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IADMS Infographic Competition - 2019

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



DEADLINE August 1st!

Submit your infographics to by August 1, 2019!

Since our Annual Conference is in Montreal, Canada, this year, we invite you to include English AND French on your infographic! Not a requirement, but a great way to make your work accessible to our host community.


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 ( by August 1st, 2019.


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. IADMS reserves the right to publish submitted infographics on the IADMS webpage and use them for promotional and educational purposes.


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


- IADMS will offer the winner one year of IADMS membership for free!
- We are working on acquiring support for an additional prize!


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.

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


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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.


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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

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‘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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IADMS Seeks Nominations for the 2018 Dance Educators’ Award

Posted By IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Monday, April 2, 2018

The Dance Educators’ Committee of IADMS promotes communication and education for dance teachers, dance students, parents, dancers, and the medical and other health practitioners who provide their care.


The Committee also seeks to recognize teachers who integrate principles of dance science in their teaching and is seeking nominations for the 2018 IADMS Dance Educators’ Award from around the world.


The recipient of this recognition is an IADMS member who shows evidence of substantial impact through teaching dance and has influenced future dance teachers. Additional evidence for the award comes from service to the field of dance medicine and science as well as mentoring students participating in dance medicine and science events and conferences.



The 2017 IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee Dance Educator Award was presented to Professor Emma Redding PhD, who joins Dr. Janice Plastino, recipient of the 1st IADMS Dance Educator Award in 2014, Janet Karin, recipient of the award in 2015 and Dr. Tom Welsh 2016, in receiving this honor from the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee.


The criteria for the award describe a dance educator who:
· demonstrates long standing support for the integration and implementation of dance science in the classroom.
· has developed a system of training based on sound knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, and/or psychology;

· can address artistic and pedagogical priorities within a scientific context to help researchers understand the art of dance and dance teaching;
· demonstrates innovative thinking in teaching and is not afraid to challenge myths and historical methods;
· demonstrates an ongoing commitment to furthering the field of dance and dance science and IADMS as an organization.


Nomination submissions will close May 1, 2018. Submit a nomination through the webform here -


The candidate will be selected by the Dance Educators’ Committee and will be recognized at the IADMS Annual Meeting in Helsinki in October 2018.

Tags:  IADMS Dance Educator Award 

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5 Questions With... Jill Descoteaux

Posted By IADMS Student Committee, Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Student representative Jill Descoteaux tells us a bit about herself and her role in IADMS. Jill was previously a member of the IADMS student committee and is currently a doctoral candidate in the Interdisciplinary Program at Ohio University, combining professional counseling with athletic training.


How did you first get interested in dance science/medicine?
I was in the process of changing majors from Health Promotion to Athletic Training as an undergraduate student when I started to become more active in observing, learning, and practicing dance. Combining these two areas seemed very practical to me, so as a student I found creative ways to supplement my athletic training education with more opportunities in clinical practice with performing artists such as shadowing a dance-specific physician in Boston and providing supervised care for a dance team at the private high school where I was placed for my clinical rotation.

Can you tell us a bit about your role in IADMS?
While I am still learning what my role is, I am representing the student voice on the board of directors. Because a certain percentage of the membership is made up of students, my elected position is to give that percentage of the membership representation when discussing the direction of IADMS and expressing the needs of that membership.

What are you looking forward to in your role as student representative?
So far, I am really enjoying getting to know the other professionals who make up the board. These are people who have dedicated a lot to the field, and working alongside them is an honor. Second, I really look forward to addressing the needs of the students and bringing those needs and concerns to the board and finding ways to guide the organization to better serve that membership. Ideally creating opportunities and efficient means of connecting students to each other and other professionals is what I want to encourage over the next two years.


Are you currently participating in research? Can you give us your elevator pitch about your research area?
I am in the depths of my dissertation at the moment! In a nutshell, I am comparing the lived experiences of dancers in Australia to the experiences of dancers in America in terms of their relationship with health care. I am interested in access, communication, satisfaction, and knowledge under this umbrella. My data comes from in-person, in-depth interviews that I’ve just finished conducting this past August in Sydney.

In which ways has IADMS helped you grow in your field of study?
I would say IADMS has motivated and validated my career path of choice. Through meeting other members and being inspired by their local dancer-care services and structure, I feel that the work that I do fits into something greater and even crosses national borders. Feeling a part of that international community is really wonderful when in New Hampshire, I don’t have that community per se. Just as one example, I used IADMS to find Dr. Claire Hiller who is serving as the dance-specialist on my dissertation committee and without her help, my three months in Sydney may have been impossible. This relationship was formed through another connection that I made through the IADMS membership directory.


Tags:  5 Questions With  students 

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Can creativity be measured? A Duel

Posted By Kerry Chappell and Jon May on behalf of the Dance Educators’ Committee, Wednesday, February 28, 2018

This post derives 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. Here, speakers Dr Kerry Chappell and Professor Jon May, recreate their discussion with the aim of provoking your thoughts. Tell us what you think in the comments below or on social media. Can and should creativity in dance be measured?


Embed from Getty Images


Dr Kerry Chappell

To answer this question, we need to answer two other questions first:


1.     How are we defining creativity?

2.     How do we know the world?


We need to answer these two questions because our definition and our way of knowing will determine the way in which we do our research.


So, to answer question 1, at its simplest, I define creativity as ‘embodied dialogue that leads to valuable new ideas’. In line with post-human scholar Rose Braidotti (2013), I would argue that creativity is embodied across multiple players, that is, it is inherent within human and other-than-human. For example, a table is a creative player, it invites me to create with it in multiple ways. I would like to be very, very clear that creativity is not situated in individuals. In line with the philosopher Bakhtin (2010), I would argue that dialogue and therefore creativity happens in the space in between people, in between ideas, and in between objects. Creativity is the ongoing processing of curious questions leading to more curious questions. ‘Performances’ are snapshots within that process.


Now the second question – how do we know the world? For me, the world is full of multiple perspectives. I do not believe that there are single truths to be discovered, but that we can partially come to know aspects of the world.


So, if I take my definition of creativity and the way that I know the world and I ask myself ‘how do I research creativity?’, my answer is that I should document, explore and characterise its qualities, I am not logically taken down the path of saying ‘I must measure this’. I have therefore spent 15 years documenting, exploring and characterising creativity in multiple educational settings. I have used tools such as conceptual drawing, filming, photography, dialoguing with people about their creativity, and asking them to reflect on it (e.g. Chappell, 2018, in press).


Tests such as the Torrance Test for Creativity (TTCT; 1966) do test an individual’s ability to be fluent, original, flexible and to elaborate. The TTCT tasks include, for example, figural and verbal activities such as asking questions about drawings on a page, identifying alternative uses for objects, making changes to a toy animal to make it more fun to play with and creating drawn images from a series of shapes. The test claims that the different activities indicate people’s ability to think originally and be imaginative.  These abilities may be part of what happens in creativity but they are not the whole of it. So, when a study measures those four abilities and claims to be able to make comment on creativity per se, I question that.


I want to end with two examples. One from my own research, and one from Rosemary Lee’s research within ResCen into her own creative practice. A dance artist within one of my research studies describing creativity said, ‘there’s a black hole of exploration, but after the black hole there has to be a white wall’ (Chappell, Rolfe, Craft and Jobbins, 2011).


Rosemary Lee puts a spotlight on the importance of ‘expectant waiting’ as key to her creativity (Lee, 2007). Expectant waiting foregrounds the importance of waiting in creative dance making, of giving time and of trusting that material will emerge from the process.  I put it to you – that we cannot measure the process of the white wall after the black hole of exploration nor can we measure the process of ‘expectant waiting’. What we can do is embrace those processes with research and tools that are appropriate to them – tools that acknowledge that creativity is dialogic, embodied, spatial and materially dispersed.


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Professor Jon May

Can we measure creativity? No, not directly, but perhaps we can measure the psychological processes and resources that enable someone to be creative, and so obtain an indirect or predictive measure of the likelihood that they will be creative. Arguably, we can’t even measure creative output or success either, directly. The only way that we can say if someone has done something creative is through consensus, because there is no clear way to say whether any given work of art or idea or argument or thought is in itself ‘creative’ or a result of creative activity.


Such an approach is the basis of the Consensual Assessment Technique advocated by Amabile (1982), and of the many biographical questionnaires which ask people about the recognition that they have achieved. If we are happy to use these indirect measures of the things that are created, we should also be happy to use indirect measures of creative ability. In this way, creativity is no different to other psychological phenomena. We cannot measure intelligence, or even define it well, and yet there are widely used tests of intelligence which predict future educational success, occupational status, and income levels. These tests work, and so measure intelligence, even though we do not really understand or agree what intelligence is. They do so by combining a lot of small mental tasks that people agree an intelligent person would be able to do faster or more accurately than a less intelligent person. Similarly, we can come to a consensus about the small things a creative person will probably have to do as part of being creative, and measure them.


Three things stand out: the ability to come up with ideas rapidly (fluency), to change between different ideas or concepts (flexibility), and to produce unusual ideas (originality) (Guilford, 1957). You can see how these ideas might be manifest in dance practice in our previous blog post by Becca Weber and Klara Lucznik here. The more you can do all of these, the more likely you are to be able to be creative. Strictly speaking, you have creative ability, but you need more than this to actually be creative. Being a fluent, flexible and original thinker provides you with the mental basis to succeed in a creative task, but you also need domain expertise to fill in the content of the ideas, and to recognise which of your ideas are worth developing, and to have the skills to turn the ideas into a product within the domain. A highly creative dancer, with many years experience of dance practice, has a very different set of domain knowledge to an innovative graphic designer or software engineer or theoretical physicist, and no-one would expect any of them to succeed in the domains that they have not become an expert in; but they should all be expected to perform well on the three core abilities that support creative thought.


Measuring the basis of creativity does allow us to predict crudely an individual’s creative potential, but it has to be taken in conjunction with their ability to apply that potential within a domain in order to be realised. There is likely to be little overlap between domain specific measures of creativity which include skills relevant to just one domain, so measures of dance creativity which include movement, or production or memory of dance sequences, will not differentiate creative painters, poets, or engineers. Tests based on fluency, flexibility and originality, should. So overall, I would say that the answer to the question ‘can we measure creativity?’ is ‘no; but yes’.


Have your say – can creativity be measured?

Our most engaged comments will be added to the blog to continue the debate!






Amabile, T. M. (1982). Social psychology of creativity: A consensual assessment technique. Journal of personality and social psychology43(5), 997.


Bakhtin, M.M., (2010). The dialogic imagination: Four essays(Vol. 1). University of Texas Press.


Braidotti, R. (2013). The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press.  

Chappell, K., Rolfe, L., Craft, A., & Jobbins, V. (2011) Close Encounters: Dance Partners for Creativity.  Stoke on Trent: Trentham.


Chappell, K. (2018, in press). From wise humanising creativity to (post-humanising) creativity. In A. Harris, P. Thomson & K. Snepvangers, Creativity Policy, Partnerships and Practice in Education. Palgrave Macmillan.


Guilford, J.P. (1957). Creative abilities in the arts. Psychological review64(2), p.110.


Lee, R.  (2007).  Expectant waiting. In Bannerman, C. et al., (eds.). Navigating the unknown: The creative process in contemporary performing arts. Middlesex University Press, UK.


Torrance, E. P., Ball, O. E., & Safter, H. T. (1966). Torrance tests of creative thinking. Scholastic Testing Service.



In The Dancer’s Mind is a longitudinal and cross-sectional research project into creativity, novelty, and the imagination, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and being undertaken by Plymouth University, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and Coventry University.


Dr Kerry Chappell is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Graduate School of Education at Exeter University, where she leads the MA Education Creative Arts specialism and provides dance expertise to the course. Kerry also co-leads the Centre for Creativity, Sustainability and Educational Futures and is a PhD and EdD supervisor. Kerry continues to work as a dance-artist within Exeter-based dance lab collective. Her research includes creativity in arts, science and interdisciplinary education and educational futures, alongside participatory research methodologies. 


Professor Jon May is Professor of Psychology at the School of Psychology, Plymouth University, UK. His teaching and research interests include cognitive psychology, cognition and emotion, and applied psychology. His research currently centres on the role that mental imagery has in behaviour change, motivation and creativity.


Tags:  creativity  debate  duel  imagery 

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Mental Imagery and Creativity

Posted By Klara Łucznik and Rebecca Weber on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Monday, February 12, 2018

Just like dancers practice physical skills in their technique classes, so too can we practice mental skills. Though we often think of imagery as creating a ‘picture’ in our mind’s eye, imagery is the ability to create mental constructions of any sort--including visual imagery, sounds, movement, emotional content, spatial concepts, or language. These constructions are all forms of mental imagery. Mental imagery is widely used in choreographic practices in contemporary dance, including by artists like Wayne McGregor, William Forsythe, Hagit Yakira, and others. In such approaches, dancers engage in a variety of sensory modalities as a source of inspiration. They might visually imagine an object, spatial shape, or even entire landscape and then transform it into a particular quality, shape, or pathway of moving. Using auditory imagery, they might imagine the music, rhythm, or sounds that influence their movement choices. They might even create a mental image of an emotion or a bodily sensation, like moving through the ocean’s waves or rolling a small ball inside their body. Having created the image, they may transform it into movement or composed phrase (May et al., 2011).



Image: A Wayne McGregor|Random Dance dancer imagines moving a heavy bell around
(courtesy David Kirsh)


Many dance instructors likewise use imagery as a way to refine students’ skills, adding texture or quality to movement’s execution. Indeed, several branches of somatic practice are designed to affect awareness, alignment, or performance through imagery, such as Bartenieff Fundamentals, Ideokinesis, the Franklin Method, and embodied anatomy practices. Research shows that kinaesthetic and somatic imagery play a role in motor learning (Arandale et al., 2014) and have been applied to improve sport performance (Murphy, 1990). You may have even heard of the ‘mental rehearsal’ often encouraged in athletes. A considerable amount of research has shown that imagery and mental practice can enhance motor performance (Krasnow et al., 1997: 47).


Mental imagery comes in many forms, not just kinaesthetic or somatic. We can control the forms of imagery we use. In moving the focus of our attention around the imagery spectrum, we may engage in ‘polysensory imaging’ (Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 1999). And by mindfully selecting the forms of imagery we engage in practice, our imagery skills can be learned and improved.


Some research suggests that creative thinking can likewise be scaled, or increased with practice. One way to start practicing thinking creatively is through increasing our awareness of the types of forms of mental imagery that we engage with in creative practice. Though meta-analysis has indicated weak but significant correlations between mental imagery and creativity (LeBoutellier & Marks, 2010), it has been proposed that meta-cognition -- our awareness of our mental imagery skills and habits -- can be honed to help us avoid habitual responses when attempting to innovate, and preliminary research with dancers supports this proposition (deLahunta, Clarke & Barnard, 2011; May et al, 2011). Dancers in one study (May et al, 2011) even reported that such metacognition, or reflecting on their own mental habits during movement creation, allowed for more variation in the movement they generated. This increase in variation was achieved by consciously choosing a less-frequently used form of imagery, for example one might opt for using sound as an inspiration rather than kinaesthetic imagery. One project examining the effects of training metacognitive awareness is the In the Dancer’s Mind project.


In the Dancer's Mind - Creative Imagery Training


Image: Creative imagination workshop at Plymouth University.
Photos: L. Clements, B. Weber and K. Łucznik



In The Dancer’s Mind is a longitudinal and cross-sectional research project into creativity, novelty, and the imagination, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and being undertaken by Plymouth University, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and Coventry University. The project is testing whether training dance students in this metacognitive awareness of their use of imagery improves their ability to make creative choreography. The research compares two cohorts of dancers’ creativity levels at the start of their undergraduate studies and a year later, with one cohort being given training in recognising the forms of mental imagery and their own mental habits when using them.


This intervention was delivered by university dance teachers who used a creative imagery and movement toolkit that includes a teacher’s guide, a course pack, lesson plans, and set of workshop materials, which you can download from


The course comprises 37 exercises, covering six training ‘targets’ that explore and train different modalities of imagery, principles for transforming imagery, and its application for movement creation. Each topic is supported with a theoretical introduction in the form of a short video-lecture. Here you can watch the general introduction to this programme:



The course pack includes a variety of exercises, delivered following the video lecture. The first of these are activities that develop creative imagery through mental training. In these exercises, dancers can explore how to apply principles for transforming imagery while sitting or lying down in stillness. For example, an exercise on visual imagery might ask you to imagine a hat. Then, an instructor may read a script encouraging you to mentally transform the hat by using the twelve imagery transformation principles--these are grouped as principles which change the whole, edit part, or modify the image in different ways.


Try it for yourself: imagine a hat. Can you change its scale and make it bigger (modify)? Can you personalise it--make it one of your favorite hats (change the whole)? Can you add a feather to it (edit part)? 



Principles Cards (credits: In the Dancer’s Mind project)


This same exercise could be done on other forms of mental imagery, like sound. Such mental practice allows students to gain confidence in creative imagery.


Next, students are offered movement exercises, where these mental skills are applied to a movement task. These exercises explore how imagery might be use translate into physical ideas, movement qualities, and generation of dance material. Finally, discussion exercises allow the class to reflect on the experience and discuss with the class or in small groups.


These courses offer a flexible modular design, with suggested lesson plan options which adjust the length of the module or the time of individual classes to suit the needs of the particular group or course. These are outlined in a teachers’ guide that also introduces the general context for imagery use as a choreographic tool. All materials have detailed guidance but are also very flexible, so you can use them in the way you think they will be most beneficial for your practice.


Preliminary results shows that our imagery training successfully increases creativity of dance students, both by improving their creative thinking and advancing the use of imagery in their choreographic process. Teachers who used the In the Dancer’s Mind training programme as a part of their choreographic modules reported that the students’ engagement in creative exploration was raised, and they were able to stick with the task for longer. The effect of training was noticed beyond the choreographic practice modules, with impact on enhancing students’ choreologic analysis abilities and improvisational skills. Furthermore, the principles were found to be applicable beyond the imagery context. If you want to learn more about the project and results of the training programme, just visit the project’s website:


Klara Łucznik, PhD.,  is a Researcher in a field of Dance Cognition and a part of interdisciplinary research group CogNovo at Plymouth University.


Rebecca Weber, MFA MA RSME is a PhD Candidate at Coventry University’s Centre for Dance Research, Director of Somanaut Dance , Co-Director of Project Trans(m)it, and an associate lecturer at the University of East London.



For further reading, have a look at these resources:


Andrade, J., May, J., Deeprose, C., Baugh, S.-J. and Ganis, G. (2014), Assessing vividness of mental imagery: The Plymouth Sensory Imagery Questionnaire. British Journal of Psychology, 105: 547–563.


Krasnow, D. H., Chatfield, S. J., Barr, S., Jensen, J. L., & Dufek, J. S. (1997), “Imagery and conditioning practices for dancers”, Dance Research Journal, 29, 43–64.


LeBoutellier, N. & Marks, D.F. (2010) “Mental imagery and creativity: a meta-analytic review study”, British Journal of Psychology, 945:1, 29-44.


May, J., Calvo-Merino, B., deLahunta, S., McGregor, W., Cusack, R., Owen, A. M., & Barnard, P. (2011) “Points in mental space”, Dance Research Journal, 29, 404–432.


Murphy, S. (1990), “Models of Imagery in Sport Psychology: A Review”, Journal of Mental Imagery, 14:3/4, 153-172.

Root-Bernstein, R. and Root-Bernstein, M. (1999), Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Tags:  creativity  imagery 

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Imagery, Research, and Practice

Posted By Katie Pavlik on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Commitee, Friday, January 12, 2018

We start our new year with a series of posts by leading experts in the world of dance imagery and creativity.  This first post by Katie Pavlik introduces simple and immediately usable ways for us to embed the use of imagery in our classes from both teaching and dancing perspectives, a great way to invigorate our practice.


Did you know that imagery can be a powerful tool that can affect how you learn, remember, and perform dance?  When I first became interested in dance imagery, I thought of it in simple terms: as mental rehearsal of steps to remember choreography, with a side of pretty metaphors thrown in to aide my performance quality.  Little did I know that imagery is so much more.  Dancers can not only use it to learn movement, but also to reach goals, handle anxiety, and even change their performance.

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Imagery is a conscious action.  The dancer uses their five senses to create a mental image, which approximates a real or fantastical experience.  Perhaps they envision themselves executing a grande battement; this is called technique imagery, which is the mental rehearsal of movement.  If they’re aiming to perfect their turns, they may imagine themselves completing a flawless double pirouette.  This is an example of goal imagery, or images of working towards and reaching dance-specific goals.  Mastery imagery describes images of planning, controlling anxiety, and staying focused, such as a scene of performing with calm confidence.  Finally, role and movement quality imagery contains metaphors and often pertains to characters.  For example, a dancer may create a mental script of a rushing river in winter for use as they dance.  Technique imagery seems to be the most common type of imagery, while mastery is the least utilized in dance (1).

Each type of imagery can serve many different functions.  Dancers use imagery to inspire movement for choreography and solve problems within pieces, such as sorting sequences or figuring out spacing.  Teachers use imagery to clarify technique as well as the thoughts and feelings surrounding the movement.  Imagery can be used to inspire strong emotions or regulate an individual’s mood.  Dancers even use it to ease anxiety or increase motivation during difficult situations such as tough performances or auditions.  Research has shown that technique and role and movement imagery may be especially valuable in helping dancers interpret anxious feelings as useful in stressful situations (1).

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Performing artists, teachers, and students image.  They image in rehearsal, class, and performance.  They image before, during, and after movement.  Anyone can use imagery, and anytime is a good time to image!  If you plan to image, utilize all your senses to create a rich scene, especially your visual and kinesthetic senses.  Memories, pictures, and sounds can inspire imagery, but so can movement itself.  It is helpful to plan imagery prior to use so that you can tailor it to your specific needs and desired outcomes.   Teachers can even design imagery for specific classes or individual students, allowing them to learn about imaging through direct use.  Even though time is short in class, moments can be set aside to show students the importance of imagery.  For example:

a.       Before warm-up, as a time to focus and set goals.

b.      During transitions or while students are waiting, to review steps; small movements that accompany the imagery, or marking, can be especially helpful at these times.

c.       While students are dancing, to enhance the quality of their movement.

d.      At the end of class, to review, set goals, and prepare for future classes.

e.      When injured, to reserve their resources.


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Research has shown that certain types of imagery can increase self-confidence,(1,2) lower anxiety,(1,2) and enhance movement.(3)  As such, performers, teachers, and students can all benefit from this powerful psychological tool.  For further reading and imagery ideas, please see:


1.       Using Imagery to Optimize Dance Training and Performance by Sanna Nordin-Bates, PhD


2.       Dance Imagery: A Literature Review by Katie Pavlik, MSc and Sanna Nordin-Bates, PhD in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, Volume 20, No. 2, 2016, pages 52-63


3.       The History and Research of Dance Imagery: Implications for Teachers by Lynette Overby, PhD and Jan Dunn, MS


4.       Enhancing Sport Performance Using PETTLEP Imagery by Dave Smith, PhD


5.       Dance Imagery for Technique and Performance by Eric Franklin



Forthcoming posts over the next months will focus on the application of imagery in dance learning and making, with a specific focus on creativity.  Keep a look-out for those!


Katie Pavlik is an independent dance scientist based in Chicago, IL, USA.



1.       Nordin SM, Cumming J. Measuring the content of dancers’ images: development of the Dance Imagery Questionnaire (DIQ). J Dance Med Sci. 2006;10(3/4):85-98.

2.       Fish L, Hall C, Cumming J. Investigating the use of imagery by elite ballet dancers. Avante. 2004;10(3):26-39.

3.       Hanrahan C, Tetreau B, Sarrazin C. Use of imagery while performing dance movement. Int J Sport Psychol. 1995;26:413-30.

Tags:  imagery  teachers 

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One Dance UK Conference 2017

Posted By Janine Bryant on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Sunday, December 31, 2017

The beginning of the academic year brought an exciting announcement from One Dance UK with the programme for its first-ever Conference Season to be held at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. The conference, held in November, spread three separate programmes over two days and combined the best of the UK's dance sector knowledge and delivered an outstanding weekend of insights and conversations. One Dance UK presents an incredibly wide range of expertise and this conference was demonstrative of all the organisation has to offer. There were three conferences on the programme – the Dance Teaching and Participation Conference, a Choreographers' Conference, and a Healthier Dance Progamme Conference.


The timetable included workshops, keynotes, practical sessions, seminars and networking opportunities and offered attendees many options designed to update and up-skill their current knowledge. Interesting and thought-provoking sessions included 'Long Table' and 'World Café' formats, aimed at fostering collaboration, creativity and idea exchanges with industry leaders.

The Dance Teaching and Participation Conference, held on Saturday 25 November, focused on the value of dance in education, and included guest speaker Tamara Rojo CBE. This conference culminated in exciting performances by exceptional youth dance companies and the BBC's Young Dance Finalist, Jaina Modasia.

The Healthier Dancer Programme was held on 26 November, running concurrently with the Choreographer's Conference, and sometimes overlapping and sharing sessions.  This offered opportunities for dance artists and scientists to discuss various issues such as accessibility, sustainability and diversification in dance. Featured choreographers included Charlotte Vincent, Omari Carter and Rosie Kay. The discussion was lively and thought-provoking as each artist presented attendees with separate prompts to generate discussions in groups. We were encouraged to move around and switch groups, which made for an exciting and engaging session and was one of the first times that dance medicine and science specialists shared conversation-time with choreographers, a very welcome and inspiring opportunity for both sides!

This conference featured discussions on dancers' mental and psychological health, psychological impacts of dance injury and tips on how to help dancers overcome the after-effects of injury. Speakers included Irina Roncaglia, performance psychologist, rehearsal director, producer and teacher, Claire Cunningham, artist, Stuart Waters and an exciting talk by Dr. Roger Wolman, of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, whose vast expertise includes a focus on Sport and Exercise Medicine. Dr. Wolman shared information on the evolving discussion in the medical community regarding injuries in dance to include an understanding that, for dancers, injuries are an emotional as well as a physical event. His insights into the emotional impact of injuries for dancers were validating for all who attended the talk, as he offered ways to assist injured dancers through a multipronged approach.

It was an incredible weekend programmed with over 100 years of expertise in dance, supported by the outstanding venue, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and presented in partnership with The Bench.

Janine Bryant, BFA, MA, SFHEA, is a member of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Associate Editor of The Bulletin for Dancers and Teachers, faculty member in the School of Performing Arts -The University of Wolverhampton and a Registered Provider of the Safe in Dance International Certification.

Tags:  conference  OneDanceUK 

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Healthy Dancer Canada Conference 2017

Posted By Alyssa Perron on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Wednesday, November 29, 2017

This year’s annual Healthy Dancer Canada (HDC) Conference, held in Calgary, Alberta, brought together a diverse community of dance educators, medical practitioners, researchers, and artists from across Canada and around the globe. A breadth of topics were covered, all fitting within the conference theme: “Science to Studio to Stage”. Particular emphasis was given to the role of the dance educator, and on actively translating research into practice, which was definitely a highlight of all presentations.


 The three-day conference began with a warm welcome reception and a viewing of Calgary’s professional jazz dance company, Decidedly Jazz Dance’s, dress rehearsal, followed by an artist talkback. This set the stage for a weekend of discussions, collaborations, and practical applications of ideas aimed to improve dancer health.


 Our next morning began with a delightful breakfast and roundtable discussions before the first session. The agenda for the weekend was full of presentations in lecture, poster, and workshop formats. Question periods had a novel arrangement this year. Three consecutive presentations were followed by a longer, panel-style Q&A. This unique arrangement fostered a sense of community, encouraged interdisciplinary debate and sharing of ideas, and promoted a depth of discussion between delegates. In addition, this time created space for connections to be made between the ideas brought forth in the lectures and workshops, enabling conversation that otherwise may not have arisen.



Recurring themes of injury prevalence and related subjects including hypermobility, psychological pressures, and coping skills during periods of injury were discussed at length. Several speakers discussed how they were using previous research to implement practical programs in dance companies and schools, along with nuanced approaches to supplementary training. Emerging concepts, such as social media influences, alternative healing through First Nations dance, and the role of intention within performance, allowed delegates to consider dance medicine and science through a holistic, alternative lens.


 One highlight of the conference was Physiotherapist, Erika Mayall’s research on “Instaculture; the effects of social media and Instagram culture on young dancers”, in which she discussed new challenges of ensuring young dancers’ physical and mental health in this technological era. Young dancers seem to be willing to put themselves at risk for the “perfect shot” or more “likes” on a photo, and there is a growing problem with adolescent dancers idolizing, and normalizing potentially harmful tricks, contortions, and training styles. Another enlightening session was a lecture discussing the timing of maturation and how different timings have implications on health, training, and performance of female dancers. This work was presented by PhD Candidate, Siobhan Mitchell, who was this year’s winner of the HDC Research Award and serves as the IADMS Student Committee Chair – Congratulations Siobhan!


It was an incredible weekend, with a feeling not just of dissemination, but of true knowledge exchange. Healthy Dancer Canada’s next conference will be held in Toronto in Fall of 2018 and will mark 10 years of this important organization - hope to see you there!


Alyssa Perron BA, MSc is a member of The Healthy Dancer Canada Conference committee.

Tags:  conference  Healthy Dancer Canda 

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