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How effective is Pilates as an additional training program for dancers?

Posted By Christine S. Bergeron on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Monday, August 20, 2018

As an active Pilates and dance instructor for over 18 years, I can see the connection and similarity between dance technique and Pilates. Some of the similarities include the focus on body alignment, core engagement, pelvic placement, full body engagement, concentration, and precision. It seems, as a community, we have accepted Pilates as a leading supplemental training method among dancers. It has been accepted and implemented into many university dance programs across the world. Yet questions arise such as, “is the research there to support this whole-hearted acceptance of Pilates as supplementary training for dance?“ and “why have we been so willing to embrace Pilates as a  training method for dancers?” Historically, when Pilates came to the U.S. in 1926, his first Pilates studio was in the same building the New York City Ballet so dancers had immediate access to his method. Dancers such as George Balanchine, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Martha Graham, and Hanya Holm all worked with Pilates. Beyond the historical connection, dancers flock to his method because they relate to so many of its principles and they feel a sense of familiarity. However people have asked me, “Are the similarities between Pilates and dance good for dancers?” I have also been asked, “Should dancers cross train in a training method that has similar principles?” “Should dancers continue to do the same movement patterns they always do or would it be more beneficial to make the body experience something different altogether?” I have my opinions on this question and would love to have a friendly conversation or debate with some of you. However, before we can address these questions, we must first ask, “do we have evidence to suggest that Pilates is indeed beneficial for dancers?”

 

 

Personal Experience

Although the research is limited and unclear, I have seen changes in a dancer’s body following Pilates training. Some of the improvements I have witnessed have been an increase in muscular strength and range of motion, corrected misalignments, better pelvic placement, clarity in movement patterns and improved spinal extension. When working with dancers, my approach varies depending on several factors including but not limited to technique level, injury status, and overall fitness level. Although the exercises may be similar, the focus of the exercises change. I place people on different pieces of equipment based on the dancer’s need and limitations. Do they need more or less assistance in the springs to help them execute the exercise? Are we working more quadriceps or hamstrings when doing leg exercises? These answers, and others, guide me to make selections for each client. 

 

As with most training methods, Pilates has evolved since its inception in the 1920’s, and it continues to evolve as we learn more about the body. Today there are three forms: Classical, Modern and Clinical Pilates. Classical Pilates remains close to Joseph Pilates’ original exercises while Modern Pilates embraces current ideas on movement principles, modifying the original exercises and utilizing new pieces of equipment. Clinical Pilates is influenced by physical therapy and biomechanics to create new exercises and modifications focused on injury rehabilitation. The approaches and thought processes for these forms is different. Are all three forms beneficial for dancers? Is one better than another?

 

Looking at the Research

If you look at the research that has been done on Pilates and dancers, it is not only limited but the findings are inconsistent. In a recent literature review of Pilates and dancers done in 2017, out of the nine peer-reviewed research studies published, Pilates showed improvements in muscular strength and flexibility but appeared to be ineffective in increasing vertical jump height and balance (Bergeron, Greenwood, Smith and Wyon, 2017). However, due to the limited published studies, it is difficult to say one way or another if Pilates is effective or ineffective in regards to balance, muscular strength and endurance, pelvic stability, jump height, etc . 

 

When looking at the research, there were several limitations with the scientific methods of the studies. All had a small number of participants (groups ranged from 10-29 participants), none of the studies were longitudinal in design, and in most of the studies, it was unclear as to what Pilates exercises were performed during many of the training programs. With regard to the testing methods, many were not made for dancers and could be seen as “too easy for the dancer.” For example, one study measuring balance only looked at a static balance task rather than a moving, changing, dynamic balance task that would be more challenging for the dancer (Amorium, Sousa, Machado and Santos, 2011). A more challenging balance task would have perhaps been more representative of dance training. Another study (McLain, Carter and Abel, 1997) used a Pilates reformer to see if improvement could be seen in supine jump. How does this measurement translate to a vertical jump done standing? Perhaps looking at how it would have helped in vertical jumps in ballet such as a sauté in first or fifth would have been more beneficial to dance performance. Furthermore, the studies lacked comparisons of Pilates to other supplemental training methods such as cross fit, running, or interval training. Based on the limited research, all we may be able to speculate is that Pilates improves muscular strength, posture, alignment and flexibility and that it is better than doing no other supplemental training at all. If we don’t compare Pilates to other forms of training how do we know that Pilates should be the preferred training method among dancers?

 

 

Some questions for more discussion

One of the first questions instructors need to ask as they integrate Pilates as a cross training method for dancers is “what is the purpose?” Is the dancer working on regaining strength and/or range of motion while returning from an injury; is the goal to re-teach a movement pattern; or is Pilates being used to gain overall fitness? My approach in developing a plan for a dancer depends on the answer to these questions. A Pilates instructor should learn who their client is, what their limitations and strengths are, the style of dancer they favor, and most importantly what their individual goals are. Once their goals are established then one can better serve the dancer and create an individual, continually changing and evolving plan.

 

As we continue to explore ways to determine the effectiveness of Pilates for dancers, let us ask these questions:

1.     Is Pilates effective for all aspects of dance: strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, etc.?

2.     If it is found that Pilates is only effective in certain aspects, do we look for a training method that supports all aspects of dance or do we think focusing on one or two aspects has its value?

3.     How does each piece of Pilates equipment (mat, reformer, Cadillac/trapeze table (see photo I), chair, corealign [see photo II] and other small props) compare to each other? Are they all beneficial?

4.     Is one form of Pilates (Classical, Modern, Clinical) better than another?

5.     Is Pilates an effective method for recovery from injury for dancers?

6.     How does Pilates compare to other forms of cross training?

 

Conclusion

I know this post raises more questions than answers, but in the end, we don’t have the answers. We need more published research. From my conversations with other Pilates instructors, I know there is more research going on around the world than is reflected in peer-reviewed articles. I urge those of you doing the research for Pilates and dancers to get your findings published. For those of you teaching Pilates and working with dancers, team up and do some studies. As a Pilates instructor who works with dancers, I have faith that the research will support the effectiveness of Pilates on dancers. However if the research doesn’t support this, what will our next step be? Will we continue to embrace it or will we turn to another training method that is proven to improve a dancer’s training and performance?

 

 

For further information check out these resources:

Amorim, T., Sousa, F., Machado, L., & Santos, J. (2011). Effects of Pilates Training on Muscular Strength and Balance in Ballet Dancers. Portuguese Journal of Sport Sciences. 11(2), 147-150.

Bergeron, C., Greenwood, M., Smith, T., & Wyon, M. (2017) Pilates and Dancers: A Systematic Review. National Dance Society Journal. 2(1)

Latey, P. (2001). The Pilates Method: History and Philosophy. J Bodywork Movement Ther., 5(4), 275-82.

McLain, S., Carter, C., & Abel, J. (1997). The effect of a conditioning and alignment program on the measurement of supine jump height and pelvic alignment when using the Current Concepts Reformer. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 1(4), 149-54.

Owsley, A. (2005). An introduction to clinical Pilates. Athletic Therapy Today, 10(4), 19.

Parikh, C. & Arora, M. (2016). Role of Pilates in rehabilitation: a literature review. International Journal of Therapies and Rehabilitation Research, 5(4), 77-83.

 

Christine Bergeron has served as the Director of Dance Programs and Initiatives at Texas A & M University since 2008. She received a B.A. in Dance Education from the University of Akron and an M.F.A. in Choreography and Performance from Florida State University.  Currently she is seeking her PhD in Dance Science from the University of Wolverhampton.  Chris is certified in Pilates Mat through the advanced level and is an Associate Instructor for the Pilates Equipment work from the Physical Mind Institute and Balanced Body. She is a co-opted member of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee.

 

 

Tags:  cross-training  pilates 

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IADMS 2018 Helsinki: Interview with Invited Speaker - Yiannis Koutedakis

Posted By IADMS Promotion Committee, Monday, August 20, 2018

We are happy to introduce Yiannis Koutedakis, a name those in the dance medicine and science field will recognize as having published some of the seminal work on dance science! We are looking forward to what I'm sure will be a phenomenal keynote lecture this October in Helsinki!

 

 

1. Could you tell us about your presentation theme at the 28th IADMS Annual Conference (#IADMS2018)? 

 

It is about bone status with focus on osteoporosis in men and women dancers. In general, osteoporosis is a bone disease caused when bone resorption exceeds bone formation.

The result of this bone remodeling imbalance is reduced bone mass and strength, changes in the microarchitecture of bone tissue, and increased fracture risk. Most affected anatomical sites: lumbar spine, femur and forearm.

 

2. Why is it import to discuss this topic with the IADMS community? What are the implications of this topic to the dance sector/dance health professionals?   

 

It is important because:

 

1.     the question of whether exposure to intensive dance training at young age may lead to long-term nutritional and metabolic health consequences remains unanswered

2.     the incidence of and risks factors for disordered eating and low bone mineral density in dancers have not been adequately described or examined

3.     Genetic variants at the Wnt/β-catenin and ER signalling pathways are potential risk factors for low BMD in dancers

 

Implications: to reconsider selection (audition) procedures

 

3. What are your thoughts on IADMS relevance for your field of work?

 

I have been involved in dance-science research for the last 25 years!

 

 

4. Personally, what is the importance of attending to IADMS annual conferences?

 

 I haven’t been in an IADMS conference for a number of years!

 

5. What do you think you are most looking forward to on this year’s conference?

 

To meet old colleagues and friends and discuss aspects related to dance science in a friendly environment.

 

 

Tags:  Annual Conference 

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IADMS 2018 Helsinki: Interview with Invited Speaker - Camilla Knight

Posted By IADMS Promotion Committee, Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Throughout August and September, we will be publishing interviews with some of our invited speakers for #IADMS2018 in Helsinki. Check out our first interview with Camilla Knight!

 

 

1. Could you tell us about your presentation theme at the 28th IADMS Annual Conference (#IADMS2018)? 

 

The focus of my presentation is on working with parents of dancers. Specifically, the presentation is focused on three key areas; 1) understanding the important role that parents play in facilitating children’s involvement in dance and supporting them through their dancing journey, 2) recognising some of the challenges or issues that parents may encounter, and 3) examining strategies to optimise parental involvement in dance and how dance practitioners work with parents. 

 

2. Why is it import to discuss this topic with the IADMS community? What are the implications of this topic to the dance sector/dance health professionals?   

 

This topic is important for the dance community because without the support and guidance from parents, most children and young people would never have the opportunity to engage in dance or to reach their potential. Parents are key influencers in their child’s life, impacting on perceptions of competence, motivation, enjoyment, and long-term engagement with activity among others. As such, working with parents to help them to optimise their involvement in their child’s dancing life is of great value to ensure that children can reach their potential while also having positive psychosocial and developmental experiences. 

 

3. What are your thoughts on IADMS relevance for your field of work?

 

The mission of IADMS which broadly seeks to enhance the health, well-being, and performance in dance through the development and application of science and training aligns closely with the aims of my work. My work and research with parents is driven by a desire to enhance child and young people’s psychosocial experiences in sport settings through appropriate understanding of children’s and parents’ experiences and the application of this research in practice. I am looking forward to having the opportunity to learn more from the IADMS community to further understanding about parents and their involvement within the dance community.

 

4. Personally, what is the importance of attending to IADMS annual conferences?

 

Although I have never personally attended the IADMS conference before, I believe there is great value in practitioners, researchers, and the broader dance community coming together for this conference. Having opportunities to share best practice and reflect on individual and collective experiences, will facilitate opportunities to enhance the development and experiences of dancers around the world.

 

5. What do you think you are most looking forward to on this year’s conference?

 

I am really looking forward to learning from individuals across the IDAMS community and having an opportunity to gain unique insights into the science and practice of dance. I am particularly excited to see how experts within the IADAMS community are managing the integration and application of science within their practice.

 

Tags:  Annual Conference 

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Dance Teacher Resources and A Day for Teachers 2018

Posted By Gemma Harman on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Embed from Getty Images

 

With the next annual conference in Helsinki fast approaching, it seems timely to reflect back on the Dance Educators’ Committee’s blog posts that have been shared since last year’s meeting in Houston, Texas.  This year has seen a vast array of posts created by dancers, educators, researchers and clinicians on sharing the current happenings in the field of dance medicine and science specifically aimed at educators and teachers.  These have included blog posts on the use of imagery in creative practice, measuring creativity and the use of attentional focus and constructive feedback on a dancers’ training and performance. 

 

Starting in January of this year, there were a series of blog posts by experts in dance imagery and creativity.  The first post by Katie Pavlik introduced simple and immediately usable ways for us to embed the use of imagery in our classes from both teaching and dancing perspectives.  Klara Łucznik and Rebecca Weber blog on Mental Imagery and Creativity then offered ways to start practicing thinking creatively and presented ways to increase our awareness of the types of forms of mental imagery that we engage with in creative practice. As part of the In The Dancer’s Mind research project into creativity, novelty, and the imagination, the project has developed a set of workshop materials for use by higher education choreography teachers, which you can download here.  The next blog post was written by Lucie Clements and discussed the measurement of creativity.  In this blog Lucie discusses her research that set out to validate a new questionnaire that removes the emphasis on measurement of ‘creative’ or ‘not creative’ and instead emphasises engagement in the process, to give a more holistic view of dance creativity.  A second post on creativity recreated a discussion between Kerry Chappell and Jon May derived from a duel held at the symposium for the In the Dancers’ Mind project at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance on December 7, 2017. Details of the In the Dancers’ Mind project can be found here.

 

In May, Karine Rathle’s blog post explored the use of constructive feedback in optimizing dancers’ performance and learning, highlighting how knowing more about how to cue and provide feedback to dancers is an important aspect of teaching practice.   In a second blog post on feedback, Claire Guss-West provides a brief introduction to attentional focus and its potential impact on dance training and performance.  The most recent blog in June was by Martha Wiekens, introducing a brilliant new resource paper on the shoulder complex, which has been written by Lisa Donegan Shoaf and Judith Steel.  You can get the full resource paper here. Keep an eye on up and coming blog posts in the coming months – there are some great ones planned for teachers!

 

For those of you coming to Helsinki, Jarmo Ahonen, Host Committee Member has provided a great blog to give you some insight on Finland as a country and Helsinki as the capital. You can read this blog here. A Day for Teachers looks set to be a great day of informative sessions and food for thought to take back to your studio. You can see the schedule here and book here. Here's to a great conference– see you all there!

 

 

Gemma Harman, PhD, FHEA is a Senior Lecturer in Dance and Dance Science at the University of Chichester, UK.  Gemma is also an Academic Tutor at Bird College of Dance, UK and a Lecturer at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, UK.

Tags:  A Day for Teachers  Annual Conference 

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The shoulder complex: An exploration of the scapula

Posted By Martha Wiekens on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Monday, June 25, 2018

Embed from Getty Images

 

I am very excited to write this blog post introducing a brilliant new resource paper on the shoulder complex, which has been written by Lisa Donegan Shoaf and Judith Steel. The paper provides an in depth look at the shoulder complex, starting with anatomy and specific muscular force couples, then moving onto the integration into whole body movement and common dancer issues relating to the shoulder. Throughout the paper there are guided learning activities that can be used in class to help students fully understand this area of the dancer’s body. In this blog post we will introduce and explore one of the anatomy structures, the scapula (shoulder blade), following the learning activities and ideas presented in the paper. You can read the resource paper here.

 

Anatomy

Optimal functioning of the shoulder complex is really important to allow correct alignment, maximum range of motion and then ideally full artistic expression. Being able to visualize the anatomy of the shoulder complex is helpful in beginning to understand this idea of optimal functioning. To pick one component of the anatomy of this area let’s look at the scapulae (shoulder blades). The scapulae sit on the back of the rib cage and help to form the socket part of the shoulder’s ball and socket joint where it meets the humerus (upper arm bone).

 

Have a look at this interactive 3D model of the skeleton’s shoulder complex and explore the location of the scapula in its position and the other bones that make up the shoulder complex.

 

Joint movements

The scapulae have a lot of movement possibilities and these play an important part in efficient movement of the shoulder joint.  The photos below, taken from the shoulder complex resource paper, show the movements of the scapula.

 

 

The resource paper includes useful learning activities that can be used to help students with learning the joint motions and how to apply them to dance movements. A particularly useful activity, which relates to the photos above is Learning Activity #2. Using the movement terms related to the scapula mentioned above, students have found it useful when challenged to devise dance movements and then practicing using the correct terms to describe the movements.  

 

 

Force couples

As we know muscles move our skeleton and create the movements of the scapulae we have just explored. There are a number of key muscles within the shoulder complex it’s important to highlight, particularly when it comes to optimal functioning of the whole shoulder complex, as both mobility and stability are required at different times. The paper explains the idea of force couples when exploring the muscles of the shoulder complex to help students understand this. A force couple being something that has a pull in one direction and a counter pull in another, ideally stabilizing the structure they are pulling on, in this case the scapula.

 

However these force couple can become uneven, so one pulling more than the other and this disrupts the efficient rhythm of the shoulder complex movement. A common area with an imbalance of the force couple is in the trapezius muscle (shown in the diagram below) between the upper and lower trapezius muscles.

 

 

As you can see from the arrows in the diagram above, the upper trapezius is able to pull the scapula upwards, but the lower parts of the trapezius is able to pull the scapula downwards. Commonly the upper trapezius fibers are tighter and the lower trapezius fibers weaker, which creates an imbalance and often the scapula tends to ride up higher, rather than remain stable on the back of the rib cage. To understand this within the movement take a look at this interactive 3D model showing the trapezius in action when lifting the arm up above your head or through 1st to 5th position or 2nd to 5th position.

 

Learning Activity #4 (see below) is an experiential activity relating to the lower and upper trapezius muscle, and is really useful to help dancers feel this force couple in action.

 

 

Common dancer issues

Movement dysfunction around the shoulder complex is relatively common among dancers and it is important for teachers and students to understand these. The paper provides excellent cueing ideas to help teachers and dancers address this issue. In relation to the scapula a common area of dysfunction is due to a lack of upward rotation when the arms are taken overhead, like in port de bras for example. Often the upper back is particularly tight and muscles such as the lower trapezius (explored earlier) are weak. Some of the cueing ideas from the paper are highlighted below:

 

“Think of allowing the arm to lengthen before moving”

 

“Once the dancer begins to move the arms provide the cue to allow the shoulder blade to move up and away”

 

To fully understand the shoulder complex and when mobility versus stability is required have a look at the full resource paper, which will guide you through more learning activities and the other key areas/aspects of the shoulder complex. Exploring this area of the body through text, interactive anatomy resources as well as experiential learning activities is a great way to support students in understanding the shoulder complex. This area of the body is not often focused on so it’s great to have such a brilliant and in-depth dance specific resource available. Optimal functioning of the scapula is key in correct movement patterning of the whole body, so in my opinion well worth taking time to explore in class with students.

 

References and useful resources:

Clippinger, K. Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2016.

 

Donegan Shoaf, L. Steel, J. “Integrating the shoulder complex to the body as a whole: Practical applications for the dancer.” IADMS Resource Paper. Available here. 2018

https://www.iadms.org/page/186?

 

Paine, R., & Voight, M. L. (2013).”The role of the scapula” Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 8(5), 617–629.

 

Urmston, E.Irene Dowd: The relationship of the scapulae and thorax whilst dancing. Reflections from the IADMS Annual Meeting, Houston, 2017” [Blog] The IADMS Blog. Available here. 2017

 

 

Martha Wiekens MSc, PGCHE, FHEA is an Independent Dance Fitness Educator and Injury Rehabilitation trainer based in the UK.

Martha’s LinkedIn profile

 

Tags:  scapula  shoulder 

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Introducing Helsinki as the next IADMS host city in October 2018!

Posted By Host Committee Member - Jarmo Ahonen, DHF, Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A little piece of history

 
This blog is to give you some insight on Finland as a country and Helsinki as the capital. Historic events went on last year and this year. Finland became independent from Russian rule 1917 just about the same time as there was the big revolution in Russia that eventually changed that huge country in to something that was later known as Soviet Union. Thus, Finland has almost 1000 miles country to country border with Russia and it only takes 4 hours by car to travel from Helsinki to St. Petersburg. Year 2017 was a big celebration of 100 years of independence. There were enmities between the countries Soviet Union and Finland from 1939 to 1944 but the border has been peaceful ever since. Finland has gravitated towards western Europe all these years and is today considered the safest and most peaceful country in the world.


This year, 2018, is a memorial year of 1918 when there was a civil war fought by the poor factory workers as well as hard labored farm workers against the land owners and factory lords. That ended up very unhappy for the poor people. However, during the same year the two opposing sides were able to sit down around the same table and start to manifest the grounds and rules for one of the best democracies in the world where we live now.


Finland is now home of 5,538,221 people, Finnish spoken as the main language and Swedish being the second official language mainly spoken on the west coast areas, across the bay from Sweden. The original cause of having two languages is based on the fact that before Russia started to rule over Finland, the country belonged to Sweden.


Education has always been considered important and Finland has 100% literacy and free education from the elementary school all the way to the university. So – everybody no matter what your back ground or financial status is, has access to high quality education and may aim as high in life as possible.



The capital city – Helsinki

 
Helsinki was established in 1550 by the delta of river Vantaa. It was maintained as a small city during the Swedish rulership, and Turku was considered as the capital because it was closer to Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. Today there are 630,000 people living in this old city which has grown from the firm land to the islands surrounding the city. Helsinki is located on a peninsula and is surrounded by three other cities, Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa making the whole metropolitan area larger and inhabiting 1.4 million people all together.


The official languages of Helsinki are Finnish and Swedish, with the majority of the population (81.9%) speaking Finnish as their mother tongue. 5.9% of those living in the city speak Swedish and 12.2% speak a native language that's neither Finnish or Swedish. Today, Helsinki slang mainly combines influences from Finnish and English, but it traditionally had strong Russian and Swedish influences. It wasn't until 1890 that Finnish speakers overtook Swedish speakers as the majority of the city's population.


Helsinki has the highest number of immigrants in Finland, with as many as 140 nationalities represented in the city. The largest group (as of 2013) is from Sweden, followed by Russia, Estonia, China, Somalia,  Kurdistan, Germany, Spain, Vietnam, France and Turkey. Helsinki was already home to many different nationalities as far back as the 19th century, with many people from Sweden, Finland, Russia and Germany, even China. Today, foreign citizens account for 8% of the population.


Weather in Helsinki in October

 
Average temperature in October is 6 degrees (42 Fahrenheit), High 8deg (46) and Low 3deg (37). Rainfall is around 70 mm and rainy days add up to even 20 / October. So, bring your raincoat / umbrella and a warm jacket. It may still very nice autumn colors in forests and parks and on sunny days the view may be spectacular. Sea water is around 7 degrees (44) but who wants to swim in the sea when there are nice heated seawater pools right outside of the presidential castle in the heart of the city.


So please, feel yourself welcome to join us in Helsinki for IADMS Annual Conference.

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN! Register at www.iadms.org/2018

Tags:  Annual Conference  Helsinki  IADMS2018 

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I stand corrected! From correction to constructive feedback

Posted By Karine Rathle on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Monday, June 4, 2018
Embed from Getty Images

Feedback is a process used by teachers, rehearsal directors and choreographers to provide information and guide dancers in skill acquisition, technique and movement quality. It is a powerful and necessary tool. Typically, teachers and choreographers have their own individual style of providing feedback. Their approach may come from their experience as dancers, their previous teachers and training, or their ingrained habits from working in dance.

 

 Feedback is usually given to dance students through verbal feedback or physical touch, or a combination of both. Krasnow and Wilmerding (2015) use the term, augmented feedback, referring to the corrections that teachers frequently give in class in order to enhance performance. The term augmented feedback is used when the feedback comes from outside the performer themselves. Students can perceive teachers’ feedback as positive or negative according to a variety of factors including language, gestures and touch, facial expression, tone of voice, proximity to the dancer, timing and intention.  In this blog post we will explore different types and styles of feedback including positive and negative, constructive and corrective, and verbal and tactile feedback. Ultimately, we want to help students optimize their performance by knowing more about the outcome of a movement, or about how it should be performed. Using constructive feedback appropriately helps dancers with skill acquisition and motor control. You can find out more about feedback and motor learning in dance teaching in our resource paper [1] .

 

 Reflect on your practice.  When you give feedback to your students, what is the intention within your words and touch? When you are thinking of ‘correcting’ your student, what is the main idea that crosses your mind? How are the students processing the information that you provide them? Do they know what to do with the feedback they receive?

 

Positive feedback versus negative feedback

 

 Positive feedback can be seen as positive statements from teachers and choreographers, for example when you say ‘beautiful turn’, or ‘well done on your balance’. Positive feedback can provide students with positive reinforcement of their behaviors.  It can also improve dancers’ motivation. For example, when your student achieves a jump or a turn that they have been working on for a long time, and it is the first time they manage it, it is important to notice it and let them know that they have done well. This approach can boost motivation.  Yet repeated and vague positive feedback can affect your students’ motivation negatively, too.  If you tell your students after every exercise, ‘very well done’, ‘good work’, ‘beautiful’, these generalized comments provide the students with information about your reaction to their general performance but not what they have done well to achieve the result. Furthermore, if they have not worked as hard or as well as the previous time they received such feedback, they feel that anything they do is good, and your positive feedback loses its value in enhancing learning.  Focusing your feedback on the reasons for specific achievements in performance is usually recommended.

 Negative feedback should be avoided. Generally, the intention of teachers and choreographers is not to use words that will be mean or harmful to dancers. Shouting, insulting, putting down and comparing students to their peers are all things that we need to avoid, as they create a negative motivational climate that hinders dancers in their learning potential and psychological well-being.  A negative environment can also be created through competition or uneven attention given to the dancers.  For example, when a certain student is always praised and taken as an example in front of their colleagues, it can create a competitive environment for everyone, including the person who is praised. You can create a positive learning context by ensuring dancers focus on self-improvement through a task-oriented environment; where dancers receive positive reinforcement for their efforts and hard work, for their achievements and for their cooperation with their peers. Dancers need to learn that mistakes are part of their learning process and that each dancer is equally important (Miulli & Nordin-Bates, 2011).  You can find out about positive motivational climates and how to create them in our Bulletin for Dancers and Teachers [2].

 

 Providing constructive information to dancers versus correcting them

 

When using corrections, the teacher is concentrating on what the dancer is doing ‘wrong’. For example, saying: ‘don’t lift your shoulders’ will bring the attention to the dancer’s action of lifting their shoulders. The words bring the student’s neuromuscular awareness to the action that is not desired in the movement being performed.  In contrast, teachers using constructive information bring attention to what the body could be doing instead. ‘Draw your shoulder blades down your back’, ‘find space between your shoulders and the earlobes’, and ‘let the shoulder blades expand like wings’ are cues which can develop new neuromuscular patterning, and should help the dancer to avoid lifting their shoulders.  To be effective, feedback has to serve as added information for the dancers, providing them with tools in order to feel, sense and understand what they can do in order to improve. We want to deflect away from what is ‘wrong’, to what can be achieved.

 

 Using imagery as a form of feedback

 Imagery is a very powerful feedback tool, it allows dancers to process very complex motor skills through a single image.  It can help improve the movement as well as its dynamics and it allows the dancer to focus on the intention of the movement rather than its execution.  IADMS has posted several blogs about imagery and its use; do consider these when reflecting on your own practice.

Using imagery to optimise dance training and performance

Imagery, Research, and Practice

Mental Imagery and Creativity

 

 

 Tactile feedback

 

 Dancers, choreographers and teachers can benefit from using touch (tactile feedback) in their practice as it often adds further clarity to verbal cues. Our proprioception allows us to sense the position and movement of our own body. It allows us to know where we are in space and provides feedback to aid in balance and coordination (Goldstein, 2002). You can find out more about proprioception in our resource paper [3] .  Through tactile feedback, dancers can improve their proprioception and in turn, improve their motor control and posture. (Krasnow & Wilmerding, 2015).

 

 Like the verbal feedback examples earlier, touch as a form of feedback can be helpful or detrimental, depending on how it is used. Every dancer can remember a teacher’s touch that has affected their performance, whether positive or negative. Sometimes, the memory of negative tactile feedback can have lasting effects.

 

 We can differentiate between a corrective touch and a constructive touch. When using touch in a dance setting, you can ask yourself some questions to ensure that your use of this feedback tool is helpful for the dancer.

     What is your intention?

     Where is your attention when touching?

     What information are you providing the dancer?

It’s always helpful to think anatomically when using touch, how does the body move and how can I guide that movement through proprioceptive awareness?

 

 Timing of the feedback

 

 How many times have you received feedback from a choreographer or teacher just before performing? Or just after a performance? How did it feel? Was it useful? Were you able to apply the feedback right away? Did you remember it? Did you have time to integrate the information? Emotionally, how did you feel after the feedback? Timing of feedback is important to ensure that information is retained and acted upon to enhance performance.

 

 Traditionally, choreographers and teachers tend to give notes to dancers up until the last minute before they go on stage or just after a performance. But is it helpful? At this point in the creative process, there is rarely time to adjust dance technique itself. Dancers might be able to process cues on spacing or ensuring that they know how to adapt the piece from the studio to the stage. But, it’s vital to consider that some dancers have a high level of performance anxiety.  Giving them corrections shortly before they go on stage may increase anxiety and decrease the ability to perform optimally. The type of feedback provided at this point is very important to consider to ensure dancers feel competent and can do their best on stage.  Prior to a performance, positive reinforcement and positive feedback can show your students that you believe in their abilities and that you trust that they will do their best.

 

 Typically, choreographers and teachers tend to give notes right after a performance. Dancers might not all be as receptive at that point, as their bodies and minds are on the ‘high’ of the performance.  Since their attention will often not be focused on the feedback provided, consider waiting until the next time you meet for class or rehearsal. It is important to leave dancers time and space to recover, breathe and cool down. If the performance did not go well for a dancer, they might need some encouragement and help to refocus their attention, so ensuring that they are in a positive mindset next time they perform the work.

 

 When providing verbal and tactile feedback you have a responsibility to your dancers. They are reliant on your words and touch in order to enjoy their dance experience, as well as to improve their abilities. Knowing more about how you cue and provide feedback to your dancers is an important aspect of teaching practice so find time to reflect on the impact of your feedback. Observe the reaction of your dancers. Ask a colleague to observe your classes or rehearsal; ask them for feedback on your feedback style. Observe other teachers and choreographers to get new ideas and improve on your transmission skills.  Feedback is important as we seek to optimize dancers’ performance and learning.

 

 Karine Rathle, MSc

Dancer, choreographer, dance educator and researcher, President of Healthy Dancer Canada (HDC).

 

 REFERENCES

  

Goldstein, B., 2002. Sensation and Perception. 6th ed. CA USA: Wadworth.

 

Krasnow, D.H & Wilmerding, M.V. (2015). Motor learning and control for dance. Principles and practices for performers and teachers. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

 

Krasnow, D.H & Wilmerding, M.V. (2017). Dancer Wellness. IADMS & Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

 

Miulli, M. & Nordin-Bates, S. M. (2011). Motivational Climates: What They Are, and Why They Matter. The IADMS Bulletin for Teachers, Volume 3, Number 2.

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

 

Taylor, J. & Estanol, E. (2015). Dance psychology for artistic and performance excellence. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

 


Tags:  feedback  motor learning  psychology 

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IADMS Infographic Competition - 2018

Posted By IADMS Promotion Committee, Saturday, June 2, 2018

INTRODUCING THE 2018 IADMS INFOGRAPHIC COMPETITION

 

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO OCTOBER 8th!

Submit your infographics to promotion@iadms.org by October 8, 2018!

 

An infographic can be used to display dance science concepts in an interesting, visual way that makes it easy to quickly understand. Infographics provide an interesting way to share evidence-based information with other members of the dance science community. Infographics can be very useful ways to communicate information. In an effort to promote the more widespread use of these visual displays of data, IADMS has developed an infographic award competition.

 

Anyone may submit an infographic for this competition by following the guidelines below:

•    Select a topic relevant to the IADMS Mission Statement: “Health for Dancers, Dance for Health. IADMS is dedicated to enhance the health, well-being, training, and performance in dance; by cultivating medical, scientific, and educational excellence.”
•    Develop an infographic that is aesthetically pleasing, innovative, and informative with a clear message.
•    When designing or curating visuals for the infographic, keep the following in mind:
          o    Any original visuals must have written permission for use and include the name(s) of the artist, photographer, or model;
         o    Consider using a public domain or creative commons source of stock photos as they provide free licensing for non-profit organizations
•    Submit a PDF of your infographic to the IADMS Promotion Committee (promotion@iadms.org) by October 8th, 2018.

 

Submissions will be reviewed by a panel of judges made up of IADMS Committee representatives and representation from the award sponsor(s). Any judge submitting an infographic will find a replacement judge from his or her committee. Finalists will be presented at the IADMS annual meeting in October.

 

Judging Criteria
•    Relevance and importance of information
•    Use of evidence-based content
•    Effective communication of information
•    Visual appeal
•    Creativity

 

Award
- IADMS will offer the winner one year of IADMS membership for free!
- Our supporter, Safe in Dance International, will offer the winner free registration to the SiDI certification course!
- A copy of Safe Dance Practice, an applied dance science perspective by SiDI co- founder Sonia Rafferty and Associates Charlotte Tomlinson and Edel Quin.

 

Tips for Creating an Effective Infographic:
•    Stay focused on your goal
•    Use limited colors and/or stick to a color palette
•    Use graphics and visuals, limit the amount of text
•    Don’t cram in too much information
•    Keep it short and sweet!

 

Additional resources for infographic creation are below. Please keep in mind logos from free infographic template services will not be permitted on your final submission.
o    http://www.creativebloq.com/infographic/tools-2131971
o    https://econsultancy.com/blog/66131-17-visualisation-tools-to-make-your-data-beautiful

Tags:  competition  infographic 

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Optimal Focus – from research to dance practice

Posted By Clare Guss-West on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Thursday, May 17, 2018

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

This blog post provides a brief introduction to attentional focus and its potential impact on dance training and performance. Attentional focus study is relatively new to dance, whereas the research is now integrated into elite sports coaching – notably football, skiing, golf and swimming. Companies such as The Royal Ballet, Houston Ballet, and Finnish National Ballet are becoming aware of the benefits of these complementary techniques and we have started to introduce them into the dancers’ professional practice.

Since ‘focus’ is one of the three foundational elements of a successful holistic movement, as teaching artist and holistic practitioner I find the attentional focus research accessible and easy to integrate into an artistic teaching practice. 

 
As I began working with attentional focus researcher Gabriele Wulf, I became aware of the extent to which focus was a significant part of the development of elite athletes and to consider how optimal focus might be fostered in a dance-learning environment, particularly in traditional ballet training. 


Focus cue examples of experienced swimmers:


 


 

Attentional focus research findings concur with holistic, eastern movement practices Chi Kung, T’ai Chi and Kung Fu to suggest that significant differences in speed of learning and performance results are experienced dependent on the chosen attentional focus.

What human-movement scientists term an ‘external’ focus (EAF), i.e. a focus on the movement effect, is shown to enhance learning and performance compared to an ‘internal’ focus (IAF), i.e. on a body-part or body mechanism (Wulf, 2013).

 

Performance benefits of EAF are immediately palpable in increased:

·       movement effectiveness

o   balance

o   precision

o   speed

o   consistency

·       movement efficiency

o   enhanced movement quality

o   associated, minimized muscular activity

o   optimized force production

o   cardio-vascular response

o   reduced fatigue

 

Additional benefits particularly pertinent to dance:

·      freed-up cognitive reserve

·       greater capacity to multi-task

·       greater capacity to manage stress

 

Benefits apply in diverse contexts from initial movement learning to professional performance, right through to rehabilitation, producing immediate and lasting cohesive effects on results.

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

In a recent study (Guss-West and Wulf, 2016), over 200 focus examples from professional ballet dancers were collated. Focus cues predominantly employed extensive wording and demonstrated an absence of a systematic focus strategy.  The classical dancers in the study were applying multifocal cues and at times, incongruent feedback simultaneously, potentially undermining performance.

 

Focus cue examples of professional dancers: 

 


 

The nature of the foci in the study appeared to depend on the ‘perceived’ difficulty of the task and the amount of thinking time available.

 

In the study:

·       a balance in arabesque - provoked the most IAF, it seems that given available time dancers are tempted to try to control their body and the result;

·       a pirouette en dehors  - involved the greatest quantity of incongruous information, combinations of IAF and EAF. Perhaps because of ‘perceived’ difficulty and resulting performance stress, dancers try to deploy all feedbacks available;

·       a grand jeté en avant – in contrast, a ballistic action literally ‘too quick to think’, promoted the most concise, EAF cues.

 

 


 

Food for thought:

Ballet dancers and athletes concur that without specific focus instruction, they use a predominance of IAF control cues69-72% IAF (Guss-West C, & Wulf G. 2016), (Porter, Wu, & Partridge, 2010),

 

Perhaps then - dance teachers, trainers, therapists also currently adopt a similar IAF predominance in their feedback and cueing as that found for some sport trainers and therapists 85-95% IAF (Durham, van Vliet, Badger, & Sackley, 2009).

 

If so - this would represent a huge opportunity for dance teachers and therapists to reinvent their feedback with simple focus adjustments as part of a clear, conscious focus strategy, that enhances performance and supports the dancer in the technical demands of the discipline, freeing cognitive reserve and permitting a return to focus on the fundamental artistic intention.

 

 

References and further reading:

1. Guss-West, C. Wulf, G. “Attentional Focus in Classical Ballet: A Survey of Professional Dancers”. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 20.1 (2016): 23-29.

2. Jahnke, R. The Healing Promise of Qi. Contemporary Books, NY., 2002.

3. Stoate, I. Wulf, G. “Does the attentional focus adopted by swimmers affect their performance?” International Journal of Sport Science & Coaching, 6, (2011): 99-108.

4. Wulf G. Attentional focus and motor learning: A review of 15 years. Intl Rev of Sport & Exerc Psyc., 6: (2013): 77-104.

5. Wulf, G. An external focus of attention is a condition sine qua non for athletes: a response to Carson, Collins, and Toner (2015). Journal of sports sciences34(13), (2016): 1293-1295.

6. Wulf G, Lewthwaite R. “Optimizing performance through intrinsic motivation and attention for learning: the OPTIMAL theory of motor learning.” Psychon Bull Rev. (2016): 1382-1414.

 

Clare Guss-West BHum MA

Dance teaching artist - teacher trainer, Dance Advisor (RESEO) - The European Network for Opera, Music & Dance Education and Director, Dance & Creative Wellness Foundation

Tags:  attention  creativity  focus  imagery  performance  psychology 

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Measuring Creativity

Posted By Lucie Clements on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Embed from Getty Images

 

‘Creativity’ is a word used worldwide by dance institutions in their mission statements, aims and student feedback, and yet it is relatively unexplored within dance science from a quantitative perspective. Much research within dance psychology has focussed on the role of psychological wellbeing in relation to optimal technique in class, rehearsal or performance, but are dance scientists perhaps neglecting the dancer as a creative artist?

 

As Kerry and Jon discuss, psychologists seek to measure complex experiences, typically through the use of questionnaire-based methods.  These tend to quantify some underlying or latent psychological construct. In psychology, ‘gold standard’ creativity tests assume creativity to be a trait-like characteristic, which is tangible through an individual’s performance on a timed task of divergent thinking (Cropley, 2000). Divergent thinking describes our ability to come up with multiple solutions to a problem within a given time frame. The most comprehensive of these tests, the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults (ATTA; Goff, 2002) give a creativity index, where an individual who is ‘more creative’ is able to solve a problem by coming up with numerous statistically infrequent yet embellished and diverse solutions.  Using the ATTA in my own research, I found that dancers are indeed ‘more creative’ than the normal population (Clements, 2017). But can we conclusively say that parallels their dance choreography skills? And are these tests useful for understanding the role of psychological approaches in nurturing creativity?

 

 In order to see how the ATTA might relate to creativity in dance, I asked an expert contemporary dance choreographer who had taught and observed first year contemporary dance students’ creative processes over the course of a semester to rate their creativity. This is another commonly used technique from psychology, assuming that the expert has an implicit, domain specific ability to distinguish more from less creative students (Amabile, 1982; Amabile & Pillemer, 2012). No relationship between the expert’s grading and the creativity test was found; those who are creative according to the psychology test were not those picked by the dance expert as the most creative dancers (Clements, 2017). Informed by these findings, as well as the observation of daily creative occurrences in a student-learning setting, I, with expert creativity colleagues set out to validate a new questionnaire that recognises that in dance:

 

1)    Creativity is embodied more often than verbal

2)    Creativity is less time restricted than a psychology test allows

3)    Creativity is process based and cyclical, not linear

 

 

The ‘Dancers’ Perceptions of the Creative Process Questionnaire’ removes the emphasis on measurement of ‘creative’ or ‘not creative’ and instead emphasises engagement in the process, and can be used alongside traditional psychology measures, such as the ATTA, to give a more holistic view of dance creativity.  I also hope that this can be used to explore the role of psychological variables such as perfectionism and self esteem in dancers’ creativity. It is hoped that this will contribute to the growth of dance creativity research within IADMS and its members!

 

 Lucie Clements PhD is a Chartered Psychologist, Lecturer in Dance Science MSc Dance Science at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, UK and Associate Lecturer in Psychology and Dance Science BSc Dance Science at University of Chichester, UK.

 

For further reading, have a look at these resources:

 

 Amabile, Teresa M. "Social psychology of creativity: A consensual assessment technique." Journal of personality and social psychology 43.5 (1982): 997.

 

 Amabile, Teresa M., and Julianna Pillemer. "Perspectives on the social psychology of creativity." The Journal of Creative Behavior 46, no. 1 (2012): 3-15.

 Cropley, Arthur J. "Defining and measuring creativity: Are creativity tests worth using?" Roeper review 23.2 (2000): 72-79.

 

 Clements, Lucie, Sanna Nordin-Bates, Debbie Watson, Kerry Chappell, Emma Redding, and Jon May. "The development and validation of a dance-specific creativity questionnaire." 25th Annual meeting of the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS), October 12-15 2017, Houston, USA. 2017.

 

 Clements, Lucie (2017) The Psychology of Creativity in Contemporary Dance, Unpublished PhD Thesis.

 

 Goff, Kathy. Abbreviated torrance test for adults. Bensenville, IL: Scholastic Testing Service, 2002.

 

 Kim, Kyung Hee. "Can we trust creativity tests? A review of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT)." Creativity research journal 18.1 (2006): 3-14.

 

 Sowden, Paul T., Lucie Clements, Chrishelle Redlich, and Carine Lewis.. "Improvisation facilitates divergent thinking and creativity: Realizing a benefit of primary school arts education." Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts 9.2 (2015): 128-135.

 

 Watson, Debbie E., Sanna M. Nordin-Bates, and Kerry A. Chappell. "Facilitating and nurturing creativity in pre-vocational dancers: Findings from the UK Centres for Advanced Training." Research in Dance Education 13.2 (2012): 153-173.

Tags:  creativity  psychology 

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