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IADMS 2018 Helsinki: Interview with Invited Speaker - Fay Nenander

Posted By IADMS Promotion Committee, Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Photographer: Hakon Larsson


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


 Within the framework of the ‘Macro-perspectives on dance teaching’ my theme – the importance of mental training and life-style skills – will hopefully help to illuminate the significance of giving the student dancer the necessary skills for acquisition of the “mind-set” needed by a successful professional dancer. This includes both mental training and life-style skills. However, I shall emphasize that this is not just important for the student dancer, but for all dancers.


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?


 If the student  - or the professional - dancer is to realize their artistic potential, then they must have control not only over their bodies, but also their minds. Information on the importance of the mind, whilst readily available both through professional expertise and research, is often sadly neglected within the profession – both at the student and professional dancer level. At the student level, amongst much else, mental training skills enable coping with a challenging milieu and unfamiliar demands. Life-style skills and knowledge help in adapting to what often is a completely unfamiliar way of life.


 Implications would hopefully be the creation of a change in the prevalent attitude regarding the relative importance of bodily technique and mental health: A new, twenty-first century attitude, where the dancer’s well-being is not just an empty promise and a few hours of mental training if you are lucky, but where mental well-being is seen as an integral part of dance training. Without the brain on board, the technique is useless.


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


 I have been an IADMS member for nearly 20 years and in that time have seen IADMS grow from very small, rather “closed circle” beginnings, to an organization which now truly represents the dance world. I have also seen the change in attitude amongst dancers and professionals who, twenty years ago, often regarded dance medicine and science as something on the periphery – rather eccentric – and who today increasingly appreciate all it can offer in practical knowledge and help.


 I also strongly believe that constant curiosity and renewal are essential in our profession. Of course, this is true in all professions – but perhaps especially within dance where both positive and negative traditional values are so entrenched – and where it is so easy to lean back on “how it has always been done”. The IADMS conferences certainly supply the stimulation necessary to combat such complacency.


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




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


Stimulation, new information, meeting old friends and making new ones: Experiencing the changes which have taken place since Hong Kong (my last conference).


6.     How will your presentation help dance educators to apply research with students and participants in the classroom?


 Hopefully, it will inspire and stimulate them to find out about my themes for themselves and then apply the information in the classroom – to make the importance of mental training and life-style skills visible within their everyday teaching.


 I hope also that dance educators will realize that they themselves can learn and benefit from the same skills as their students need.


 Perhaps most important, I hope it will encourage those who plan schedules, to give adequate time for - and importance to – mental training and life-skills information. These are not extras – they are essentials – and should be given the necessary time in the curriculum and taught by experts.



Tags:  Annual Conference 

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Breath: A Back-To-School Basic

Posted By Jennifer Deckert on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Monday, August 27, 2018

With the academic year quickly approaching and our August holidays drawing to a close I find myself once again filled with excitement, and a bit of anxiety, for what this year may bring.  I can only imagine how my students may feel as they leave their families to continue their training. During this time of re-acclimation, particularly at Wyoming altitude, I often spend several classes re-connecting to the breath in order to provide a much needed ‘reset’ and reminder of the role of breathing in our dance practice. Breath is the only controllable aspect of our autonomic nervous system which includes the sympathetic or “fight or flight” and the parasympathetic or “rest-and-digest”. Breath awareness provides the ability to move between these two states in a balanced and effective manner, allowing the dancer to be powerful and relaxed, strong and steady, connected and focused.     


Anatomy of Breathing

Understanding the anatomy of breathing and the function of the diaphragm allows for a more complete application to movement.  The diaphragm is a large parachute shaped muscle which divides the thoracic and abdominal cavities.  Connecting from “nipple to navel” and across the width of the rib cage, it is our primary breathing muscle.


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As the diaphragm contracts it pulls the lungs downward, thus creating space (volume) in the lungs.  As volume increases, the pressure in the lungs decreases, and in an effort to equalize the pressure, air from the outside is “sucked” into the lungs = inhale.  The opposite response occurs when the diaphragm releases, decreasing volume, increasing pressure = exhale.  Additional muscles, including the intercostals and abdominals, also act to change the “shape” of the lungs, allowing for the ribs to move or the belly to expand in order to increase/decrease volume.


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Three-Part Breath

One simple breathing exercise that allows students to explore the multi-dimensionality of breathing is the yoga Three-Part Breath.  In the supine or seated position, ask students to place one hand over the chest and the other on the belly.  Then, thinking about the breath as filling a cup of water, cue the students to inhale into their belly, then ribs, then chest, pause for a moment with the cup full, then empty the cup, chest, ribs, belly.  Paying particular attention to the fact that the bottom of the cup must remain full until the end of the exhale.  Coach the students with verbal cues for several breath cycles, then ask them to try 2-3 more cycles on their own.


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Explore this breathing pattern in a variety of positions including prone and child’s pose, each time asking the students to find ways to increase the volume of their lungs and asses the effect of the position on their breathing capacity.   Following each position allow time to rest for several normal breath cycles prior to shifting to a new positon.  As this practice becomes more familiar, small movement patterns can be added, such as the raising and lowering of the arms, in order to begin the exploration of breath, volume, and movement.


Application to the Classroom

Breathing practice should then be integrated into the dance practice. Provide time in class for students to examine their own movement patterns with breath or provide a combination with specific breath cues.  I find that particularly during ballet classes dancers tend to hold their breath on exertion, leading to inefficient movement patterns.  Take the time in class to explore a plie with an exhale on the decent, cambré at the barre with an exhale forward and inhale back, or grand battement with an exhale to help facilitate a powerful movement. Carry these ideas forward into the center by trying pirouettes with an exhale to prepare and an inhale on each spot, or grand allegro with an inhale at the top of the jump.  Challenge the students to try breath patterns opposite of those given or ask how their movement quality is affected by their awareness of breath. The best way to learn is to play, so give your students permission to play through their new understanding of breath.  


For further information, check out these recourses:

1.     Kaminoff, L. Yoga Anatomy. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2007 

2.     Calais-Germain, B. Anatomy of Movement. Seattle, WY: Eastland press, 1991

3.     Staugaard-Jones, J. The Concise Book of Yoga Anatomy. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2015

Getty image board


Jennifer Deckert, MFA

Dance Educator, Researcher, and Yoga Instructor

Co-director of the Dance Science Program at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, WY USA



Tags:  breath  breathing  teachers 

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IADMS 2018 Helsinki: Interview with Invited Speaker - Jari Salo

Posted By IADMS Promotion Committee, Monday, August 27, 2018

Introducing one of our local invited speakers at #IADMS2018 - Jari Salo!



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


My presentation “Imaging the dancer” on Saturday introduces a cutting edge imaging technology for accurate diagnostics of knee / foot and ankle area. Cone beam CT (CBCT) imaging is the first 3D technology with ultra high 0,2mm isotropic resolution, and with a possibility to have imaging done under real weight bearing. With intra-articular contrast media, virtual arthroscopy and proper imaging of even thin cartilage layers of knee or TC-joint is possible.


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?   


Dancing is always based on painless weight bearing and good ROM in joints. Cartilage issues can disturb dancers’ performance, even after MRI clearance of knee or TC-joint. New weight bearing imaging technologies open up a totally new era for better understanding of functional anatomy of F&A area, as well as in recognising possible career disturbing issues as early as possible. This gives a possibility to make interventions early on, and even to follow-up their effects accurately. The main future of CBCT imaging is so called isotropic data ( which means that any imaging data is archived as a data cloud, and the image of the region of interest can be recalculated in any given angle or slice thickness afterwards to compare data sets reliably down the line (


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


IADMS is a great example of multi modal congress, where professionals from different fields can discuss and work as a team to improve dancers’ health and performance. There are not too many of this kind of meeting in the world, and I do find IADMS an outstanding platform to promote and create this kind of cross scientific contact.


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


I do work a lot with professional elite level athletes, and we also have international ballet dancers with knee and ankle problems. It is my pleasure to attend IDAMS meeting, and to meet other experts from around the world. We now have patients from more than 20 countries visiting our unit in Helsinki for accurate joint imaging with CBCT, and for joint cartilage reconstruction. Often these athletes come to my office after failing of minor cartilage surgery, or with an unknown mechanical joint problem after MRI clearing. Typically I perform more than 100 deep/demanding cartilage reconstructions a year. It is my pleasure to share my 13 year expertise on this field with other experts treating dancers around the world.



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


Professionally I am looking forward to have discussions on dancers’ cartilage and joint problems, and of course on cutting edge technologies available for accurate diagnostics. CBCT is a novel technology, already in clinical use in many countries, so this year’s meeting is a great opportunity to give and get information on this.  I warmly welcome you all to my home town!



Tags:  Annual Conference 

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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?



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

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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

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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.



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


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.


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).




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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