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Introducing 'Dance for Health'

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


IADMS enhances health, well-being, training and performance


by cultivating medical, scientific and educational excellence."


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


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


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


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


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




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

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




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


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

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


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




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


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


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


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

- Move Dance Feel participant




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


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


Clare Guss-West MA,

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



Emily Jenkins MA,

Founder, Move Dance Feel, IADMS DfH Task Force (



Dance for Health Resources


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

Australia Dance Health Alliance (AUS):

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

The European Dance & Creative Wellness Foundation: (NL)

Dance for Health (NL):

Switch2Move (NL):

Danshälsa, Balettakademien Stockholm (SE):

Skanes Dans Teater (SE):

Dans for Halsa (SE):

Dance in Health and Wellbeing (UK):

People Dancing (UK):


Older adults dancing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balettakademien Stockholm (SE), dancing 60+:

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

Dance for Parkinson’s and MS

BrainDance (DE):

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

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

People Dancing (UK)

‘Dance for PD’ (USA):


Dance and Dementia

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

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

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

Green Candle (UK):


Dance and Mental Health

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

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

Dance United (UK) The Alchemy Project:

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


Dance and Cancer

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

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


Dance with Visually Impaired

Royal Opera House (UK):

Rationale - Breakdance and Visual Impairment (UK): 


Dance and Psychology/Neuroscience

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

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

Poikonen, H. Movement and Neuroscience:





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Tags:  Dance for Health  DfH 

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

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

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


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


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



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


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



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

Tags:  ankle  dancers  heels  knee  research 

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Can Physics improve your pirouettes?

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

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

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

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

3.     Angular acceleration – how to build up turning speed

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


Embed from Getty Images


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


Embed from Getty Images


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


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


Take Away Ideas:


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


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


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


Additional Reading:

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

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

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

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

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




Margaret Wilson, PhD

Professor, University of Wyoming


Jennifer Deckert, MFA

Associate Professor, University of Wyoming

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


Tags:  physics  pirouette  teachers  turn 

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IADMS 2018: A Dance Teacher’s Perspective

Posted By Fiona Wallis on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Monday, December 10, 2018

I’ve been teaching ballet for over twenty years (the last twelve in Higher Education) and have been aware of IADMS for some time. 2018, however, was the year that I decided to make direct contact with this organisation and began to consider how dance science might enhance my studio-based practice. As a new member of IADMS, I was encouraged by Dance Science colleagues at The University of Chichester to attend the 2018 Helsinki conference. My hope was that it would provide much needed space to pause and reflect on my own practice, to consolidate knowledge, and to consider new ideas that aim to improve the learning and teaching experience in the dance studio.

From the beginning, the schedule was packed with a range of research presentations and practical/movement sessions; a testament to the diversity of research practices within the dance science community. From the wide array of topics over the four days of the conference, it is difficult to identify specific highlights. Furthermore, I am certain that, in the coming weeks and months, knowledge gleaned will permeate subtly into my own teaching. As a dance educator, I found the practical sessions in particular most useful, providing a valuable opportunity to consider how research that is situated within the domain of dance science might be applied directly to a studio setting.


Included in these highlights was Javier Torres’s session, ‘Breathing patterns and their use in ballet’, which considered the harmonious interaction between breath and ballet’s codified vocabulary.  Consideration was given to the release of tension when breathing out; how exhaling when performing actions that require greater muscular effort relaxes the chest and enhances the flow of movement. Although I have considered this application of breathing to my own practice before, Torres also emphasised the connection between appropriate breathing patterns and core stability. Thus, how breath is connected to strength and the facilitation of optimal performance. I found the principles from this session extremely relevant and a closer exploration of the benefits of conscious breathing to performance can be easily incorporated into a technique class.

Spirals, particularly in the torso, and the three-dimensionality of the dancer are fundamental principles in my own ballet and SAFE® BARRE classes, so I was particularly interested in Shonach Mirk Robles’ session on the Spiraldynamik® concept and the three-dimensional foot. Foot massages – as well as being a real treat – enabled us to explore more closely the structure of the foot. In particular the importance of the two longitudinal arches and the anterior transverse arch in weight bearing, how the notion of a spiral of energy from the foot into the leg can focus our attention on correct lower limb alignment. As a teacher who works predominately in ballet, safe practice when standing in turn out is key. This session, provided me with a new way of considering correct alignment, working up from the feet into the lower limbs, rather than down from the hip, emphasised correct weight placement into the floor thereby enhancing balance.

As suggested above, the ability to apply knowledge and ideas from specific sessions directly into the studio, for me, became the marker of a ‘good’ session. Agathe Dumont’s class on warming up and cooling down focused on giving students autonomy during this process and I came away with specific tools that I look forward to using in the near future. Similarly Alicia Head’s practical lecture on the biomechanics of an arabesque and Katy Chambers’ session on neuromuscular activation patterns whet the appetite for future explorations into biomechanics and neurological bias.


Whilst the practical sessions provided much needed ‘food’ for my teaching and research, I found the presentations to be less immediately applicable.  Indeed, although the application of dance science to specific dance movements or training methods were explored (for example, uncovering joint angle coordination strategies in pirouettes), I was left wondering how this knowledge was applied to the dancers in order to improve their skills. Perhaps the length of each presentation (only 15 minutes) prevented the ‘what next …’ scenario being explored but it is this application of knowledge that is so crucial to a dance educator and trainer.


Notwithstanding, when I did venture into these lecture spaces, I had the pleasure of seeing colleagues from the University of Chichester articulate their research on a range of topics including training load (Sarah Needham-Beck), the notion of the performer in relation to a sense of self (Gemma Harman), and performance anxiety (Lucie Clements). I, therefore, look forward to working with these individuals and exploring how their dance science research can have a positive and direct impact on the curriculum that we deliver at Chichester.


In conclusion my first experience of an IADMS conference was definitely a positive one. As a dance teacher, I’m very aware that, if I don’t regularly gain new ideas and inspiration, my practice can become stagnant. Although it was a luxury to take four days away from home close to the beginning of the academic year, the conference provided me with key tools that can be applied to my studio practice and I have returned to Chichester with new ideas that I am excited to explore with my students. IADMS also enabled me to meet new people (dance scientists, teachers, performers etc.) who are all passionate about dance practice, performance, and wellbeing. No doubt between now and the next conference, I will have many opportunities to keep in touch and share ideas with these new friends.


Final thoughts:

1) Making the effort to travel to Helsinki was definitely worth it. I came away tired but definitely refreshed and ready to start work again.

2) I was glad I was wearing comfy shoes! The conference was packed and I needed to move quickly (sometimes run) from one session to the next.

3) It was not all work … dinner and wine plus cups of tea in Helsinki’s Moomin café with new friends were not to be missed


Fiona Wallis MA is a dance educator and PhD researcher specializing in ballet technique. She is a Senior Lecturer at The University of Chichester and is also a certified instructor in the SAFE® BARRE method.

Tags:  A Day for Teachers  Annual Conference  teachers 

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My First IADMS - Magical Helsinki

Posted By Steffi Hai-Jung Shih on behalf of the IADMS Promotion Committee, Monday, November 26, 2018

Despite a long, overnight trip delay as well as a baggage delay, I was immediately in love with the IADMS conference and its community the very first day. I’ve been looking forward to participating in the IADMS conference ever since I became a PhD student, when I heard about the conference from Danielle and Michael who are actively participating and spoke highly about it.


Pictured: Steffi Hai-Jung Shih (left), Danielle Jarvis (center), and Michael Rowley (right)


I was honored and lucky to have been selected as one of the student research award winners, but I definitely did not expect to be cued to improvise in front of everyone during the opening remarks by MJ… Although this certainly made it a lot easier for me to make new friends throughout the conference, so thank you, MJ, as well as Harkness who sponsored this award! I was also invited to the research committee meeting to experience firsthand how the committee works. A big thank you to Jatin, Tom, and all the committee members for inviting us, and I truly appreciate the hard work that goes into selecting the award winners and all the other initiatives behind the scenes. 



The diversity and quality of the scientific content was really impressive, I loved how different professionals who truly care about dance and dancers’ health could interact and have an open conversation about various topics. I was proud to present my analysis on our lab’s collaborative project on dancers with flexor hallucis tendinopathy, and I was able to receive lots of very helpful feedback from experts in different areas. I was very excited and a little bit nervous about this talk as this was my first solo research podium!



Another highlight of the conference —  movement sessions. We are all movers and I thought movement sessions are great for us to learn by doing. Moving along with fellow attendees to learn about pilates and neurokinetic therapy for dancers, management of shin splints and posterior ankle impingement, and many more, was quite a blast. The social events were also spot on! I enjoyed the dance performance very much, as well as the reception and the renowned IADMS dance party.



I got to also enjoy Helsinki a little bit, the beautiful park right across the hotel has spectacular colors (we don’t have this autumn/winter view in Los Angeles), salmon soup at the Fazer Cafe was delicious, the Moomin cafe was very cute (and I even ran into a fellow IADMS attendee Nicola and her family, who wrote the previous blog about getting ready for IADMS where she mentioned her family will be hunting Moomins). Going back to daily routine was quite hard, I had a magical time at IADMS in Helsinki and hope to see everyone in future years!


Steffi Hai-Jung Shih is a PhD candidate in the University of Southern California's Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy. 

Tags:  Annual Conference 

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Does Pilates breath inspire dance?

Posted By Adriano Bittar on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Following on from the exciting and intriguing posts from Christine Bergeron (How effective is Pilates as an additional training program for dancers?), and Jennifer Deckert (Breath: A Back-To-School Basic), the focus here is on Pilates and breath, specifically touching upon how they influence the performance of ballet.

The basis for discussion in this post comes from a study that investigated the effects of Fletcher Pilates® in the respiratory systems of young female ballet dancers from a public dance school. This study was presented as a poster at the IADMS 27th Annual Conference in Houston, USA1, and published in Brazil2.



It is well reported by exercise physiologists and physiotherapists3,4 that breath plays an important role in providing the body with the necessary energy for daily living. Dancers, such as Duncan, Wigman, Humphrey and Graham also used breath to let the body access its full vibrant potency for artistic expression5. The presence of oxygen enables metabolic reactions and processes to take place, transforming nutrients into chemicals that provide energy in the cells (adenosine triphosphate, ATP) and the release of waste products.

Research tells us that breathing is a frequent movement dysfunction in human beings6,7. The shape of the diaphragm which is the primary muscle in inhalation, affects most body systems, because of its anatomical insertions and connections inside the body. You can find useful descriptions and diagrams of the diaphragm here. Postural modifications can indirectly challenge ventilation (breathing), while coordinated diaphragm contraction may contribute to control of the trunk8,9,10. This is one of the reasons why the placement of the neck, shoulder girdle, ribs and spine can be disrupted by bad breathing. The opposite could also be true: misalignment of the body can cause bad breathing. Therefore, applying good breathing principles to our daily living should turn into a regular practice inside and outside the dance studio.

In training, dancers aren’t often educated on how to optimize breathing and the function of their respiratory systems. Even though ballet dancers frequently take Pilates that teaches breath as a basis for body control, breath is not usually used consciously while they dance1. Often ballet dancers are encouraged to not let the audience see them fatigue, to keep the breath steady and to not belly breathe.

Science is starting to understand the benefits of the use of breath and there are lots of reasons why optimizing breathing might lead to optimized performance when dancing too. Dysfunctional breathing has been linked to health problems such as low back pain, anxiety, panic disorder and mood swings, not to mention decreased pain thresholds and impaired motor control, balance, and movement11, 12. Yoga and martial arts have used different breathing patterns, such as the parceling of air in and out in fractions, or holding the breath, that are practiced to boost better overall health. Western medicine has used breath as well, to improve health and sleep, manage anxiety and control energy levels13. Deep diaphragmatic breathing slows heart rate and blood pressure, especially in times of performance anxiety14. What makes it all even more fascinating is that dancers could use breathing techniques to reprogram their brains, modify breathing behavior, and break inappropriate breathing habits. Research has shown that a better rhythm of breathing could coordinate activity across brain regions associated with smell, memory, and emotions, enhancing their functioning. In dance, this would allow for a greater capacity to learn and perform, as breathing would organize activity of multiple brain regions to help orchestrate complex behaviors15.

What would be the results of training dancers to understand the relevance of correct muscle activation and mechanics of breathing in daily activities and at work? What would it take to teach them to “move from breath”, so to understand the anatomy, physiology, functions and dysfunctions of breathing? Would they be able to add that other layer of perception to dancing? Have a look at Roger Fiametti’s “Respiration Totale” animation here to aid dancers’ understanding. Would it help to recuperate from their fatiguing routines? Would it also be of help to control posture, enhance performance and bring three-dimensional awareness to movement? These seem to be important questions that need explanation.

FLETCHER PILATES®: breath used consciously

Ron Fletcher (1921 - 2011), an American Pilates elder, ex-Graham dancer and choreographer, developed Fletcher Pilates®/FP, the Fletcher FundamentalsTM/FF and the Fletcher Percussive BreathTM/FPB after more than 22 years (1948 - 1970) of non-continuous studies with Joseph and Clara Pilates. Of all the Pilates elders, just Ron taught this breath, as he thought it would better inform his students of the coordination used while breathing. Ron devoted his life to the understanding of human movement, the use of breath, and the coordination and rhythmic motions of the body. You can find out more about Ron Fletcher and the Fletcher Percussive Breath here.

In the FPB, after a deep inhalation, with air being directed to the lateral ribs and to the front and back of the chest, air is blown out through the back of the teeth, providing awareness, resistance and more muscle engagement16. For more information about Fletcher Pilates, click here. Volume and control are key in the FPB, and aspects of breath such as rhythm, regularity, timing and direction are also important. Fletcher believes the breath should be seen happening in the body, as many body parts move when it is done correctly: “Let the breath inspire the movement. Every body can be improved, inside and outside, because the body potential is hardly ever realized. Body Contrology uses the total person. It is movement that demands thought with spirit with breath with body. One supporting the other”17. Body Contrology refers to the name given by Pilates to his method and later on, known by his surname, Pilates.

It has been evidenced by early research in diverse populations 16,18,19,20,21 that FP and the FPB can increase breathing capacity and lung function, maintain abdominal support of the lumbar spine, improve thoracic spinal mobilization and function and restore optimal posture.

Therefore, would Fletcher Percussive BreathTM/FPB, created by Ron Fletcher, from Fletcher Pilates®, prove to be useful to young ballet dancers, in order to allow for better use of their respiratory systems?


An experimental study evaluated 15 female adolescent ballet dancers from a public professional dance school in Brazil. The dancers were injury-free and were already taking ballet classes and/or rehearsing for at least 5 years, for 15 hours per week or more.

They took part in a specific training program with the FP method, that focused on the teaching of the FPB and FF in standing, in 1-hour long classes, for 4 weeks, twice per week whilst continuing their normal dance classes and rehearsals. Dancers were tested before and after the experiment for expansibility of the lower area of the trunk, specifically the thoraco-abdominal region; maximal exhaling time; and muscle strength when breathing in (inspiratory strength).

This study found that the ballet dancers improved their thoracoabdominal expansibility, better coordinating the rhythm of their in and out-breath. The inspiratory strength improved significantly to almost double after the study.




FP and the FPB had a very positive effect on the breathing patterns of young female ballet dancers, influencing positively the mechanics of the breath and the respiratory muscle strength.

Breathing techniques could play a major role in aiding breathing function amongst young dancers learning ballet. Teachers can incorporate breathing techniques into their classes. Research of different breathing strategies used in the ballet class, before or during performance may highlight other practical aspects concerning the use of the breath in dance and help young dancers to evolve in their art form.



Of all the references given, start off with:

1.     Calais-Germain, B. Anatomy of Breath. Seattle, WY: Eastland Press, 2006. An excellent book on the A&P of breath.

2.     Roger Fiammetti’s “Respiration Totale” animation, available here.  This video will give you an overview of how breath works inside the body.

3.     Information on the FPB and FP can be found here.

4.     Find out more about Fletcher Pilates at


1.     BITTAR, A.; MELO, R.; NOLETO, R.; LEMOS, T. The effects of Fletcher Pilates® in the respiratory systems of young female ballet dancers from a public dance school. In: IADMS 27th Annual Conference, 2017, Houston, TX. , p. 78.

2.     MELO, R.; NOLETO, R.; BITTAR, A.; LEMOS, T. As Influências da Respiração Percussiva Fletcher® nas Mobilidades Torácicas e Abdominal, Força e Coordenação Respiratórias em Bailarinas Jovens de Uma Escola Pública de Dança de Goiânia. MOVIMENTA, V. 11, n. 1,  p. 20-34, 2018.

3.     CALAIS-GERMAIN, B. Anatomy of Breath. Seattle, WY: Eastland Press, 2006.

4.     HALL, J. Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology (13th edition). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier, 2016.

5.     SUQUET, Annie. O Corpo Dançante: um laboratório de percepção. In: COURTINE, Jean-Jacques; CORBIN, Alain; VIGARELLO, Georges. História do Corpo: 3. As mutações do olhar: O século XX. Petrópolis: Vozes, 2008.

6.     BORDONI, B.; ZANIER, E. Anatomic connections of the diaphragm: influence of respiration on the body system. Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare. 2013; 6: 281-291.

7.     BORDONI, B.; PURGOL, S.; BIZZARRI, A.; MODICA, M.; MORABITO, B. The Influence of Breathing on the Central Nervous System. Cureus. 2018; 10(6): e2724.

8.     HODGES, P.; RICHARDSON, C. Relationship between limb movement speed and associated contraction of the trunk muscles. Ergonomics, v. 40, p. 220-1230, 1997.

9.     HODGES, P.; GANDEIVA, S. Activation of the human diaphragm during a repetitive postural task. J Physiol Lond, v. 522, p. 165-175, 2000.

10.  HODGES P.; GANDEIVA S. Changes in intra-abdominal pressure during postural and respiratory activation of the human diaphragm. J Appl Physiol, v. 89, p. 967-976, 2000a.

11.  KIESEL, K.; RHODES, T.; MUELLER, J.; WANINGER, A.; BUTLER, R. Development of a Screening Protocol to Identify Individuals with Dysfunctional Breathing. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2017 Oct; 12(5): p. 774–786.

12.  KUVAČIĆ, G.; FRATINI, P.; PADULO, J.; ANTONIO, D.; DE GIORGIO, A. Effectiveness of yoga and educational intervention on disability, anxiety, depression, and pain in people with CLBP: a randomized controlled trial. Complementary therapies in clinical practice31, 262-267, 2018.

13.  MCLAUGHLIN, L.; GOLDSMITH, C.; COLEMAN, K. Breathing evaluation and retraining as an adjunct to manual therapy. Man Ther. 2011; 16(1): p. 51-52.

14.  RAYMOND, J.; SAJID, I.; PARKINSON, L.; GRUZELIER, J. Biofeedback and dance performance: a preliminary investigation. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, v. 30, n. 1, p. 65-73, 2005.

15.  ZELANO, C.; JIANG, H. ZHOU, G.; ARORA, N.; SCHUELE, S.; ROSENOW, J.; GOTTFRIED, J. Nasal Respiration Entrains Human Limbic Oscillations and Modulates Cognitive Function. Journal of Neuroscience. 36 (49) 12448-12467, 2016.

16.  BITTAR, A.; JUBÉ, L.; HANCOCK, C.; PAIVA, T.; SABIN, K. The effects of Fletcher Towelwork® in women with breast cancer: clinical trial. PMA Conference, Phoenix, 2016.

17.  FLETCHER PILATES, 2018. Retrieved from .

18.  VOLÚ, A.; NORA, F.; BITTAR, A. The Importance of Fletcher Towelwork® in Decreasing Shoulder Pain of a Paraplegic bound to a Wheelchair: case study. MOVIMENTA. vol. 7, n. 3, 2014.

19.  SILVA, G.; RIBEIRO, C.; BITTAR, A. Efeitos do método Fletcher Matwork® na expansibilidade torácica. Artigo de esp. - PUCGO, GYN; 2014.

20.  SILVA, G.; RIBEIRO, C.; BITTAR, A. The Sub-acute Effects of the Fletcher Pilates® Mat on a Group of PE from Athletics Fitness Center. Post-graduation in Pilates, monograph, PUC/GO, 2014a.

21.  SILVA, M.; DIAS, K.; BITTAR, A. The Effects of Fletcher Towelwork® in the Peripheral Muscle Strength and Thoracic Extension of Dentists. Summary II International Fletcher Pilates® Conference. Tucson/USA, 2015.



Adriano Bittar - PT, PhD, State Uni of Goiás, Goiânia, Brazil; Brazil-United Kingdom Dance Medicine & Science Network,




Tags:  breath  breathing  pilates 

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2018 Dance Educator Award Winner - Stevie Oakes

Posted By IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Sunday, October 28, 2018

Congratulations to our Dance Educator Award winner - Stevie Oakes! While she couldn't join us in Helsinki this year, check out this awesome video taken by her students of her being presented the award!



Tags:  IADMS Dance Educator Award 

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Getting ready for IADMS 2018

Posted By Nicola Stephens, Monday, October 22, 2018


It’s nearly time for IADMS 2018 and I am getting excited. I’ve got tape packed for the shin-pain workshop I am presenting with my fantastic colleague Amanda, who is just starting out on her dance medicine career. Encouraging her to come along and co-present got me reflecting upon my years of being an IADMS member. Helsinki is the 8th IADMS I have attended, and this year both my husband and daughter will be coming with me. We are planning a sightseeing break around the conference, so any tips on must see sights, especially with an 8-year-old in tow would be welcome. The two of them intend to hunt for Moomins whilst I work. 

My first IADMS was 19 years ago when I, like Amanda, was just embarking on a career in dance medicine. At this first conference I met many people passionate about the need to enable the healthier dancer and remember feeling excited to be able to hear all these amazing speakers, and humbled to talk to them afterwards. I received so much encouragement which helped me forward my career and I came away from Tring (IADMS 1999) having found my tribe! Oh, and my future husband…

Hence, IADMS is a special place for us as Leon and I did meet at our first IADMS. We bonded over frisbee on the lawn (ooops…sorry, yes, those footprints in the dew were ours!) and water fights at midnight in the corridors of the boarding school with other (now) quite prominent IADMS members. The infamous party night that year only had the DJ booked until 10pm. But a little whip around by my (now) husband enabled it to be extended it until late and a tradition was born. IADMS 2003 (Laban) formed part of our honeymoon, and our IADMS baby attended her first conference in 2010 (Birmingham). 

I’ve had the pleasure & privilege to present at 3 previous IADMS conferences and will be presenting again twice this year. It is through organisations such as IADMS that I have been able to network and make the connections that have made collaborations on research and best practice possible. I am so grateful for these opportunities and would say to any new IADMS members that the networking opportunities are as valuable, if not more so, that the actual conference content itself. Through IADMS I have made friends in all corners of the world, colleagues who I can call upon their expertise when needed and who in turn occasionally pick my brain too. And now with the app, it’s even easier to “speak” to someone, so even for the shy, or people who have a language barrier – the networking is made so much more accessible. You may even win a free conference place for next year by using the app like I did in Hong Kong! Who knows, it may even be the place to meet your future partner…?!!!

Anyhow, back to the packing. Our suitcase has to fit in 27 cuddly toys, warm clothes for 3 and make sure there’s space on the return journey for a Moomintroll or otherwise! Moominmama, it appears, I am not. Well, not today!     

See you all in Helsinki. Safe travels.    

Tags:  Annual Conference  IADMS family 

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IADMS 2018: Networking tips

Posted By IADMS Student Committee, Monday, October 15, 2018

Top tips for networking


As we approach our 28th Annual Conference, we’ve been putting together a few tips for networking that we hope will help you to feel confident in starting conversations and making new connections:



1.     Plan your attack. Look at the conference programme to get a feel of what’s happening when…and who will be where. This gives you a chance to make a (mental or physical) list of the sessions you’re interested in attending or the professionals you’re hoping to connect with. Once you have your list, do your research. You don’t have to conduct a full-fledged background check, but you should know enough about conference presenters, moderators, and attendees to easily strike up a conversation with them at any coffee break. (See the complete IADMS conference schedule here.)



2.     Have something to offer. A business card, a bold elevator speech, a snazzy outfit—give the people you meet something to remember you by. Tossing people squares of paper may seem like an antiquated way of exchanging contact information, especially in our LinkedIn era, but a well-crafted business card could set you apart from the crowd. If you don’t have a tangible representation of who you are, leave a lasting impression with confidence and style. It may seem cheesy, but practice introducing yourself into a mirror (or other inanimate object of your choosing) before you enter the conference space. Fashion a few words that make succinct who you are and what you’re currently interested in, and while you’re at it, piece together your wardrobe strategically. A tie tessellated with your alma-mater’s insignia or an intricately jewelled brooch picked up on your travels across Scotland could be an easy identifier and a perfect conversation-starter.



3.     Be the Question-Master. Questions are the functional spine of conferences, and for good reason. A well-crafted question that demonstrates deep understanding and genuine intrigue could spark the kind of dialogue gives rise to lifelong research collaborations. However, divining a good question on the spot can be daunting. When all seems to fail or an awkward silence shrouds a conversation, have a list of ready questions to pull from. For example, what’s an opportunity they wish they would’ve taken, what advice they would give when working in ____, or what first made them interested in____.



4.     Remember: Everyone is human. Whether you’re a young mind or a seasoned professional, you’ve probably experienced the trepidation and anxiety that comes with approaching a person to strike up a conversation that may lead to an exchange of contacts. But despite the advice presented here, you don’t necessarily have to open with a revolutionarily thought-provoking question or über-complimentary greeting. Sometimes, a simple “hi” and a smile will suffice. Even if you’re new to the conference scene, don’t underestimate the value of the knowledge you already have. Work with what you’ve got.



5.     Keep it fresh. Say your conversation did in fact lead to an exchange of contacts (hooray!), don’t let the opportunity pass. Try to send a follow-up “nice to meet you” email (or tweet or digital what-have-you) to those you hope to stay in contact with within 24 hours of meeting them. This ensures that you remain fresh in the contact’s mind and increases your likelihood for future communication.



We hope to make your visit in Helsinki as enjoyable as possible, if you are traveling from out of the country visit our facebook page to connect with others who are travelling: 




Tags:  Annual Conference 

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IADMS 2018: Preparing for the conference

Posted By IADMS Student Committee, Monday, October 15, 2018

Getting ready for the conference: Students and Young Professionals

The annual conference is fast approaching and it’s time to start making plans. This year the conference takes place in the exciting city of Helsinki, Finland. Here are a few things we’ve been thinking about in preparation for heading to Helsinki…


Connecting with other students

The IADMS annual conference offers a unique opportunity to connect with peers and professionals who specialise in dance medicine and science. Here’s our top tips on how to make the most of this opportunity…


Top tips

      Attend the student social – this is a great way to meet other students at the beginning of the conference even begins!

      Connect on social media! Check out our facebook page and connect with other students before you even get to the conference!

      Attend a roundtable – this can be a great way to meet other students and professionals in your area. There is also the student roundtable, an opportunity to discuss key issues with students in dance medicine and science

      Check out the student networking session – this session brings together professionals from a wide range of dance medicine and science disciplines and gives you an opportunity to meet peers in your research area and to get to know the professionals in your area too.

      Networking – put yourself out there and try to talk to as many new faces as possible. The IADMS conference is a great place to make new connections and to talk to professionals who are as passionate about dance science as you are!

      Introduce yourself to the Student Committee - we’re really friendly and love getting to know others who share our passions ☺We’ll have a table in the exhibit hall this year, pop by and say hello and hear about what the student committee are up to!


Getting the most out of the conference

In addition to connecting with other students and professionals you want to make sure that you get the most out of what’s on offer at the conference and in the city of Helsinki.


Top tips

      Attend a variety of sessions not just your main area and try to sit down with the conference schedule before you go and plan out the sessions you want to check out

      Be brave – ask questions during the sessions and get involved!

      If you don’t fancy asking questions during the formal sessions, attend a roundtable. The roundtable is a great opportunity to engage in discussion with a smaller group of people on a more specific topic.

      Make the most of your breaks – use this time to try to get to know new people at the conference.

      Make the most of any free time to explore the city – this is one of the perks of being a part of an international association!


Student Events

Getting involved with student events can really help you to make the most out of your time at the conference and the events we have on offer mean that you can get to know some new people right at the beginning of the conference!


Student social

Our student social is a great way to meet other students before the meeting begins and to network with Dance Medicine and Science students from across the globe! For this years’ student social we have lined up a special treat for our student delegates! A backstage tour of the Finnish National Ballet Company and a chance to hear about their Healthy Dancer Programme. We will then head to the conference welcome drinks and on to grab pizza and a drink afterwards. Meet us at 6pm on Thursday 25th October in the hotel lobby.


Other student events and sessions include our student and young professionals networking event, the student roundtable and a workshop session: Dance Science in the Digital Age.


Tags:  Annual Conference 

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