members of IADMS are:


-          Adriano J. Bittar Sr

-          Aline N. Haas

-          Bárbara P. Marques

-          Clara Fischer Gam

-          Claudia Daronch

-          Daisy M. Machado

-          Flora M. Pitta

-          Izabela L. Gavioli

-          Kaanda N. Gontijo

-          Marcia Leite

-          Mariana G. Bahlis


Join us on our Facebook group “Dance Science Brasil”!


Clara Fischer Gam, MS

MSc Dance Science | BEd Dance | Pilates Instructor

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil







Integrando Dança e Saúde no Brasil, Parte II: despertando a consciência


Esta é a segunda parte de uma série de postagens sobre as oportunidades e desafios da Dança e Saúde no Brasil, escrita a partir da perspectiva dos nossos membros brasileiros da IADMS. Em uma postagem anterior, começamos a investigar o setor de Medicina e Ciência da Dança no país, um campo ainda em desenvolvimento. Hoje, trago para vocês um pouco do quadro geral quanto aos nossos problemas e aspirações atuais na busca por acessibilidade de informação e engajamento da comunidade no Brasil.


Um dos principais desafios que enfrentamos hoje em dia é o acesso à informação sobre Dança e Saúde para a comunidade brasileira. A acessibilidade é fundamental não só para possibilitar que bailarinos, professores de dança e coreógrafos possam aplicar esse conhecimento em seus ambientes de trabalho, mas também para despertar a consciência da comunidade em geral sobre as necessidades desse setor: "Sem dúvida, tem muito trabalho a ser feito quanto à acessibilidade à informação no Brasil", afirma Dr. Aline Haas, membro da IADMS e professora de Dança da UFRGS, em Porto Alegre.


A bailarina e fisioterapeuta Flora Pitta, um de nossos membros em São Paulo, compartilha da mesma opinião: "Aparentemente, instituições como os sindicatos de Dança não possuem nenhum folheto informativo sobre prevenção de lesões. Infelizmente, há uma falta de material disponível sobre saúde e bem-estar". A maioria de nossos membros observa essa situação com preocupação, já que boa parte dos materiais disponíveis foram elaborados na Europa e nos Estados Unidos, tendo assim adotado a língua inglesa como principal idioma das publicações.


No presente momento, a implementação de políticas públicas para a regulamentação da carreira de bailarino no Brasil vem aos poucos despertando discussões em saúde dentro do setor da Dança. Nesse contexto, as evidências científicas sobre as demandas do palco e as necessidades do corpo do bailarino podem desempenhar um papel importante nesse processo. Vale a pena notar que apenas recentemente a Dança foi adicionada à agenda política brasileira. Embora as organizações civis venham militando pelos direitos do setor da Dança há um tempo considerável, as leis relativas à regulamentação da carreira ainda estão em processo de aprovação. Portanto, as informações provenientes do corpo de conhecimento atual da Ciência e Medicina da Dança poderiam ser utilizadas para legitimar e fortalecer o discurso quanto à relevância de tais políticas - possivelmente acelerando o processo de implementação.


Mas, qual é a situação atual quanto ao desenvolvimento de políticas nacionais que especificamente resguardem a saúde e bem-estar do bailarino? Eu me pergunto o quão distante estaríamos de implementar iniciativas pela saúde a nível nacional que poderiam, por exemplo, ser aplicadas no Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS): "Atualmente, projetos que rodeiam esse tema costumam vir de instituições privadas ou de iniciativas individuais", observa outro membro da IADMS, a professora Cláudia Daronch, da UFRGS. Cláudia ainda completa: "No entanto, o fato de que estamos prestes a regulamentar legalmente a profissão de Dança representa o primeiro passo para abordar a saúde do bailarino na esfera política". Dr. Adriano Bittar, membro IADMS, fisioterapeuta da Quasar Companhia de Dança e professor da UEG, em Goiânia, concorda com essa afirmação: "Definitivamente isso vai criar espaço para que sejam pensadas políticas relacionadas à saúde deste profissional." Ele tem participado dos debates do Fórum Nacional de Dança, associação civil que desempenha um papel importante na militância da Dança, e afirma: "Tenho o objetivo de trazer esse tema para discussão em breve".


Tendo em vista esse quadro atual, vale a pena nos questionarmos: como poderíamos auxiliar o processo de informar a comunidade brasileira da Dança e cobrir suas diversas necessidades? "Para incentivar a criação de políticas públicas seria importante ter estudos com amostras maiores de todo o país. Assim, teríamos uma perspectiva mais abrangente sobre a Dança e a Saúde no Brasil", diz nosso membro Dr. Bittar. Bárbara Pessali Marques, membro brasileiro, fundadora do ‘Bastidores Centro de Treinamento’ e doutoranda na Manchester Metropolitan University, afirma que: "Precisamos de pessoas trabalhando para a disseminação e acessibilidade de evidências científicas para os profissionais de Dança. Isso é certamente algo que venho buscando na minha prática".


Já é hora do setor da Dança no Brasil poder se ver de dentro para fora. Como profissionais da Ciência e Medicina da Dança a serviço da arte, é parte do nosso trabalho - e de nossa responsabilidade - compartilhar esse conhecimento com a comunidade.



Fique ligado, em breve estará no ar a próxima edição do “Integrando Dança e Saúde no Brasil”! 


- Junte-se a nós no Grupo “Dance Science Brasil”!


- São membros brasileiros do IADMS:


Adriano J. Bittar            

Aline N. Haas            

Bárbara P. Marques            

Clara Fischer Gam  

Cláudia Daronch         

Daisy M. Machado            

Flora M. Pitta            

Izabela L. Gavioli            

Kaanda N. Gontijo            

Marcia Leite            

Mariana G. Bahlis    


Clara Fischer Gam, Mestre em Ciência da Dança

Licenciada em Dança

Administradora do grupo Dance Science Brasil

Co-fundadora do Corpos Aptos, Gestos Livres

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil


Tags:  Brazil  education in motion  teachers 

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Stretching: Some thoughts on current practice

Posted By Maggie Lorraine and Elsa Urmston on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dancers are often passionate about developing their flexibility, reaching ever-greater ranges of motion (ROM), as choreographers require ever-more spectacular contortions of the body.  For example, it’s been observed that the height of the développé in Les Sylphides Nocturne section has increased from 60° to nearly 180°, and of course, different dance styles require different ROM at different joints; Spanish dancers need increased ROM in the shoulders compared to a non-dancing population whereas classical ballet dancers need extensive ROM in the hips.  We see a wide range of images and videos online nowadays which see young dancers especially, pushing their body into incredibly contorted positions, often compromising safety and alignment, and possibly leading to increased likelihood of injury as they pursue increased ROM.  It’s not as simple as pushing dancers into various positions, as it has been reported that up to 17 factors can affect flexibility, including age, body morphology, genetics, gender, bones, nerves, muscle, ligaments, and connective tissue, so it becomes vital as dance educators that we educate our dancers to look after their body, practise safe stretching activities and understand that achieving optimal flexibility is a complex process.


How does stretching work?

The physiology of stretching is complex, and in fact the causal links between stretching and increased flexibility are not wholly understood.  As a result, research on optimal stretching approaches changes often, and it’s because of this that it is so important for teachers, dancers and choreographers to revisit their knowledge of stretching for dancers, and update their practice regularly.  Having an understanding of the muscular-skeletal system and its interaction with the nervous system helps, as does knowing that the main physical structure whose length can be altered is the muscle fibre.  The resistance to lengthening that is offered by a muscle fibre is dependent upon its connective tissues; when the muscle elongates, the surrounding connective tissues become more taut.  And so trying to find the balance between flexibility, muscular release, alignment and strength is vital.  For more in-depth discussion of the physiology of stretching, look at Matt Wyon’s article for IADMS Bulletin for Dancers and Teachers here.

Every body is different

Every dancer’s body is different. Some dancers are inherently less flexible or mobile. Dancers with ‘tight’ bodies are built for stability and have dense connective tissues. Their muscles are less extensible. Conversely, some dancers are innately more flexible; however, the hypermobile physique has an increased risk of injury. These dancers tend to have a larger joint ROM, but are also more vulnerable to serious ligament sprains. It is important to avoid comparing the flexibility of one dancer with that of other dancers and therefore it is imperative to work on the individual needs of each dancer.

It is worth noting that:

o   some joints are not meant to be flexible.

o   bony structures can limit movement of a joint.

When working with younger dancers, there are added complications.  The skeletal growth spurt in adolescence often results in a loss of flexibility so that muscle tissues become shorter relative to bone length until muscle growth catches up to bone growth. Dance teachers need to recognize that young dancers will go through a phase of apparent loss of flexibility. During this time there is also an increased chance of injury to muscles.  It is so vital to work gently with the body at this time, not only to avoid injury but support the dancer’s psychological wellbeing – the apparent loss of control, strength and flexibility at this time can be debilitating.

Stretching tips

·         It is important to perform stretching after dancing or another activity when muscles and connective tissues are warm. Never stretch cold muscles.

·         Stretch muscles and their connective tissue (fascia) and not structures such as ligaments, tendons and joint capsules.

·         Holding a static stretch for 30 seconds is enough to maintain joint range of motion and current flexibility but if increasing flexibility is the goal, then deformation of the connective tissue is necessary to produce permanent muscle length change. This will require gradual increase of duration and frequency of stretch.

·         A dynamic stretch moves a muscle group fluidly through an entire range of motion and some studies suggest a dynamic stretch is just as effective, and sometimes better, especially before a workout.

·         Never ever stretch to pain.

·         Stretch in aligned positions.

·         It is important to balance a stretching program with strengthening exercises. The reason for this is that flexibility training on a regular basis causes connective tissues to stretch which in turn causes them to loosen and elongate. When the connective tissue of a muscle is weak, it is more likely to become damaged due to overstretching. Strengthening the muscles, which are bound by the connective tissue, can prevent the likelihood of such injury. In the words of Julie Alter, "strengthen what you stretch, and stretch after you strengthen!”

Matt Wyon again explains the various approaches to stretching that exist here, discussing the benefits of static stretching, PNF techniques and fast stretching amongst others, and when to best undertake these approaches for best results.  New research by Morrin and Redding also suggests that "...a cardiovascular warm-up, followed by 30 seconds static stretches, followed by 30 seconds dynamic stretches, provides the optimum performance of vertical jump, balance, and hamstring range of motion."  Their research was reviewed on the IADMS blog back in 2015, you can read it here.



Images on the web of teachers pushing their students’ limbs into positions, contorting the angle of the pelvis for example, or crunching the vertebrae of the lower back are prevalent.  It’s vital to remember that it is possible for the muscles of a joint to become too flexible. As muscles become more flexible, less support is given to the joint by its surrounding muscles because those muscles become more lax. Excessive flexibility can be just as bad as not enough because both increase the risk of injury.


Once a muscle has reached its absolute maximum length, attempting to stretch the muscle further only serves to stretch the ligaments and put undue stress upon the tendons. Ligaments will tear when stretched to more than 6% of their normal length. Even when stretched ligaments and tendons do not tear, loose joints and/or a decrease in the joint's stability can occur and there is a greater potential for injury either in that specific joint, or indeed in other parts of the body. 


Yet our young dancers do aspire to achieve these positions – let’s work harder to educate them in the safe practice of stretching and balancing that with strength development.  IADMS have a wealth of resources to help teachers, dancers and parents to guide towards safer stretches, not only Matt Wyon’s paper that we have already referred to but the IADMS Resource paper on stretching also has some great guidance for safe practice.  Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson’s excellent new book Safe Dance Practice has extensive references on the topic throughout, updating us with all recent research so we are as current in our practices as possible.


Further resources


Critchfield, B.  (2011). Stretching for Dancers Resource Paper.  Available here


Deighan M. Flexibility in dance. J Dance Med Sci. 2005;9(1):13-17.


Morrin N, Redding E. Acute effects of warm-up stretch protocols on balance, vertical jump height, and range of motion in dancers. J Dance Med Sci. 2013;17(1):34-40.


Quin, E., Rafferty, S. and Tomlinson, C.  Safe Dance Practice.  Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2015.


Wyon, M. Stretching for Dance.  IADMS Bulletin for Dancers and Teachers.  2010;2(1):9-12.  Available here


Great little animation ‘Do you really need to stretch’ here too.




Maggie Lorraine is the Leading Teacher in Ballet at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, Australia and is a member of the IADMS Education Committee.


Elsa Urmston is the DanceEast Centre for Advanced Training Manager in Ipswich, UK and is also a member of the IADMS Education Committee.

Tags:  dancers  stretching  teachers 

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Bridging Dance and Health in Brazil, Part I: The early steps of an emerging field

Posted By Clara Fischer Gam, Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In 2016, all eyes are on Brazil - country that will be hosting the Olympic Games this year. Inspired by this vibrant atmosphere, today we start a post series about the opportunities and challenges of Dance and Health in Brazil – from our members’ perspective!


A Brazilian myself, I’ve recently returned to my country after a year and a half in Britain. Having experienced a bit of Dance Science at Trinity Laban and engaged with its community, I arrived back aiming to sense the field in Brazil and readily get involved.


If Dance Medicine and Science is in its early stages above the Tropics, it is no surprise that Brazilians are still forging the field. There are about a dozen IADMS members in Brazil. Among us there are Dancers, Researchers, Dance Teachers, Physicians, Physical Educators and Physical Therapists spread across the country.


Although there is interesting work being published, not much research has been undertaken in the realms of Dance Medicine and Science in this land. “Looking for references in Dance, I found that less than 5% of the studies listed were related to Dance Medicine”, says our member Dr. Izabela Lucchese Gavioli, rheumatologist, Dance professor at UFRGS and sports medicine specialist in South Brazil.


“Unfortunately, there is a lack of research in injury prevention and performance enhancement”, states another Brazilian member Barbara Pessali Marques, physical educator and founder of the Bastidores Centre for Dance Conditioning, located South East Brazil. Like me, Barbara felt the need to leave the country for expanding her knowledge of the field. Now, she is developing a doctoral research at Manchester Metropolitan University and looks forward to bring fresh learning home. 


Feeding a field of knowledge in its infancy, we face many challenges for achieving legitimacy and acceptance. “At the universities, in the dance departments, the same debate persists as to whether dance should be part of the PT or PE departments”, states IADMS member Adriano Bittar, physiotherapist for Quasar Cia de Dança and Dance professor at UEG, Midwest Brazil. “There is no doubt that Dance should have an autonomous department, and remain a field in itself. But I feel that these out-of-date conflicts end up diminishing interaction with other fields and mainly suppressing important discussions such as dancer’s health”. Resistance can also be found in other parts of the dance sector, Dr Gavioli suggests that “It’s a matter of conflicting ideologies; people tend to think about dance science as rough and hard, which pejoratively labels knowledge that can be extremely useful to the dance professional”. 


We all know that issues of this kind resonate with Dance Medicine and Science worldwide, however in a country where most Dance programmes date from very recently, the circumstances could slow down the process for inquiry and communication to unfold within the sector. Paradoxically, it seems that the increasing number of courses being founded in the last few years opened up the space for discussing renovations in the traditional curriculum. Would there be a chance for implementing more up to date health modules in the programme? “The dancer is to some extend already a movement specialist, so by implementing dance medicine and science disciplines, their capacity to act upon their health and take ownership of their bodies would be expanded”, defends Dr. Bittar. Although there are changes taking place, at the moment health-related disciplines still encompass only a minor portion of the whole course. “Nationwide, programmes do not hold more than 5 credits dedicated to these subjects” affirms Dr. Aline Haas, an IADMS’ member who is Programme Leader of the BEd Dance at UFRGS, South Brazil.


Taking a look at the overall picture, these members seem to agree that it is our task to nourish the field in order for it to thrive. If today in Brazil the intersection of dance and health is unsettled, I wonder how they could walk together, side by side. This inquiry motivated me to connect IADMS members in Brazil and to open up a space for integration and sharing to occur. After contacting them through the IADMS directory, we agreed to create a Facebook group to expand the possibilities of interaction. At the moment, we are about 30 people in the “Dance Science Brasil” group, connected through this network. 


In a country as big as Brazil, this initiative enabled me to gather information about some of the projects, aspirations and perspectives of the sector across the land through the eyes of our fellow IADMS members – which will be brought to you over this post series.


Despite the challenges involved in fostering an emerging field, it is very exciting to be at the source of future possibility – and have the chance to take part in it!


Watch out for the next instalment of Bridging Dance and Health in Brazil!


-          The Brazilian members of IADMS are:

            Adriano J. Bittar Sr

            Aline N. Haas

            Bárbara P. Marques

            Clara Fischer Gam

            Daisy M. Machado

            Flora M. Pitta

            Izabela L. Gavioli

            Kaanda N. Gontijo

            Marcia Leite

            Mariana G. Bahlis



Clara Fischer Gam, MS

MSc Dance Science

BEd Dance

Pilates Instructor

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil







Integrando Dança e Saúde no Brasil, Parte I: primeiros passos de um campo em ascensão


Em 2016, os olhos do mundo voltam-se para o Brasil - país que vai acolher os Jogos Olímpicos neste ano. Inspirados por essa atmosfera vibrante, hoje começamos uma série de postagens sobre as oportunidades e desafios da Dança e Saúde no Brasil – considerando os pontos de vista dos nossos membros brasileiros!


Eu também sou brasileira e recentemente retornei ao país, após um período de um ano e meio vivendo no Reino Unido. Por lá, pude experienciar a Ciência da Dança enquanto cursava meu mestrado na faculdade Trinity Laban Conservatoire, onde tive a chance de conectar-me à esta comunidade. Cheguei de volta com a intenção clara de compreender o campo no Brasil e a vontade pulsante de contribuir. 


Se a Medicina e Ciência da Dança está em seus estágios iniciais acima dos trópicos, não é de se surpreender que por aqui os brasileiros ainda estão construindo o campo. No país, temos cerca de uma dúzia de membros do IADMS. Fazem parte desse grupo bailarinos, pesquisadores, professores de dança, médicos, educadores físicos e fisioterapeutas espalhados por todo o país. 


Embora trabalhos muito interessantes venham sendo publicados ao longo dos anos, a quantidade de pesquisas desenvolvidas na área da Medicina e Ciência da Dança ainda é reduzida nessas terras: "Buscando por referências dentro do tema ‘Dança’, contabilizei que menos de 5% dos estudos encontrados se relacionavam com a Medicina da Dança", comenta Dr. Izabela Lucchese Gavioli, membro do IADMS, baseada em Porto Alegre, reumatologista, coreógrafa, professora de Dança na UFRGS e especialista em medicina esportiva. 


"Infelizmente, existem poucas pesquisas sobre prevenção de lesões e aprimoramento da performance", afirma outro membro brasileiro, Bárbara Pessali Marques, bailarina e educadora física, fundadora do ‘Bastidores Centro de Treinamento’ especializado em cuidar de bailarinos, na cidade de Belo Horizonte. Como eu, Bárbara sentiu a necessidade de sair do país para expandir seu conhecimento do campo. Nesse momento, ela está desenvolvendo a pesquisa de doutorado na Manchester Metropolitan University e espera em breve trazer de volta para casa todo o aprendizado adquirido com a experiência no Reino Unido. 


Por estarmos criando um campo ainda em seus primórdios, enfrentamos muitos desafios para alcançar legitimidade e aceitação: "Dentro dos departamentos de Dança das universidades, o mesmo debate persiste quanto a se a Dança deveria ser acoplada a outros departamentos, como Fisioterapia ou Educação Física", afirma nosso membro do IADMS Adriano Bittar, bailarino, fisioterapeuta na Quasar Cia de Dança e professor na UEG, em Goiânia. "Não há dúvida de que a Dança deve ter um departamento autônomo, e continuar a ser um campo em si mesmo. Mas eu sinto que estes conflitos antiquados acabam diminuindo a interação com outras áreas e, principalmente, suprimindo discussões importantes como a saúde do bailarino". Também é possível encontrar resistência em outras partes do setor de Dança, Dra. Gavioli sugere: "É uma questão de ideologias conflitantes; as pessoas tendem a pensar sobre a Ciência da Dança como áspera e dura, o que rotula pejorativamente um conhecimento que pode ser extremamente útil para o profissional de Dança". 


Sabemos que questões deste tipo circundam a Ciência e Medicina da Dança no mundo todo. No entanto, em um país onde a maioria dos programas acadêmicos de Dança datam de pouco tempo, as circunstâncias poderiam retardar o processo de investigação e o desenvolvimento da comunicação dentro do setor. Paradoxalmente, o número crescente de cursos universitários sendo criados nos últimos anos parece estar abrindo espaço para a discussão sobre reformas no currículo tradicional. Sendo assim, será que haveria oportunidade para a implementação de módulos mais atualizados sobre saúde do bailarino nos programas? "De certa maneira o bailarino já é um especialista do movimento. Portanto, com a implementação de disciplinas de Ciência e Medicina da Dança, a sua capacidade de agir pela sua saúde e se apropriar de seu corpo seria ampliada", defende Dr. Bittar. Apesar do progresso quanto a essas mudanças estruturais,  o número de disciplinas relacionadas à saúde ainda compõe uma pequena parte do currículo: "Em nível nacional, os programas não contém mais de cinco créditos dedicados a estes assuntos", afirma Dr. Aline Haas, gaúcha, membro do IADMS e professora de Dança na UFRGS. 


Observando o quadro geral, esses membros parecem concordar que temos a tarefa de nutrir o campo para que este possa prosperar. Se hoje no Brasil a intersecção entre Dança e Saúde é instável, eu me pergunto como elas poderiam caminhar juntas, lado a lado. Essa pergunta motivou-me a conectar os membros da IADMS no Brasil e abrir um espaço para a integração e troca ocorrer. Após entar em contato com eles através do diretório da IADMS, sugeri a criação de um grupo no Facebook para expandir as possibilidades de interação. No momento, somos cerca de 90 pessoas no grupo "Dance Science Brasil", conectados através dessa rede.


Em um país tão grande como o Brasil, essa iniciativa possibilitou a mim reunir informações sobre alguns dos projetos, aspirações e perspectivas do setor ao longo do território, através dos olhos de nossos membros da IADMS - que serão apresentados aqui para você nessa série de postagens.  Apesar dos desafios envolvidos na promoção de um campo emergente, é muito emocionante ver à frente o surgimento de múltiplas possibilidades - e ter a oportunidade de fazer parte desse processo! 


Fique ligado, em breve estará no ar a próxima edição do “Integrando Dança e Saúde no Brasil”! 


- Junte-se a nós no Grupo “Dance Science Brasil”!



- São membros brasileiros do IADMS:

Adriano J. Bittar

Aline N. Haas           

Bárbara P. Marques           

Clara Fischer Gam 

Cláudia Daronch        

Daisy M. Machado           

Flora M. Pitta           

Izabela L. Gavioli            

Kaanda N. Gontijo           

Marcia Leite           

Mariana G. Bahlis   


Clara Fischer Gam, Mestre Ciência da Dança

Licenciada em Dança

Administradora do grupo Dance Science Brasil

Co-fundadora do Corpos Aptos, Gestos Livres

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil


Tags:  Brazil  education in motion  research  teachers  translation 

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Happy Birthday, IADMS Blog!

Posted By K. Michael Rowley, Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The IADMS Blog turns 1 Year Old this month!


Happy Birthday!

Buon Compleanno!

Bon Anniversaire!


Χαρούμενα γενέθλια! 


¡Feliz cumpleaños! 

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag! 




Image: Getty Images


Over the last year, it's been our pleasure to bring you IADMS member perspectives; student, teacher, and researcher highlights; research summaries; Education Committee posts; and lots more fun, informative material! Thank you to the Blog Team and all contributors for a great year! We look forward to another great year and hope you'll keep reading! :)


K. Michael Rowley

University of Southern California

IADMS Blog Coordinator


This post has not been tagged.

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IADMS Dance Educator Award Update

Posted By Margaret Wilson on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The 2nd IADMS Dance Educator Award was awarded to Janet Karin, OAM, for her passion and commitment to dance and for her tireless contribution to Dance Medicine and the benefits her work brings to countless dancers.  A former Principal Dancer of the Australian Ballet, Janet Karin was previously Principal Dancer of Victorian Ballet Guild and a member of the Borovansky Ballet. She performed in Giselle, Swan Lake, Les Sylphides,  Rudolf Nureyev’s Raymonda and Sir Robert Helpmann’s Electra, to name a few, with several roles created exclusively for her. She established her teaching career in Canberra, training many outstanding dancers, choreographers and teachers. She devised her own teaching system, The Karin System, in response to developments in understanding of anatomy, learning processes and teaching methodologies and to changes in the artistic and physical requirements of the dance profession.


The Karin System is designed to provide all students with sound technical development, opportunities to develop creativity and self-expression, the flexibility to progress at their own rate in a non-competitive environment and a broad understanding of dance as an art form. She developed dance studies courses for the Australian National University and for the ACT Department of Education. Ms Karin has received several awards including the Medal of the Order of Australia and the 2014 Australian Dance Award for Services to Dance Education.
Ms Karin has worked extensively within the area of cultural development and has designed and facilitated a range of national and international courses, conferences and workshops.  She was Chair of the host consortium (Australian Ballet School, Ausdance and Australian Sports Commission) that presented the 2007 International Association for Dance Medicine & Science (IADMS) conference in Australia. After chairing the IADMS Education Committee and serving on the Board of Directors, Ms Karin was elected IADMS President for the years 2013-15 and currently serves as Past President for the organization.
As Kinetic Educator at the Australian Ballet School, Ms Karin focuses on the application of neuroscience principles to elite ballet training. She has a strong interest in research and is involved in research studies with several Australian and overseas universities. In 2009 she was awarded an Australian Centre of Clinical Research Excellence Grant to investigate dynamic pelvic stability. In 2014, Ms Karin was appointed a Clinical Fellow of Australian Catholic University, and she was appointed Professional Associate of the University of Canberra in 2016. Janet Karin has received the Medal of the Order of Australia and several awards for artistic direction and dance teaching. 

Janet is pictured here with Janice Plastino, recipient of the first Dance Educator Award, and both recipients are pictured with Margaret Wilson, Education Committee Chair, and Robin Kish, Education Committee Vice Chair and Dance Educator Award Chair.



Calls for nominations for the Dance Educator Award will be included in the next IADMS newsletter, but be thinking about colleagues who have demonstrated a commitment to the art and science of teaching dance that you wish to nominate.


Tags:  IADMS Dance Educator Award 

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Nurturing passion in dance

Posted By Imogen Aujla, PhD, on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Monday, December 21, 2015

Passion for dance is important: as teachers we want our students to be passionate, love what they do, and get involved at every opportunity. But is it really good for dancers to eat, sleep and breathe dance? What happens when passion turns into an obsession?


Research in mainstream psychology suggests that we are passionate about an activity when we love it, value it highly, and spend a lot of time on it. However, we can be more harmoniously or more obsessively passionate about an activity that we love. Harmonious passion (HP) means that we choose to engage in dance freely because we love it, but we don’t have any contingencies attached to it, and we can stop dancing at any time if we no longer enjoy it. Obsessive passion (OP) is a more rigid type of persistence, where dance takes up a large proportion of our identities and we find it difficult to stop. Often, people high in OP attach certain contingencies like self-esteem or social acceptance to the activity, so if they stop dancing they may feel that they have lost their identity and their sense of self-worth. Importantly, we have levels of both HP and OP about dance, but the two types of passion can have quite different outcomes. Research has shown that higher levels of HP result in greater enjoyment, satisfaction, well-being, and long-term involvement in dance. In contrast, higher levels of OP are associated with more negative feelings, anxiety, burnout and injury. So it’s easy to see which type of passion would be preferable among student dancers, but is there anything we can do as teachers to affect this? We may not be able to influence whether or not our students are passionate about dance in general, but we may be able to help prevent passion from becoming an obsession.


A growing body of research in dance and music suggests teachers can help to facilitate the development of HP by adopting autonomy-supportive behaviours. Autonomy essentially means that students feel they have a choice and a voice in class. You can help your students to feel more autonomous by giving them choices in class, such as the focus of an exercise, groups to work with, musical accompaniment or incorporating improvisation into technique exercises. You can also explain the rationale behind exercises. Helping students understand what an exercise is for or about will encourage them to set their own goals based on this insight which they can monitor and update. As a result, when students’ autonomy is supported, they are more likely to feel that they are engaging in dance for autonomous and harmonious reasons. On the other hand, very controlling behaviours from teachers may facilitate the development of OP by reducing students’ feelings of autonomy, choice and control. It’s also worth encouraging dancers who seem somewhat obsessive to pursue other interests and friendships outside of dance so that their identities are formed from many activities and relationships. Dance may be their favourite activity, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all!


Recommended reading

·         Aujla IJ, Nordin-Bates SM, Redding E. Multidisciplinary predictors of adherence to dance. J Sports Sci. 2015;33(15):1564-1573.

·         Mageau GA, Vallerand RJ, Charest J, Salvy SJ, Lacaille N, Bouffard, T, Koestne, R. On the development of harmonious and obsessive passion: the role of autonomy support, activity specialisation and identification with the activity. J Pers. 2009;77(3):601-646.

·         Padham M, Aujla IJ. The relationship between passion and the psychological well-being of professional dancers. J Dance Med Sci. 2014;18(1):37-44.

·         Rip B, Fortin S, Vallerand RJ. The relationship between passion and injury in dance students. J Dance Med Sci. 2006;10(1-2):14-20.

·         Vallerand RJ. On passion for life activities: The dualistic model of passion. Adv Exp Soc Psychol. 2010;42:97-193.



Dr Imogen Aujla completed her PhD at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and is now based at the University of Bedfordshire as Course Coordinator of the MSc Dance Science programme. 

Tags:  dancers  psychology  teachers 

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Using imagery to optimise dance training and performance

Posted By Sanna Nordin-Bates PhD, CPsychol, FIADMS on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Think of a time when you were really enjoying your dancing. Really think about it: how it felt, what you did, and who else was around. Was there music playing? Maybe you can even recall what you were thinking of, or focusing on.

My guess is that you could see the above scenario in your mind’s eye: the image of that time of dance enjoyment. This is the visualization part of imagery, and it is powerful in itself. But just like normal life (and dance training) is not just visual, you could also conjure up a range of other sensations, even though you were not actually experiencing them for real. This is why the term imagery is preferred to visualization: it acknowledges the importance of using multiple senses to make an image as vivid as possible. In fact, research shows us that imagery is more effective the more vivid it is, and vividness is achieved by using multiple senses. Essentially, it is these sorts of rich images which convince your brain that what is going on is real – it is stimulating the very same areas of the brain as actual movement, actual music-listening, actual seeing, and so on.

So why would you want to know this? Well, it is this rich imagery which has been shown to impact on all sorts of things that can be important to a dancer. Below I have listed just a few things that imagery practice can do, in the form of tips for what teachers can encourage dancers to try. I hope you find something fun and useful to try!

-          Improve learning, memory, and performance. Because imagery engages the same brain circuitry as training does, it is a highly valid form of practice. It is therefore a good idea to…:

1.      … encourage dancers to go over skills and sequences via imagery straight after you have done a demo, or when they are waiting for their turn.

2.      … finish a class by going over the newly introduced material via imagery, to help new moves “settle in” and make dancers more prepared for next time.

3.      … suggest that dancers do highly deliberate, structured imagery practice as a replacement when physical practice is not viable, such as when injured.


-          Support self-confidence, motivation and mood. We can practice not just concrete things like steps via imagery, but how we wish to feel, too. Top tips are to suggest dancers…:

1.      … imagine performing with their desired mood and confidence. Ask, for instance, how it feels in their bodies when they are confident. Do they then perform exercises in a particular way? Encouraging them to integrate those feelings or mannerisms into their mental practice will not only make it more fun, but also grow their confidence over time.

2.      … add emotional components when rehearsing a role mentally. There is more to a character or role than their steps, so they can include appropriate facial expressions, gestures and attitudes – maybe even how a character feels.

3.      … have a clear image of their long-term goals to return to when training is hard and mood is dipping. What makes it all worthwhile? We can all use an image like this to support motivation and boost mood.


-          Help planning and goal setting. Imagery can be used to plan for the next class, rehearsal or performance – or career. Especially high-level dancers can be suggested to…:

1.      … go over the things they learnt in the previous class, and any aspects they know will come up in the next class. This reinforces the learning from before, and prepares the mind nicely for class.

2.      … imagine their preparations for big events, to help them feel in charge. This is useful to do slowly, step by step. In which order will they do things like eat, warm up, and put a costume on? Do they need to prepare something for their travel or food? It is often useful to have paper and pen on hand for this, as it frequently results in the need to write “don’t forget”-notes or shopping lists of breakfast items!

3.      … do at least one goal setting session every year, where they go over what their dreams and aims for dance are, and hone those into specific, doable goals. They can use their imagination to conjure up different possibilities of what they might do, imagine themselves in different places (schools, stages…), and use imagery to find creative ways to reach their goals.


-          Aid the creative process. Imagery is great for preparation and technical improvements, but it is of course also a superb tool for the artistic side. Three suggestions are to…:

1.      … try at least one new image in each class, to keep focus, creativity and learning alive. Can you make a basic movement interesting again by creating an image for the arm as something different today? Then go one step further, encouraging dancers to create their own images.

2.      …let yourself create much beyond steps and positions. Inspiring yourself by making a story, perhaps together with the dancers, makes it so much more meaningful.

3.      …eat a varied diet to support your inspiration and creativity by reading, watching films or theatre, getting out in nature, and regularly exposing yourself to something new. Then see how these inputs can find their way into your teaching. Maybe the leaf-fall of autumn helps you imagine a new aspect for a piece? Maybe you will use your imagination to translate complex emotions from a book to a characters’ development in rehearsal?


As you can see, using imagery can really help a dancers’ development. It is also a good way of keeping yourself as a teacher fresh and creative, and of supporting dancers to take responsibility for their own learning by imagining their own goals, and creating their own images for movements and roles. But although the above may seem like a long list, it really is scratching the surface of what imagery can do. What will you try today?


Further resources:

Beyond Physical Practice


Birmingham Research in Imagery and Observation (BRIO) Group - Introduction


BRIO Group - Imagery Resources for the Classroom


The History and Research of Dance Imagery: Implications for Teachers



Dr Sanna Nordin-Bates completed her PhD on Imagery in Dance at the University of Birmingham in 2005, and is now a world-leading expert in the psychology of dance, based at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences.  For more information, follow Sanna on twitter @DancePsychSanna


Tags:  dancers  imagery  teachers 

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