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Beyond Ballet: Why and How? A Conference Report

Posted By Erin Sanchez on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Tuesday, May 19, 2015

  Image by Visuele Notulen | Michèle Giebing

On April 16-18th, ArtEZ School of Dance and Balettakademien Stockholm presented BEYOND ballet why and how, a conference "initiated by education, partnered by the dance profession" in Arnhem, the Netherlands. BEYOND's name alludes to the success of the event's predecessor in Stockholm in 2012; Ballet: Why and How?, which focused on ballet technique and its role in professional vocational training for dancers. This year's conference took on the future of dance with a wider view of dance education, training and professional life through five themes: Educational, Artistic, Urban, Preservation and Medicine and Science. Topics were progressively developed over three days through a series of linked lectures, workshops and practical classes, panel and research discussions, and time for open dialogue and debate.

Dance medicine and science were directly discussed in many areas of the conference, with sessions on empirically supported and clinically relevant medical care and the composition and uses of an interdisciplinary team in delivering support and health care for dancers. However, the most inspiring revelation was the continuing and growing appreciation from dancers, teachers, artistic directors and medical professionals of the value of dance medicine and science in every aspect of dance; from physical implications of collaboration between dance and circus, creative implications of research into synchronization in motor control, awareness of nutrition and body image among dancers and the lengthening of dance careers to radical improvement of traditional dance training through research on attentional focus, periodization and emotional intelligence.

Throughout the conference, methods of training, research, leadership and care of the dancer dominated the discourse. Delegates had time to discuss these themes and to hear rich debate and thought about the future of dance as an art form through the lens of these topics. Cross disciplinary dialogues between artists, educators and medical professionals provided safe place to debate change and growth. Further, students from both ArtEz and Balettakademien Stockholm provided a voice of the future by actively participating in every session, raising questions and providing insights. IADMS members Elsa Urmston, Sanna Nordin-Bates, Margot Rijven, Derrick Brown, Adrienne Stevens and Clare Guss-West all shared knowledge and research from their specialist fields.

 

If you are interested in learning more about the conference proceedings, sessions have been captured in video, articles and blog posts here.

 

Erin Sanchez, on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee

Healthier Dancer Programme Manager (part-time) Dance UK

Web Resources Administrator Rudolf Nureyev Foundation Medical Website

Dance UK, Unit A402A, The Biscuit Factory, 100 Clements Road, London, SE16 4DG

Tel: 020 7713 0730 | Mobile: 07838 956 423

www.danceuk.org

www.nureyev-medical.org

 

Watch videos of the UK's first-ever industry-wide dance conference,

The Future: New Ideas, New Inspirations, conceived and developed by Dance UK.

Tags:  regional conference 

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Maintaining Correct Alignment When Training Positions Retiré or Passé - (to withdraw or to pass)

Posted By Maggie Lorraine on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Wednesday, May 13, 2015

 

In the last post from the IADMS Education Committee “Dancing with the pelvis” the authors focused on pelvic alignment and its relevance to movement execution in the studio. When reading this post on the retiré position, it would be useful to refer back to information posted on previous IADMS posts, as each new post now reinforces the anatomical truths that guide us as teachers. To quote Clara Fischer and Elsa Urmston,“We have all learned from experience: proper alignment is one of the basic building blocks for achieving the aesthetic line and form required for dance technique.”

Dancers and teachers cannot underestimate the importance of achieving correct pelvic alignment when practising or performing the retiré position, as it is a key position for the successful performance of many dance movements. Pirouettes and developpé are clearly affected by the placement of this position and the retiré influences the execution of many steps of virtuosity.


Pictured: Rebecca Blenkinsop
Photo by: Maggie Lorraine 

In this photograph (above) Rebecca is demonstrating a well aligned retire position en pointe. Note that her head is centred over her foot en pointe.

Points to remember when practising retiré:

Commencing in 5th position

The Supporting Leg.

  • Full transference of weight over the center of the supporting foot as the gesture leg leaves the floor. The dancer should be ready to rise to demi pointe without further adjustment of weight by ensuring the foot is controlled against the floor. Check that there is no pronation of the supporting foot.
  • Lengthen through the supporting hip maintaining pelvic alignment and the control of turnout of the supporting leg.

The Gesture Leg

  • The foot and ankle of the gesture leg retain alignment, no sickling or winging of the foot.
  • The thighbone or femur inserts into the hip socket or acetabulum from the front of the pelvis and the rotation of the thigh should occur from the turnout in the acetabulum, which is initiated by the deep rotator muscles.
  • The continued control of the deep rotator muscles and core muscles as the gesture leg passes through petit retiré to full retiré.
  • Maintain control of the femur extending from the acetabulum and maintain the knee, ankle and foot alignment. The appearance of the position will vary from student to student depending on their personal pelvic structure, however students should be encouraged to work with their respective physiques rather than meeting a “prescribed” position.
  • Remember “turnout is a verb” and the turnout muscles should continue to be active throughout.

          Thus the retiré position should demonstrate pelvic, shoulder, and head alignment.

Points to consider:

  • On the point of transference of weight from two feet to one foot it must be emphasized not to sink into the supporting hip as this action will result in loss of rotation and control in the supporting side.
  • The hip of the gesture leg must not be raised by lifting the thigh higher than can be controlled by the dancer. This will result in the weight moving off the supporting leg and pelvic alignment will be lost. The deep rotators cannot recruit efficiently when pelvic alignment has been sacrificed
  • Placing the foot too high at the side of the supporting knee can be problematic for some, as not all dancers possess the range of movement in the hip to accommodate this position of the foot and retain pelvic alignment. Many will anteriorly tilt their pelvis, which will result in loss of turnout, and the gluteal muscles will overwork to accommodate the position of the thigh.

When viewing this photograph (below, left) of Rebecca practising retiré it would appear that her retiré is turned out. Observing the same retiré from the side (below, right) we can see that Rebecca is far from turned out, her thigh is in reality inwardly rotating. 

   

 

Please follow this link to see how perfect alignment can work in steps of virtuosity - enjoy!
In this video Isabela Rodriques has an unfortunate slip when performing the coda of the Diana & Acteon pas de deux but later goes on to repeat the whole coda.  You will see that in both of these dancers the gesture leg in retiré is placed in front of the bodyline.

 

 

Maggie Lorraine

IADMS Dance Education Network Subcommittee

Leading Teacher in Ballet

The Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School 

 

Tags:  alignment  dancers  passe  pelvis  retire  teachers 

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Tring Park and IADMS present: Building a Dancer

Posted By Sarah Beck, Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On Sunday 10th May 2015 Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, UK, hosted a one day Professional Development Conference for dance teachers, in association with IADMS, entitled: Building a Dancer. An enthusiastic group of dance teachers, ranging from those working with professional and vocational dancers to grass roots community dance schools, gathered together to learn and discuss.

At the start of the day I was able to present a brief overview of the IADMS mission and the work IADMS does to achieve this. Key resources relevant to this group, such as the resource papers and the Bulletin for Dancers and Teachers were highlighted and copies of ‘The Challenge of the Adolescent Dancer’ paper flew off the promotion stand during the following coffee break.


Pictured: Rachel Rist

Former IADMS President, Director of Dance at Tring Park and Conference Organiser, Rachel Rist, gave the first presentation of the day which provided a detailed guide through a complex list of safe dance practice topics for teachers to navigate with a particular emphasis on ‘building a thinking dancer’ rather than an ‘obeying’ dancer. Principles highlighted and examples given were then beautifully demonstrated in practice to delegates who had the opportunity to watch Rachel in action teaching her Year 7 (11-12 year olds) Girls ballet class later in the afternoon. During this class the young students were highly engaged with their learning and went through a process of identifying, problem solving, and reflecting on their own technical and postural corrections through Rachel’s questioning and guidance. A particularly nice idea was asking each dancer to vocalise their ‘big learning’ and ‘small learning’ at the end of the lesson. Personally I found this approach to dance teaching incredibly positive as well as refreshing and inspiring.

Julie Pedrick, Pilates and Rehabilitation specialist at Tring Park, delivered a practical demonstration of some key conditioning exercises with three willing student volunteers. Working through all areas of the body, from the feet up, delegates gained an understanding of the important teaching points in each exercise and how they may be beneficial for their students.


Pictured: Julie Pedrick

After lunch, parallel sessions were offered. I attended a session introducing the teachers to certifications available through Safe in Dance International (SiDI). In this session Maggie Morris and Sonia Rafferty introduced the ten core principles examined by the course, which are drawn from a multidisciplinary examination of dance studio practice. 


Pictured: Maggie Morris and Sonia Rafferty

Alexander McKinven, Physiotherapist and IADMS Development Committee Chair, and Terry Wright, Deputy Director of Dance at Tring Park, talked us through (and demonstrated) the role of the central nervous system and an application of neuroscience in building the technique of dancers, with a particular focus on strategies of motor learning. 


Pictured: Alexander McKinven

With the day finishing with class observations, overall the conference did a fabulous job of bridging theory and practice; transforming all concepts discussed into tangible applications in the dance studio.  I personally now look forward to October 8th for the special interest group day: ‘A Day for Teachers’ at the IADMS 25th Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh to continue these discussions!

Tags:  regional conference 

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5 Questions With Amanda Clark

Posted By IADMS Student Committee, Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Our next featured member in the “5 Questions With…” column is our Student Committee Chair, Amanda Clark. Her areas of interest include dancer wellness, health, and education. Amanda will be graduating from Case Western Reserve University with an MFA in Contemporary Dance this May.


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

I chose to read Sally Fitt’s Dance Kinesiology textbook for a free reading assignment in my sophomore English class and once I finished the book I went to my favorite Science teacher and said “I know what I want to do when I grow up. I want to be a Dance Medicine Specialist.” He looked at me and said “What does that mean?” and I responded “I’m not quite sure. I’m not quite sure how I’ll get there, where I should study or what I should study, but I’m going to make it happen; I’ll call you when I do.” I loved dancing and knew I couldn’t stop doing what I was passionate about, but also had a passion for science and said “Yes! This is it!” I’ve been enjoying every step of my professional journey since that day.

 

-Are you currently participating in research? Can you give us your elevator pitch about your research area?

I presented the current iterations of my research that I have been participating in for the past two and a half years at the Annual Meeting in Basel, Switzerland. I hope to continue to finesse my study on attitudes and perceptions related to wellness screening and plan to publish in the future. My research is qualitative, and I am ever-curious about environmental & cultural effects on dancers’ attitudes and perceptions related to various health and wellness activities.

 

-Which annual meeting has been your favorite so far and why?

My favorite annual meeting was the 22nd Annual Meeting in Singapore. It will always hold a special place with me because it was my first experience as an IADMS member. I had heard about the organization through my undergraduate studies and always looked forward to the opportunity to join, attend the AM, and to hear what others in the field of Dance Medicine & Science are doing. It helped me realize how wide-spread yet close the community is. I was able to meet other student members, make new connections, and pick professionals’ brains. The innovations, findings, and studies that were presented helped me figure out what pathway I want to go down as a professional. 

 

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

Being able to connect with and network with such a range of intelligent and creative individuals is great. Having resources available like the Educational Opportunities Document, the forums on the IADMS website, and social media connections to other students and young professionals from around the world make me feel like if I have any questions, want to connect with another student for research, or anything else I might need, I can get answers, discussion, and connected.

 

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

You should definitely join IADMS. The benefits are wonderful, the people are kind, the presentations at the Annual Meetings are inspiring, and the student committee is ever-helpful.

If you are interested in the Student Committee and its initiatives, contact us at student@iadms.org.

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

Tags:  5 Questions With  students 

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Dancer Wellness: Power, Empower and Educate! Mid-Atlantic IADMS Regional Conference

Posted By Janine Bryant and Gayanne Grossman, Friday, May 1, 2015

On April 26th members of IADMS held their first Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference entitled Power, Empower and Educate! at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, USA. 

Speakers were Megan Richardson of Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, and Gayanne Grossman, Muhlenberg College Director of Dance Wellness and instructor of Anatomy and Kinesiology, Physical Therapist to dancers through the Lehigh Valley Health Network, PA., IADMS Education Committee member and Editor-in-Chief of the IADMS Bulletin for Teachers. The day was moderated by Janine Bryant, Director of Dance Programs, Eastern University, PA., IADMS Education Committee member, and PhD Candidate, Wolverhampton University, UK.

The program included sessions on dance medicine and science topics including: Plyometrics for building power, points on pointe training and readiness and improving alignment through releasing of myofascial restrictions. Delegates also engaged with an IADMS promotional table. Sessions were well attended by dancers, teachers, choreographers, and directors of schools and companies, college students, medical practitioners, and dance scientists; leading to stimulating discussions on dance medicine and science within practical dance settings. Attendees came from as far away as Boston and Virginia.

 

This conference offered exposure of dance medicine and science to the Mid-Atlantic, Southeastern region of the USA. Conference organizers, Gayanne Grossman and Janine Bryant hope that this event will provide the inspiration for participants to attend the 25th Annual Meeting held within reasonable driving distance from the Mid-Atlantic conference venue in Pittsburgh, PA. this coming October 2015.


Conference Organizers:
Janine Bryant, Tim Cowart and Gayanne Grossman

Tags:  IADMS  regional conference  wellness 

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Dancing with the pelvis: Alignment, deviations, and mobility

Posted By Clara Fischer Gam and Elsa Urmston on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Thursday, April 30, 2015

In the latest post from the IADMS Education Committee we started a two-post discussion on pelvic structure and alignment. We looked at pelvic anatomy, motion and came up with ideas for putting these concepts into practice in class. This second post will focus on pelvic alignment and its relevance to movement execution in the studio.


Source: Getty Images

We have all learned from experience: proper alignment is one of the basic building blocks for achieving the aesthetic line and form required for dance technique. We know that many are the contributors for good skeletal alignment, but one area that plays a special role is the pelvis.

Practitioners and researchers comment on the importance of pelvic alignment. As mentioned in the previous post, when in a natural position in relation to the rest of the body, the pelvis assumes neutral alignment because the surrounding joints and muscles are balanced. Neutral pelvic alignment can help us to achieve efficient execution of dynamic movements and static positions and therefore more effective muscle recruitment. Not only might neutral pelvis facilitate body movements in general but it also seems to improve specific action at hip and lumbar spine.

How to find your neutral pelvis?

As well as the image below, have a look at this handy youtube film which helps you find neutral pelvis.  Place the tip of your index fingers on the symphysis pubis, resting each of your wrists on the tips of your front hip bones (right on those bony projections, called anterior superior iliac spines) and let your thumbs extend, nearly touching in the middle. Can you notice that your hands are now forming a triangle shape on the centre of your pelvis?  For a neutral pelvis, the triangle lines should be on the same plane, aligning these three bony landmarks.

When working with students, it’s good to keep in mind though that anatomical differences may occur from dancer to dancer, therefore the triangle alignment should be a reference for finding an individual neutral pelvis.

Pelvic deviations generally imply any alteration in posture from neutral but when it comes to dancers, anterior pelvic tilt (that is allowing the tailbone to flare backwards) appears to be more common.

Why is that?

Misalignment of the pelvis could be related to imbalanced use of muscles that control the pelvis, the lower portion of the trunk and hip, or to structural conditions.  Particularly, anterior pelvic tilt could be linked to lack of action of the deep rotators of the hip for turning out (we’ve mentioned before the key role that these muscles play, recap here. The misuse of the inner thigh muscles or poor core control to stabilize the turnout may increase this deviation still more (for more about the core check this post).

Dancers with anterior pelvic tilt might get tight hip flexors and possibly lower back pain, as it increases the angle of lumbar lordosis. Posterior pelvic tilt (tucking the tail under) is typified by a flat back-like deviation and commonly associated with tight hamstrings and gluteal muscles and weak quadriceps, hip flexors and spinal erectors. Generally, dancers with a misaligned pelvis either anteriorly or posteriorly can more easily develop vertebral stresses and knee, foot, and ankle injuries due to compensatory movements and excess of muscle tension during training.

Despite all the information available on pelvic alignment, there is still a question to be answered: Is there an ideal degree of pelvic tilt that should be maintained through our dance movements?  Pelvic mobility in dance seems to be a hot topic of discussion among dance practitioners, teachers and scientists. Undoubtedly, there are many steps that intentionally involve the pelvis (either as initiator of the action as observed in Graham Technique for example, or as a consequence of another movement). However, we know that some techniques  require  that some specific movements should be performed with neutral (or even immobile) pelvis. I wonder though to what extent the pelvis really is immobile in such movements?

In relation to this, Wilson and colleagues looked at a grande rond de jambe en l’air. In our training, most of us learned that the pelvis should be still for the whole time during grande rond de jambe en l’air both at and past 90°. Yet these researchers observed that amongst experienced dancers the pelvis itself is deeply involved in gesture leg range of motion, especially when the leg is raised past 90°. In order to move the leg fully at highly vertical angles, the pelvis seems to follow the leg - even though we aim for creating an illusion of an immobile pelvis.  In a follow-up study the role of the pelvis was examined in facilitating gesture leg motion, and the related “cost” of the muscles involved. For skilled dancers the effort in the gesture leg is smaller than in the standing leg. This was reversed in less skilled dancers. So we might conclude that the skilled dancers worked more efficiently in their standing leg to support the pelvis and gesture leg, whereas the less skilled dancers are mostly using the muscles in the gesturing leg.  A recommendation to the teacher might be to appreciate that when working on movements where one leg is moving fully, a strategy to focus on the standing leg will help balance the necessary movement in the pelvis and spine. Not allowing the pelvis to move commensurately with the gesturing leg will decrease the potential range of motion and place unnecessary stress on the hip joint and lumbar spine.


Source: Getty Images

But what about other movements where the pelvis should be neutral? Deckert suggests that the answer is multifaceted and individualized to each dancer. Introducing exercises for dancers which focus on increasing awareness through individualized anatomical education, motor control and promoting alignment habits may help dancers locate the neutral pelvis.

Integrating the following exercises into a dancer’s daily routine may also help:

• Increase abdominal strength; strong abdominals provide support for finding and maintaining a neutral pelvis.

• Stretch hip flexors, if they have become excessively tight from years of anterior pelvic tilt. Stretching them on a daily basis will allow the pelvis to settle into a more neutral position.

• “Pelvic clock” provides a first step toward improvement by increasing awareness of pelvic alignment: Lying on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor, tip the pelvis through full range of motion, starting at 12 o’clock with the navel and lower back pressed to the floor and moving through to 6 o’clock as the waist rises off the floor and the tailbone is the only part of the spine contacting the floor. Make certain not to miss any point of the clock, and repeat in a counterclockwise circle. This exercise forces you to explore the full range of motion available in the pelvis and find a neutral pelvic alignment.

What I enjoy the most about the quest for finding movement efficiency in dance, is that it always awakens further inquiry; which movements involve pelvic motion? Which should hold a neutral pelvis? Which body part is leading, following or supporting movement?

 

Keep Exploring:

IADMS Resources here and here.

 

Clara Fischer Gam, MSc.

Dance Science

Dance Education

Pilates Method

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

Email: clara.figa@gmail.com

 

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

Email: elsa.urmston@danceeast.co.uk

Tags:  anatomy  dancers  pelvis  teachers 

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The Pelvis: The Meeting Point of the Body

Posted By Clara Fischer Gam on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Monday, April 27, 2015

We will get the week started with a post from the IADMS Education Committee. This is part 1 of a two-post discussion on pelvic structure and alignment. Today we will take a closer look at anatomy of the pelvis and share ideas for embodying these concepts in the studio.

 
Source: Getty Images

The pelvis as the “meeting point” of the body is a really clear analogy, as it is this structure that offers attachment for the legs and supports the spine and upper limbs. It plays a key part in bearing and transferring weight, it allows us to travel with dynamism as well as find balance and stability in the body.  Experiential anatomy allows us to really develop a sound working knowledge of the anatomical structure; linking theoretical knowledge and practical exercises in class can be really useful for developing movement strategies, enhancing quality and intention for dance technique.

So, how is the pelvis structured?

The pelvis is made up of two halves, the innominate bones (or simply, hip bones). Each one is formed from the fusion of three bones: ilium, pubis and ischium. Together, these three bones contribute to the hip socket that connects the pelvis to the femur (more about the hip joint in a previous post). 



Diagrams by Jake and Stuart Pett for IADMS

Anteriorly, the hip bones are connected by the symphysis pubis, a cartilaginous joint. Posteriorly, they connect to the sacrum through the sacroiliac joint. The upper part of the sacrum connects with the 5th vertebra of the lumbar spine (lumbosacral joint). For a more comprehensive anatomy of the pelvis, check out this great video.  

To bring about a more embodied knowledge of pelvic bones, I often encourage students to make use of touch as we go through anatomy concepts. Bone palpation activities can be easily applied to class when exploring anatomy of the pelvis. The author Andrea Olsen offers us a good suggestion:

Starting at a supine position, knees bent: trace the bones of the pelvis with the finger tips.

Firstly at the iliac crest, find the anterior superior iliac spines (ASIS), those bony projections at the front part of each hip bone. Then walk the fingers forward until the pubic symphysis.

Roll on your side: starting again at the iliac crest, trace the ilium back to the sacrum, feel the sacroiliac joint. Continue down the back of the pelvis and locate the ischial tuberosities (the "sitz" bones).

Flex the hip, and trace from the ischium to the pubic bone between the legs. Roll to the other side and repeat. You can find more experiential anatomy exercises on Olsen’s book, referred below.

 

Mainly, the pelvis moves as a whole: articulation occurs at the lumbosacral joint and at the heads of the femurs. It tilts anteriorly (allowing the tail bone to flare backward) posteriorly (tucking the tail bone under), laterally (lifting one side of the waist) and it also rotates (turn) for both sides. When watching students dancing, we may notice that ease of movement as well as restrictions for specific directions vary from dancer to dancer.

At a natural position in relation to the rest of the body, the pelvis is in the so-called neutral position: known for being the most stable and shock-absorbing for our structure, as surrounding joints and muscles are balanced.  Watch out for our next post, where we will discuss the importance of pelvic alignment for optimal performance! 

Something I really like to do to explore pelvic articulation and positioning is to practice the pelvic clock exercise as a warm-up in class (typical routine of Feldenkrais and Pilates sessions). That way, dancers can experiment with pelvic movements, discovering their own range of motion, restrictions and ultimately find their neutral pelvis. Watch a tutorial here.

 

Keep Exploring:

Olsen, A. Bodystories: A Guide to Experiential Anatomy. Lebanon: University Press of New England, 1991.

Calais-Germain, B. Anatomy of Movement. Seatle: Eastland Press, 2007.

Fitt, S. Dance Kinesiology. New York: Schirmer Books, Second Edition, 1996.

Salk, J. Teaching modern technique through experiential anatomy. Journal of Dance Education. 2005;3(3): 97-102.

Batson, G. Somatic studies and  dance. International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, 2009. Available here.

 


Clara Fischer Gam, MS.

Dance Science

Dance Education

Pilates Method

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

 

Email: clara.figa@gmail.com

 

 

Tags:  anatomy  dancers  pelvis  teachers 

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IADMS 2015 Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Posted By Hannah Etlin-Stein, Monday, April 20, 2015

IADMS is now gearing up for another Annual Meeting and this year it is in Pittsburgh!

 

 


As IADMS is a diversely international community, the Annul Meeting is a fabulous way to explore a new city and culture, while connecting with the IADMS community.

For those who have never attended an Annual Meeting it's an experience unlike any other and can provide many benefits.

  1. Multidisciplinary- IADMS is unlike many professional organizations in that not only do our members come from all over the globe, but they come from different professional backgrounds as well. Dancers, educators, health care practitioners, students, physicians and dance enthusiasts all gather together to share their knowledge and passion for the health and wellbeing of dancers. This allows for interesting discussions to emerge between attendees with varying expertise.

  2. Networking - In a world where it is so easy to connect virtually with someone across the globe, it becomes even more important to continue to foster those face-to-face connections. IADMS Annual Meetings are a great place to meet and connect to the small yet vast dance science community. When I first presented at IADMS, I was amazed how many people came up to me after my presentation to tell me about research they were doing in a similar field. This type of networking is essential. Who knows - you might just meet your next research partner this year in Pittsburgh!

  3. Mentorship -Although growing yearly, one of the many qualities of IADMS is its intimacy. For a student or someone entering the dance science field, it is remarkable to turn to your left and realize you are sitting next to a researcher you have referenced numerous times. It’s also amazing that they will most likely be willing to talk to you and offer advice or mentorship. The relationships developed at Annual Meetings are critical and potentially career changing opportunities.

  4. The dance party - no other organization provides such an informative, inspiring and FUN Annual Meeting as IADMS. If you haven't been yet, you will witness how the IADMS members know how to simultaneously engage in meaningful scientific inquiry while being able to let loose and have fun.

This year the Annual Meeting will be held in Pittsburgh!! There are many things to do in this Vibrant city! What's cool about Pittsburgh you ask?

Pittsburgh Trivia:

  • In 1954 the first Polio vaccine was developed by Jonas Salk and his team at the University of Pittsburgh.

  • The first smiley faces emoticon is credited to have been invented in 1982 in Pittsburgh by a man named Scott Fahlman :)

  • Famous Pittsburghers include Martha Graham and Gene Kelly, dancers/choreographers we know and love.

  • Pittsburgh has the most certified 'green' buildings in the USA! Now how's that for a city!

Things to check out in Pittsburgh:

The Cathedral of Learning: Standing at 535 feet, the Cathedral of Learning is the tallest educational building in the Western hemisphere and the second tallest gothic-styled building in the world. This Pittsburgh landmark is the centrepiece of the University of Pittsburgh’s main campus. (pictured below)

 

 

Andy Warhol Museum: With over 900 paintings, 100 sculptures and numerous prints, photographs and videos, this museum covers work from all periods of Andy Warhol’s career.

Point State Park: This 36 acre state park located in downtown Pittsburgh is marked by one of the country’s largest iconic fountain. A beautiful landmark Pittsburgh is known for. (pictured below)

 

  

The Duquesne Incline: Open 365 days a year, this century-old cable car will provide the best views of downtown Pittsburgh. Scaling Mount Washington and one of the few remaining inclines in the country this is a must do in Pittsburgh. The Incline is also featured in Flashdance! (pictured at the top of article)

 

Hope to see you all in Pittsburgh for the IADMS 25th Annual Meeting, October 9-11 2015. For more information click here!

Tags:  Annual Meeting 

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Dance Medicine and Science at Dance UK’s ‘The Future: New Ideas, New Inspirations’ Conference

Posted By Sarah Beck, Monday, April 13, 2015

This past weekend, from April 9th to 12th, Dance UK hosted their first ever Industry Wide Conference titled The Future: New Ideas, New Inspirations. With the future of the dance sector at the heart of this conference, it seemed only right that dance medicine and science featured within discussions.

The program on Saturday 11th included 12 ‘healthier dancer’ sessions on a wide range of dance medicine and science topics including: ‘Protein for dancers’ from Professor Kevin Tipton, ‘The hypermobile student in dance class’ from Nicky Ellis, and ‘Psychology of injury: the impact of what we say and do’ from Dr Natalie Walker. Dance UK were also extremely honoured to be able to feature four presentations that were previously presented during the IADMS 24th Annual Meeting in Basel and extend thanks to IADMS for their partnership in this. IADMS also had a promotional stand at the conference, which delegates engaged with. Sessions were filled to capacity and attended by dancers, teachers, choreographers, and directors of schools and companies, as well as medical doctors, students, physiotherapists and dance scientists. This mixture led to interesting discussion on the application of principles discussed into practice, something I know we all strive for in this field. Many of the sessions were filmed and video clips will be available over the next few weeks.

The final day of the conference focused on education and training the dance artists of the future and although no specific dance medicine and science content was scheduled in this day, it certainly featured in discussion in a way that any dance medicine and science enthusiast would be proud of. One topic in particular kept resurfacing: periodization. It seems imaginations had been sparked by the presentation on the previous day from Professor Matthew Wyon and Joost Van Megan on the work in periodization currently underway at ArtEz in the Netherlands (also presented at the IADMS 24th Annual Meeting). I urge you all to follow the link and watch Dr Christopher Bannerman’s keynote speech, in particular from around 36 minutes 30 seconds in, to hear him enthusiastically discussing this presentation. 

This conference provided fabulous exposure of dance medicine and science into the wider dance sector in the UK, which we hope continues to inspire debate, collaboration, and practical implementation of and around ideas presented.


[The IADMS blog would like to feature further write ups of events and conferences so please do let us know about those happening in your local area so that they can be included.]

Tags:  conference  dancers  UK 

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The Spine: The impact of head position

Posted By Elsa Urmston on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Monday, April 6, 2015

This blog post from the IADMS Education Committee brings focus to the importance of spinal alignment and its role in aiding the efficient and effective mobilization of the body in dance.  Specifically this week, we will look at the cervical spine and the all too common problem of the forward head posture.


In recent weeks I’ve been aware of the images on social media about the impact of smartphone and tablet use on the alignment of the upper body in everyday life, bringing about the forward head posture which drops the shoulder girdle down and forwards, bringing with it the cervical spine and skull.  The middle back or thoracic spine area has a tendency to drift backwards and, to accommodate the upper back shift, the hips tip forwards, creating a domino effect of increased force on the central line of the body.  Herein lies muscular and skeletal imbalance as the center of gravity is pulled anteriorly and posteriorly off the midline – the result – pain, discomfort and inhibited movement range.  Here we see the resulting force placed on the spinal column, relative to degrees of anterior cervical spine flexion.

 



In my own classes I often see this forward head posture - whether it is a result of increased screen use is up for debate!  I’d like to think it is the students’ eagerness to learn but this forward head posture may come about because of students looking down, lack of confidence, concentration or any multitude of reasons.  But balancing the skull on the spine is critical in helping young dancers to find efficiency in their whole body movement, and tackling it early on in the training journey seems a prudent step in finding fluency of movement and avoiding injury risk. 


Ideal spinal alignment requires the skull to be balanced on the occiput, creating a central line through the spine which minimizes stress on the body.  And once the skull is balanced on the spine we can ensure that the natural curves of the spine are supported for maximum shock absorbancy in jumping and support for the dancing body in motion.  As soon as the head moves off this central line, forces impact on the joints of the body; of course sometimes we want that to happen as this initiates movement, or balances movement in other parts of the body.  But equally, we need to ensure the efficient balance of the skull on the spine to enable safe and effective practice.  Any distortion in the spine because of head position can impact balance and how we move – pirouetting with a forward head stance is nigh on impossible!  


The impact of the forward head posture on the spine is varied, but as I mentioned earlier there is always a domino effect on the spine and indeed the joints of the lower limbs.  This image below really illustrates this clearly – with the arrows indicating the stress points rippling down the body from poor head position.



So what can educators do to enable efficient head position amongst our youngsters and avoid the impacts on the spine we see above.  We have probably all experienced the image of the string coming from the top of the head, to ‘lighten’ the skull on the spine and allow length in the spinal column.  This can be helpful but I think can sometimes result in the chin being pulled inwards towards the throat, the head falling slightly back and in turn, creating the flat back posture, also often associated with young dancers as they try to find that length we all seek.  Those vital spinal curves disappear. 


Multidimensional images of the head-spine relationship seem to create a better balance amongst the students I work with.  For example, whilst standing we consider the string from the crown of the head, alongside marionette strings which cluster above the ears and draw upwards to help students understand the volume of the skull balanced on the spine.  Often I will have students working in trios, one partner clustering their fingertips firmly on the sides of the skull just above the ears.  They press gently on the flesh for 30 seconds or so, so that the dancer can feel the touch of their partner, the partner then draws the fingertips up to the crown of the head to unite and lengthen up into the space above, often drawing the hair with the fingers.  The other partner lightly cups one hand on the forehead and the other on the posterior curve of the skull and remains there whilst the marionette strings are drawn upwards.  Students’ reactions to this tactile task are always positive and they observe in their partners the lengthened spine and ideal head placement we seek but also the spinal curves remain intact.  They are able to recall the tactile memories of the hands-on work in their dancing as a reminder. 


For me, I have learnt a lot from Alexander Technique (AT).  The verbal directions, “to let the neck be free, to allow the head to go forward and up, so that the back can lengthen and widen”, alongside hands-on work in class as shown below, reiterate the balance of the head whilst dancing.  Examples of AT in practice are widely available on the web; these short films are a great visual introduction to the basic principles of AT, and their specific application in dance. 
Video 1
Video 2

I have also found these dance-specific AT podcasts helpful in developing my own understanding and taking these ideas into the classroom to help my students.  I strongly recommend a listen!
BodyLearningCast

IMAGE WILL RETURN SOON


At the DanceEast Centre for Advanced Training we spend a lot of time team-teaching in technique classes – a luxury I know.  I will work within ballet and contemporary classes, the class teacher leading the class in the normal way, whilst I circulate to work with students individually, reminding them quietly of teaching points covered in dance health classes, using tactile feedback from the examples above as well as many others, to try to support the transfer of learning of principles from our health classes to their application in technique and performance.  So in fact we are trying to overcome habitual movement patterns such as the forward head posture through re-education.  We find a sustained deepening of the students’ understanding when we work in this way, which enables an enquiring learning approach from the students in which they ask questions and interrogate their own practice.


There are numerous videos including stretches for forward head posture available on the web.  In my experience some people, sometimes find these useful, but the focus is on treating the pain caused by poor alignment rather than tackling the root cause.


For further resources, take a look at the following:


A great collection of Alexander’s writings:
Alexander, F. M.
The Alexander Technique: The Essential Writings of F. Matthias Alexander. Lyle Stuart. 1990.


Batson, G. Somatics Studies and Dance.  IADMS Resource Paper. 2009.


The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique

  


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

Email: elsa.urmston@danceeast.co.uk

 

Tags:  dancers  ergonomics  neck  spine  teachers 

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