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Physiological perspectives on puberty in dance

Posted By Siobhan Mitchell on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Tuesday, September 5, 2017

In our last blog post, Siobhan focussed on the psychological perspectives on puberty in dance training and here follows our second post in the series, this time focussing on the physiological perspectives on puberty in dance.  These posts follow on from our busy season of Regional Meetings in Australia, USA and UK where the focus of much of our discussions at these events was on how we work with children and young people to optimise their training.  Siobhan presented her session at the Healthier Dancer Day on The Adolescent Dancer in Ipswich in May 2017.  


 As someone who works with young dancers, you will observe a range of physical changes as they go through puberty. The physical changes of puberty encompass increases in height and weight, changes in the accumulation and distribution of body fat and lean mass, development of a variety of secondary sexual characteristics (e.g. breast development) and shifts in body proportions.


 So what are the processes and what exactly is going on for young people at this time?


 Puberty is a hormonally driven process resulting in marked changes in physique, form, and function. This process of physical change results in the attainment of an adult state, capable of sexual reproduction. The sequence of these changes varies significantly between boys and girls. Girls tend to mature around 2 years in advance of boys and so will experience physical changes at an earlier age.


 Individuals of the same chronological age may vary by up to several years in terms of their biological maturation, so chronological age is not a good indicator of physical development at puberty. That said, the average time for the growth spurt to take place among non-dancers is around age 12 in girls and age 14 in boys and takes on average around 3 years from beginning to completion. This age is especially significant as it coincides with a time when most dancers commence more serious training, a greater number of hours of training each week, and take on new physical challenges in training e.g. pointe work. 


 Embed from Getty Images


Benefits and challenges


 Puberty presents both opportunity and challenge for young dancers. On one hand, dancers benefit from improvements in strength, motor skills, and the activation of new motivational tendencies.  On the other, sudden changes in size and shape can disrupt flexibility and co-ordination. These changes inevitably lead to young dancers struggling with movements which they are used to being able to perform, this can increase risk of physical injury and psychological effects such as loss of confidence, reduced motivation and increased self-consciousness.




 Challenges include


          Overall decrease in technical skill and control for both male and female dancers

          Rapid change in limb length may temporarily inhibit motor performance (awkwardness)

          Flexibility can be disrupted by growth of the lower extremities and the trunk during growth                        spurts and the skeletal system maturing in advance of soft tissues

          Relearning and re-programming technique to adjust to new biomechanical challenges, e.g.                      rapid change in limb length can result in reduced strength, power and flexibility, in addition                      to increased injury risk associated with adapting to these changes

          Factors such as temporary low bone mass and adjustment to new biomechanical challenges                     can coincide with increased intensity of dance training

          Overuse injuries (e.g., Osgood-Schlatters/Sever’s disease) and burnout more common


These changes will impact upon some of the core dance movements, for example, reduced strength and flexibility will result in lower leg extensions; reduced balance and coordination will affect pirouettes and balance positions; and as technical control decreases, risk of injury increases.


In addition, one of the biggest challenges, from a training perspective, are differences in the timing of puberty and how to accommodate these differences to optimise wellbeing and training. Pubertal timing refers to the when pubertal changes, such as the onset of menstruation for girls, occur. The timing of puberty can differ by up to 5 years, a huge interval compared to other animal species – only humans and primates have such huge differences in timing. This means that individuals of the same chronological age can vary in biological age (pubertal timing) by up to 5 years, which has implications for training, talent identification and evaluation. For dance educators, such variation in development is a huge challenge and there is currently little understanding of how this variation impacts upon young dancers and how we can consider this in our approaches to training.




          Accelerated gains in strength, power, speed, agility, and endurance in males; steady gains or                   plateaus in females

          Improvements in motor performance and physical health


Sex differences in relation to physical performance can be attributed to relatively greater body fat in girls (this essential body fat enables normal hormonal functions and reproductive capability) and greater absolute and relative leanness in boys, which exert opposite effects on performance. The former has a negative effect on most motor performance tasks and the latter has a positive effect, attributed to increase in size and muscle tissue. For male dancers these changes may be especially advantageous, enabling greater power and strength for grand allegro movements and could be emphasised during this period. While for female dancers, some will be at their peak strength and motor performance, benefitting their dance performance, and for others who experience a ‘levelling-off’ in strength and motor performance, encouragement may be needed to develop these aspects. With this in mind, both male and female students can benefit from developing their strength during this period of time.


Top tips for negotiating some of these challenges and making the most of the benefits


- Remember it’s temporary! Raise awareness amongst dancers and their parents about the normal and temporary changes associated with maturation


- Focus time and attention towards aspects other than technique which may progress more slowly during this time, such as musicality, performance and strengthening. This can help students to build confidence and make progress in other areas


- Be proactive in how you negotiate changes - Consider how you can support young dancers at this time – perhaps modify the content or environment of your classes, with consideration of the dancer as an individual (where possible)


- Reduce the stigma - Emphasise the beneficial aspects of puberty and raise awareness of these aspects to parents and students


- Focus on how movements feel as opposed to how they look during this time, to reduce training load and adapt exercises for students experiencing their most rapid periods of growth. In addition, training without the use of the mirror may be beneficial at this time.


- Promote maintenance of flexibility - Flexibility is most responsive to training during childhood and as a dance teacher this is the ideal stage of development in which to promote this attribute. Due to an asynchrony between skeletal and soft tissue growth at adolescence, flexibility can be disrupted, during this period the focus can be shifted to maintaining flexibility rather than promoting it.



Siobhan trained as a dancer before going on to complete a BA Hons in Dance Studies at the University of Roehampton, an MSc in Dance Science at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and an MRes in Health and Wellbeing at the University of Bath. Awarded a full ESRC studentship in 2014, Siobhan is currently in the final year of her PhD studies at the University of Bath. Her research interests are in growth and maturation, specifically, psychosocial implications of differing maturity timing in young dancers. Siobhan works as an associate lecturer and also delivers educational sessions for dancers and dance teachers on the topic of growth and maturation. Siobhan has been a member of IADMS since 2011, has been on the IADMS student committee since 2014 and is the current Student Committee Chair. Siobhan has presented at a number of international conferences including IADMS Conferences in Seattle and Pittsburgh, the IADMS regional meeting in Ipswich, the Royal Academy of Dance Conference ‘Dance Teaching for the 21st Century: Practice and Innovation’ in Sydney, Australia and the British Psychological Society Qualitative Methods in Psychology Conference, Aberystwyth, UK. Siobhan has published work in academic journals including the Journal of Adolescence and the Journal of Sports Sciences and was recently shortlisted as a finalist for the Ede and Ravenscroft prize for best postgraduate research student at the University of Bath.



Daniels, K., Rist, R., & Rijven, M. (2001). The Challenge of the Adolescent Dancer. Journal of Dance Education, 1(2), 74-76. doi: 10.1080/15290824.2001.10387180


Malina, R.M. (2014). Top 10 Research Questions Related to Growth and Maturation of Relevance to Physical Activity, Performance, and Fitness. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 85, 157-173.


Malina, R. M., Bouchard, C., & Bar-Or, O. (2004). Growth, Maturation and Physical Activity (Second Edition ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.


Steinberg, N., Siev-Ner, I., Peleg, S., Dar, G., Masharawi, Y., & Hershkovitz, I. (2008). Growth and development of female dancers aged 8-16 years. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 20(3), 299-307. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.20718


Tanchev, P. I., Dzherov, A. D., Parushev, A. D., Dikov, D. M., & Todorov, M. B. (2000). Scoliosis in rhythmic gymnasts. Spine, 25(11), 1367-1372. doi: 10.1097/00007632-200006010-00008


Podcast on growth and maturation in sport


Tags:  dancers  psychology  puberty  teachers 

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5 Questions With Kali Taft

Posted By IADMS Student Committee, Saturday, September 2, 2017


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


I found out about dance science when touring Texas A&M when I was a senior in high school. I had no idea that this major existed, but as soon as I found out, I knew that was exactly the path I wanted to take for my undergraduate education.



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


Yes, I have just finished with a research study entitled "Dance Aerobic Fitness Test Steady Increase Training versus Plyometric High Intensity Interval Training on Cardiovascular levels in collegiate dancers" and I will be presenting a poster of the research at IADMS in Houston this year.  This research study was a five week long study and the goal was to find out which training method is the best for dancers to use in preparation for performance season.  The results may surprise you! Come to IADMS this year to hear more details!



-As a student based in Texas, can you tell us a bit about the dance medicine and science ‘scene’ there?


Texas A&M has a lot of interest in the field.  In our program, anatomy is talked about in every technique class, a lot of research studies go on-faculty and student led- that students can participate in, and every year we do wellness screens for the students to learn about their own bodies and structural capabilities/limitations. 



-What would you say to a student thinking of attending this year’s annual meeting in Houston, Texas?


I think that IADMS is an enriching conference that could be beneficial for anyone in attendance. I am looking forward to hearing of the research being done in the field currently so I can update my practice and help protect my body better when dancing. I am also looking forward to making connections that could help me figure out the path I need to take in my life for the future. It is refreshing to be with people that are like-minded, and I am excited to be in a place that most of the other people share my passions.



-This year’s annual meeting is in Houston, in one sentence tell us what we can expect from the city…


Houston is definitely an exciting place to visit, and a good representation of the phrase "everything is bigger in Texas", so there is definitely enough to do for everybody! 




If you’d like to share your experiences, email us at

Tags:  5 Questions With  students 

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Psychological perspectives on puberty in dance

Posted By Siobhan Mitchell on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Following on from our busy season of Regional Meetings in Australia, USA and UK, the focus of much of our discussions at these events was on how we work with children and young people to optimise their training.  Siobhan presented her session at the Healthier Dancer Day on The Adolescent Dancer in Ipswich in May 2017.  Here follows one of two posts, focussed on the psychological perspectives of puberty when working with young dancers.  Watch out for our forthcoming post which will focus on the physiological aspects too.


As someone who works with young dancers, you will observe noticeable changes in how children think, feel, and react to others as they enter puberty. You will also see differences in what motivates and interests them. The physical changes of puberty make up just one set of changes which take place during adolescence. Cognitive, social and emotional competencies are developed across adolescence and have significant implications for training.


Embed from Getty Images


So what are the processes and what exactly is going on for young people at this time?


Two key areas of development are taking place: cognitive and emotional. Cognitive development describes how a person perceives and rationalises things. Cognitive development is related to age and experience rather than physical maturation. Emotional development is associated with increases in desire for specific types of emotional experience, particularly arousal and excitement.


Benefits and challenges


These developments bring both benefits and challenges for young dancers.


Benefits include


       Marked cognitive development and enhanced functioning; (optimal developmental stage for teaching & learning)

       Heightened emotional reactivity and sensitivity; greater self-awareness and social interest

       Activation of new motivational tendencies (i.e., greater desire to seek out social goals and rewards) 



Young dancers must contend with these basic adaptations within a context which subjects them to amplified risk. In particular, disparity in timing between physical and cognitive development can create vulnerability for the young dancer.



Challenges include


       Heightened emotional reactivity and sensitivity; greater social sensitivity, self-consciousness and social anxieties

       Greater risk for the development affective disorders, especially those associated with the body and athletic performance (e.g., body dysmorphic disorders & eating disorders)

       Potential for reduced participation in physical activity e.g. changes in body size and shape may deter girls from participating - Dropout can be greater in contexts such as dance where there can be pressure to conform to a particular size and shape and to adapt quickly to physical changes



Top tips for negotiating some of these challenges

Avoid the use of comments which compare one student to another

o Reduce the use of or focus on the mirror to help students to minimise comparison with others

o Be flexible about uniform during this time. This may be of particular benefit to young dancers who mature in advance of their peers and are adjusting to a changing body.

o Cues and comments focus on positive messages and how movements feel as opposed to what the body should look like

             o Create a protective environment using direct and indirect actions such as reducing use of mirrors                      and guiding dancer aspirations toward appropriate dance pathways for example, encouraging                              engagement with different styles of dance or towards the creation of dance.



Siobhan trained as a dancer before going on to complete a BA Hons in Dance Studies at the University of Roehampton, an MSc in Dance Science at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and an MRes in Health and Wellbeing at the University of Bath. Awarded a full ESRC studentship in 2014, Siobhan is currently in the final year of her PhD studies at the University of Bath. Her research interests are in growth and maturation, specifically, psychosocial implications of differing maturity timing in young dancers. Siobhan works as an associate lecturer and also delivers educational sessions for dancers and dance teachers on the topic of growth and maturation. Siobhan has been a member of IADMS since 2011, has been on the IADMS student committee since 2014 and is the current Student Committee Chair. Siobhan has presented at a number of international conferences including IADMS Conferences in Seattle and Pittsburgh, the IADMS regional meeting in Ipswich, the Royal Academy of Dance Conference ‘Dance Teaching for the 21st Century: Practice and Innovation’ in Sydney, Australia and the British Psychological Society Qualitative Methods in Psychology Conference, Aberystwyth, UK. Siobhan has published work in academic journals including the Journal of Adolescence and the Journal of Sports Sciences and was recently shortlisted as a finalist for the Ede and Ravenscroft prize for best postgraduate research student at the University of Bath.


Additional Video Resources

TED Talk by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain


National Core for Neuroethics presents Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: Matching Adolescent Education with Brain Development

Key References

Brooks-Gunn, J., & Warren, M. P. (1985). The effects of delayed menarche in different contexts – dance and non-dance students. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 14(4), 285-300. doi:10.1007/bf02089235

Dahl, R. (2004). Adolescent brain development: A period of vulnerabilities and opportunities - Keynote address. Adolescent Brain Development: Vulnerabilities And Opportunities, 1021, 1-22. doi: 10.1196/annals.1308.001

Hamilton, L. H., Hamilton, W. G., Warren, M. P., Keller, K., & Molnar, M. (1997). Factors contributing to the attrition rate in elite ballet students. Journal of dance medicine & science : official publication of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science, 1(4), 131-139.

Malina, R. M., Bouchard, C., & Bar-Or, O. (2004). Growth, Maturation and Physical Activity (Second Edition ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Mitchell, S., Haase, A., Malina, R. M., & Cumming, S. P. (2016). The role of puberty in the making and breaking of young ballet dancers: Perspectives of dance teachers. Journal of Adolescence, 47, 81-89.

Smoll, F., & Smith, R. (2002). Coaching behavior research and intervention in youth sports. Children and youth in sport: A biopsychosocial perspective, 2, 211-234.

Walker, I. J., Nordin-Bates, S. M., & Redding, E. (2012). A Mixed Methods Investigation of Dropout among Talented Young Dancers: Findings from the UK Centres for Advanced Training. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 16, 65-73.



Tags:  adolescent  dancers  puberty  teachers 

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How principles of dance science inform a student’s training and performance: A student dancer’s perspective

Posted By Gemma Harman on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Sunday, August 6, 2017

This is the second of Gemma’s posts in which she explores the notion of performance enhancement.  Find the first installment here.  In this second post, Gemma summarizes her own research and suggests how students view the principles of dance science in enhancing their training and performance.

What do we know?

The ideas and principles within dance science are frequently used to support the dancer in a number of domains; injury prevention, the improvement of training and performance and the potential for new artistic possibilities, to name but a few. The term ‘dance science principles’ is commonly used by educators and refers to physical, psychological, biomechanical and somatic principles.  In recent years, developments in vocational and professional dance settings have seen dance science principles incorporated in the technical and performance aspects of dance students’ training.  For instance, principles are frequently included in dance science, health related modules and safe dance practice modules within dance student training.  Edel Quin’s minimizing injury blog post is an example of how these principles can be effectively applied to dance teaching and dance making.  

The knowledge of dance science principles are also made available through the IADMS Education sources such as the Resource Papers and the Bulletin for Dancers and Teachers. These resources are comprehensive in informing and inspiring the application of dance science practice within dance training and performance settings.


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This blog post will present student reflections on the inclusion of dance science principles in their dance training. These reflections are taken from current dance students at the University of Chichester, UK. 
Q1: How has the inclusion of dance science principles supported you in your dance training? 

Dancer 1: Having an understanding of dance science principles has allowed me to become better equipped. It has helped bring knowledge and awareness to what I can and can’t do.  

Dancer 2: I can truthfully say that as a result of exploring these principles, I have been able to better evaluate and compare where I am as to where I should be. I can now also take risks without being fearful. 

Dancer 3: I have learnt so much by incorporating these principles within my training. I have seen the benefits in my body, training and performance.  It’s quite simply made me a better dancer.

Q2: How might dance science principles continue to be effectively embedded in a dancer’s training? 

Dancer 1: It’s really very clear to me, all dancers and teachers need to have an awareness of these principles, whatever their background or ability. The most effective thing that can be done is to ensure everyone knows about them! Teachers need to consider creative ways of sharing this knowledge. 

Dancer 2: Instead of having separate classes or modules on these areas, the knowledge needs to be better incorporated into all aspects of dance training. Everything we do should come from these principles as our goal in training is to be the best we can. 

Dancer 3: Instead of being taught how to apply dance science principles, we should be given the opportunity to experiment and explore how we as dancers can apply the knowledge learnt to what it is we do. Only then can the knowledge shared be a two-way relationship. 

What is the take home message from this post?

While dance science is undeniably developing as a field of study and research, it is apparent from the student reflections included in this blog that the use of dance science principles can aid a dancer’s development and bring awareness in their training and performance. What can educators specifically take home from this blog post? They can be reminded that knowledge and application of dance science principles can play a part in supporting the dancer to reach their full potential.


Embed from Getty Images


For further information take a look at these websites  

1. Safe in Dance International 
2. One Dance UK ‘Healthier Dancer Programme' 
3. International Association for Dance Medicine and Science


Gemma Harman, PhD Candidate, MSc, FHEA is Senior Lecturer in Dance and Acting Programme Leader BSc Dance Science at the University of Chichester. Gemma is also a lecturer at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and is an Academic Tutor at Bird College of Dance. 

Tags:  dancers  performance  teachers  training 

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What is ‘Performance Enhancement’ in an artistic context?

Posted By Gemma Harman on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Friday, July 28, 2017

Our next two posts from the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee question what we really know about performance enhancement from a dance science perspective and from the individual dance artist’s point of view.

What do we know?

An awareness of how the term ‘performance enhancement’ operates in the activities of athletes is well understood in the field of sport and exercise.  In recent years, there has been a move amongst educators using the term performance enhancement within an artistic setting (i.e. through the teaching of dance science and health related education classes as part of a students’ training).  Whilst educators advocate the need to enhance the learning, performance and artistry of the performer, very little is known about performance enhancement from the perspective of the individual performer.  

As an educator and researcher, I often refer to the term performance enhancement through teaching specifically devised Safe Dance Practice and performance enhancement modules.  However, I am aware that I use the term without really considering its meaning and significance in an artistic context, and rarely from the artist’s point of view. With this in mind, I have arrived at the following questions:



This blog post will share findings from a pilot study I undertook with ten professional performers (6 dancers and 4 musicians).  The pilot study used a qualitative research approach and interviewed performers to find out their thoughts and views on performance enhancement.  By gaining an insight into what we know about performance enhancement from the individual dance artist’s point of view, it is hoped educators can provided an informed approach to enhancing an individual’s artistic practice.


My findings from the pilot study reveal three factors that need to be considered when seeking to understand the idea of performance enhancement in an artistic setting.



Other findings of interest 

The views of performers can be separated into two groups: (1) those who do not use the term and associate it to external factors (i.e clothing and stage lighting) rather than the performance itself, (2) those who perceive it to be a set of strategies that can be applied to help enhance a performance (i.e warming-up or mental preparation). 

The views of performers imply that performance enhancement is about human excellence, achieved through the attributes they have as individuals rather than sole changes in the preparation and/or enhancement of training.



What can I do?


When using the term performance enhancement in your teaching, consider whether your understanding is the same when applied to the ‘performer’ or a ‘performance’. Such consideration will provide you with an informed awareness as to what you are wanting to enhance and how you might go about achieving it.  

Give your students an opportunity to have a voice! In turn, this will generate a broader and more consistent use of the term and contribute to our understanding of the concept in an artistic setting more generally. 

Through your teaching consider whether you are delivering the principles of performance enhancement to your students, or the skills for your students to apply and then enhance their own practice (or perhaps both). This will help your students to differentiate between theory and practice and importantly, how such knowledge can be applied to what it is they do. 

Where next? 

Given the emphasis placed on delivering ideas relating to performance enhancement as part of a students’ training, it is crucial that we continue to give our students a voice and to understand more about performance enhancement from the individual dance artist.  As educators, we also need to place greater emphasis on considering what part the performer plays in the enhancement of their training and performance.  This is captured by one performer who shared with me: 

‘‘Performance enhancement is anything that allows you to develop, it can be physical, mental or psychological……. it doesn’t make you a better performer, but it gives you more access to being a better performer, it’s about enhancing who you are and what it is you do’’. 

Useful references 

Hays, K.F. The Enhancement of Performance Excellence Among Performing Artists. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. 2002; 14, 299-312. 

Krasnow, D.H., Chatfield, S.J. Dance Science and the Dance Technique Class. Impulse. 1996; 4, 162-172.

Orlick, T. (2007). In Pursuit of Excellence. Champaign, Illinois, USA: Human Kinetics. 

Gemma Harman, PhD Candidate, MSc, FHEA is Senior Lecturer in Dance and Acting Programme Leader BSc Dance Science at the University of Chichester. Gemma is also a lecturer at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and is an Academic Tutor at Bird College of Dance. 

Tags:  performance  teachers 

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What I Learned About Fueling My Dancing from Cross-Training

Posted By Stevie Oakes on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Friday, June 23, 2017

Preparing myself nutritionally for a long dance day has always been a little tricky. As a contemporary modern dancer, rehearsals alternately require endurance or short bursts of power (usually both, in my experience, throughout the course of the process); the “right” combination of preparing with solid meals before hand with adequate and healthy snack options while not feeling too full seemed elusive. And while my education and interest in wellbeing – plus lots of resources and publications from the IADMS team - gave me a starting off point for balanced meals, energetic needs, and nutritional considerations, I found out the most from tuning in to sensation. Challenging myself physically and meeting those needs with good eating habits. And, by knowing what good fueling for me FELT like after applying the evidence-based information I was able to continue to commit to a viable and sustainable balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) for energy along with good hydration and a plethora of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). No surprise that I might learn bigger lessons from listening to my body, but I’m so glad that I did! Good fueling feels good.


I started running over the summer – I had dabbled before, cautious to avoid pushing too hard, but decided that I could prove to myself that a step-wise, science-based training protocol could prepare me for a half marathon. While various organizations that facilitate races have a variety of resources and tools like the Nike + Run Club App certainly helped me track my training, a reliable resource like Runner’s World can help anyone pick the right training program. (I’m sure I should also acknowledge that Western concert dance professionals often demonstrate an interest in more extreme athletic feats…a need to which I am not immune.) I planned my approach around a calendar that also overlapped mindfully with the beginning of my semester – I would be returning back to dancing, teaching and rehearsing while continuing to train. The challenge was not – as I’d anticipated – the time management, or even the additional musculoskeletal impact (actually, I couldn’t have imagined the kind of power and strength increases I noticed in my dancing…but that’s for another day). Nope. What really required my full attention was my FUELING.  In order to maintain even the beginnings of my training regimen, I had to learn much more about macronutrient intake for energy balance, the timing of my eating, and better hydration strategies. The IADMS Nutrition Resource Paper was a perfect place for me to start!

The energy demands of this aerobic training were all new – as a dancer, most of my physical activity takes place in shorter bursts and so my body may rely on anaerobic pathways – think intervals, which require a different kind of energy production in the muscle cells – with muscular endurance rather than full-bodied, increased heart rate, sweaty, long lasting workouts. I’ve enjoyed reading the newly published book Dancer Wellness, by Wilmerding, Krasnow, and the IADMS team to refresh and revise my understanding of overall healthy dance practice. The challenges were foreign with respect to the elements of Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type (FITT Principle). For more details on how changing up your exercise plan with these factors in mind, be sure to check out the IADMS Dance Fitness Resource Paper and a few other references at the end of this post! Not only did I need more overall calories to fuel the increased energy expenditure, but I immediately discovered that the kind of calories really mattered in order to FEEL my best. I knew that. At least from a textbook, studied perspective. But, I am ultimately a kinesthetic learner…an experiential learner. I understand the world most by feeling and sensing in my own body. And so I quickly noticed that the integration of a revised balance of carbohydrates and fats to support the running made the increasing mileage possible. Whole wheat pasta dinners topped with a mix of brightly colored vegetables and a bit of mozzarella cheese made for an awesome night-before meal.





Fruit smoothies laced with spinach and a touch of almond butter were life-saving morning rituals to prepare me for longer runs. For more ideas and meal-planning brainstorms, I often consulted Livestrong. Without these foods – these combinations of nutrient dense, minimally processed fuels – my body simply didn’t feel fully capable of continuing through my run and the rest of my active day. The easily accessed sugars in fruits and veggies gave me energy quickly to start (and maintain my blood sugar); then my body could rely on the complex carbohydrates (CHO) found in the almond butter to hang tough for availability throughout the workout, stored away efficiently in my muscles and liver. Predominantly unsaturated fat, -  again, from almond butter in the shakes or avocado on my toast -  added a healthy energy source that allows access to aerobic pathways and fat-burning in the body for additional fuel. Protein sources were also crucial. While the CHO and fatty acids predominantly supported my aerobic energetic needs, I was also building and repairing muscle (despite my belief that my legs were already maximally mighty and sculpted from dance, running gave me a new kind of power!). I had to be sure that my proteins were high quality – chalk full of each of the essential amino acids (the ones the human body cannot self-produce) while also serving as an energy resource as I continued to train with higher mileage. The notion of a balanced plate was tricky to master each time, but critical to my success.

During my pre-running dancing days, I had not yet encountered this kind of consistent endurance challenge. I ate well enough – I’d read and studied and practiced healthy eating – but truly FEELING this need for more energy was something new, and GIVING my body what it needed also felt more magical than I could have expected! In addition to noting the need for consistently thoughtful food choices, I had to keep up with my eating. While historically I may have been a bit more lax about attending to every meal and snack – now it wasn’t an option. I felt the effects of a big gap in fueling. I believed – I’d read – that replenishing my body with carbohydrates to build muscle glycogen (energy stores) as essential and could be maximized if I ate within a three-hour window after my workout. For more information on nutrient timing for optimal recovery, this article aimed at runners is totally user-friendly.  I also understood, scientifically, why the immediate availability of some carbohydrates in my system to jumpstart my workout was just as critical as ensuring digestion time so that blood flow could be directed appropriately and I didn’t have to navigate an overly ‘full’ sensation. But now, I felt the difference in my training and subsequently my dancing when I made sure to spread out my eating throughout the day. I noticed that a quinoa salad with roasted sweet potatoes and kale was a perfect replenishing lunch. 





Or avocado toast with some honey and feta cheese could provide an ideal pick-me-up after any activity – a yoga class, a rehearsal, or teaching a technique class. Trail mix was a staple in my bag at all times for quick bites of nuts and dried fruit (and maybe even a dark chocolate morsel or two). 





Another key element of my fueling and care-taking: hydration. I thought I would simply develop more thirst as I needed it…and I would drink enough water to match. 





But I learned to be mindful of the sensations before I got behind. The National Association for Athletic Trainers has a great position paper that discusses the scientifically supported do’s and don’t’s of hydration for athletes. Water to start my day (along with a cup of coffee, because I just love it) and spread carefully throughout my workouts, no longer tied to how sweaty and slippery I felt. BUT, I also noted the difference in how I felt – more energized, clear-headed, and ready – when I kept drinking fluids into the rest of my day to help regulate my metabolism and rehydration. While this could, in itself, be a whole discussion, I also noticed what worked best for me varied a bit from day to day. I had to check in. To keep track of how I was feeling and assess whether hydration status might be playing an important role in continuing on with my daily plan and my training.

What is most exciting about this sort of nutritious and energizing personal revolution, however, is that as I move in and out of running as a cross-training mechanism, I am able to continue to FEEL what my body needs. And, while I often still refer to the IADMS Nutrition Resource Paper for reminders, I now have the memories of satiation and power that came from balanced, well-timed eating habits and I am able to return to that healthy motivation to fuel my daily activities in dance and in teaching. It isn’t always perfect, and I am aware of the micro-adjustments I need to remain in dynamic alignment with my energy and nutrient requirements. But, to be able to return to a physical sensation as a mover, grounded in my body’s knowledge, I’m happy to know that the science can also be experienced, felt.


Stevie Oakes is an Assistant Professor of Dance at the College at Brockport, SUNY near Rochester, New York. With an MFA in Dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Stevie continues to perform professionally for a variety of New York-based choreographers. As a member of the team at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, Stevie had the distinct privilege of honing her expertise in dance science. She blends these two passions of art and science in her teaching, paying specific attention to the application of research in the dance studio. 

A few additional resources and links – 

FITT Principle in Training:

Cross-training design help:

More Meal-Planning Brainstorms:

Tags:  cross-training  nutrition 

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5 Research Insights on Technique Proficiency for Busy Dance Teachers

Posted By Clara Fischer Gam on behalf of the IADMS Promotion Committee, Monday, May 22, 2017

Dance teaching is a daily challenge. Being in the studio for long working hours, preparing different classes for the term and dealing with the individualities within a group of students are some of the struggles and joys of the teaching practice. As we work against the clock with dancers to keep up with the timetable and achieve aesthetic quality and mastery of technique, the time for reflecting upon experience and investigating new pathways for student learning becomes scarce.




How can we keep an exploratory process alive whilst still being time-efficient to meet the demands of the curriculum and nourish dancers’ development of artistry? 


Over the years, the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science (IADMS) community has developed a comprehensive collection of resources for informing and inspiring your teaching practice. Accessing our resources, you will discover content specially designed for dance teachers that bring exciting research findings into the studio context. At this post, you will find a brief preview of 5 selected resources that bring evidence-based insights to support your teaching practice. Just click on each title below and it will take you to the full text. Always remember that IADMS website provides a vast number of resource papers ( and bulletins for dancers and teachers ( that you can access at any given time!


 1-      Body alignment, jumping and barre work:

 Can we keep upright alignment throughout the entire dance sequence? Do deeper pliés elicit higher elevations? Does barre work prepare the body for center work? …. Recognise underlying concepts of these key elements of dance skill and teaching cues that can facilitate student learning.


 2-      Energy storing and timing of dance movement:

 What is the role of the gesture leg during a fouetté turn sequence? Does winding up with the arms affect a pirouette? Understand how the forces work during particular dance movements and important things to spot when your dancers are struggling to learn them.


 3-      Balance in dance:

 When teaching novice dancers, to what extent does demanding perfect placement of the body help learning balance strategies? Explore postural control and automatic balance mechanisms and how to make the most of these processes for student growth and development of artistry.


 4-      Dance technique steps:

 During class, when is the best time for performing grand plié sequences? Whilst keeping the gesture leg in balance, are we really holding it from the core? Does the upper body contribute to take-off and lading from jumps? Identify the mechanical principles of some the main steps of dance technique and how to apply them to your studio practice.


 5-       Lateral preferences in dance:

 Could having a dominant gesture leg impact performance? Discover what to consider regarding student’s preference for learning and performing in one side of the body and what can you do to foster your dancers’ potential. 




In order to face the challenges of a dance teaching career, it can be of great worth to save a bit of time to investigate evidence-based information that relates to your studio practice as to keep building up the blocks for student’s mastery. Remember that you have got full support from IADMS public access resources throughout the process!


Keep investigating your teaching practice by exploring other core topics in dance at IADMS resource papers and bulletins for dancers and teachers, enjoy!


Clara Fischer Gam, MS (

MSc Dance Science | BEd Dance Education

Certified Functional Strength Coach

Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

Dance Science Brasil Group

Corpos Aptos, Gestos Livres Project

Tags:  dancers  resource papers  teachers  technique 

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5 Questions With…K. Michael Rowley

Posted By IADMS Student Committee, Monday, May 8, 2017

This month’s featured member is K. Michael Rowley of the University of Southern California. Michael is a PhD candidate working in the Jacquelin Perry Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab in the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy studying recurrent pain. His areas of interest include postural control, cognitive contributions to posture, dance injury prevention and recurrent low back pain.

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

Since grade school, I’ve been interested in the human body, biology, and movement. Separate from that, I pursued dance as a hobby in high school and minored in it at the University of Delaware (UD). It was there that Dr. Lynette Overby, a faculty member in the Dance Minor Program at UD, introduced me to the intersection of my two interests – dance and science. She recommended I look into IADMS, and I attended my first conference that year in Washington, D.C., USA. Dance is such a fruitful and rich field in which to observe, practice, and study concepts of human movement.

Pictured: Michael Rowley, Jeff Grimaldo, and Anne Grimaldo
of the Rudy Perez Ensemble in Santa Monica, CA.
Photo by Ben Licera.

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

In the Jacquelin Perry Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Research Lab, working under my advisor Dr. Kulig, we study problems of recurrent pain. One specific group of patients we investigate are dancers with flexor hallucis longus tendinopathy, a condition sometimes called “dancer’s tendinitis”. We test different modifications to relevé exercises as potential prevention or non-surgical treatment interventions. This research was funded by the American Physical Therapy Association Orthopaedic Section's Performing Arts Special Interest Group. Another population we study is persons suffering from recurrent low back pain. We investigate different mechanisms that may contribute to altered postural control in these persons even during periods of pain remission.

-What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to pursue a post-doc in order to expand my research knowledge and skills. After that, I’ll begin looking for a faculty position at a university where I can work closely with both a kinesiology or biomechanics department and a dance program. It’s a passion of mine to keep these two areas communicating and connecting so we can (a) learn how to improve dancer health and performance, (b) investigate general principles of movement and motor control by studying dancers, and (c) develop dance-like interventions for other populations and patient groups.

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


 Pittsburgh was my favorite annual meeting. Being my fourth meeting, professionals began recognizing me, saying hello, and asking about my work. It was very cool to start feeling part of the community. Also, my sister was in her senior year at the University of Pittsburgh studying Athletic Training. She also attended the meeting to learn about how to better treat dancers. We had so much fun being in a professional setting and learning together! I am very grateful for this experience that I know most siblings with diverse interests do not get to share. My sister, Whitney, has since graduated and is now an Athletic Trainer employed by UPMC and working with the dance students at Point Park University – using knowledge she gained from the IADMS meeting on a pretty-much-daily basis. We still chat often about what she’s learning while helping these dancers perform at their best and prevent and recover from injury.


Pictured: Michael Rowley and Whitney Rowley at IADMS2015 in Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

-In which ways has IADMS helped you grow in your field of study and what would you say to a student thinking of joining IADMS?


 IADMS has provided invaluable networking opportunities. Some of these have already begun paying off as we at USC have been able to collaborate with other dance science and health researchers in the area and internationally. As we’ve moved forward on our tendinopathy research, I’ve reached out to IADMS experts for help and advice from something as simple as “How do you quantify and define dance volume/exposure on your questionnaires?” to something as cool as being able to send ultrasound images and videos of the flexor hallucis longus tendon to international foot and ankle surgeons and experts to discuss potential abnormalities in the images. Other networking benefits I’m sure will continue to pay off as I look for post-doc and faculty positions. Not to mention simply how fun and friendly most of the dance medicine and science community is.


 If you’re interested, give it an honest shot. I think it’s easy to join for one year and attend the annual meeting when it’s near you. While that’s a great start and I’m sure you will benefit immensely from attending, to get the most out of IADMS it takes a commitment to the community. After two or three years attending and networking, you will start to see the community giving back. After the meeting, reach out to speakers and professionals you learned something from – introduce yourself, share your interests and goals, and thank them for the work they do. Pretty quickly, you’ll be able to express for yourself the benefits of being a part of the international dance medicine and science community.


Pictured: Michael Rowley and Pamela Oppenheimer.
Photo by Dan Dunlap.


If you’d like to share your experiences, email us at



Tags:  5 Questions With  students 

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Ipswich IADMS Regional Meeting: A Healthier Dancer Day on The Adolescent Dancer

Posted By DanceEast in partnership with One Dance UK, Monday, May 1, 2017

 Are you a dance educator, private school dance teacher, community artist, a parent, or involved in dance teaching and learning of children and young people?
 If so, then this day-long IADMS Regional Meeting is exactly for you!


 A blend of practical and discursive workshops, as well as keynote presentations, this day draws from the most recent research and practice in dance medicine and science to offer up-to-date information on the physiology and psychology of working with children and young people in an applied dance learning context.
 Workshops include: Working with Adolescent Dancers: The Physiology and Psychology of Children and Young People, Pointe work readiness Resilience and Mental Health, Supporting the Adolescent Dancer Growing up as a dancer and The Role of the Dance Teacher.
 Dance teachers will be able to claim continuing professional development hours for their portfolio.
 The schedule of the day, including key note speakers can be found here.
Friday 26th May 2017
10am – 6pm 
Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich
£80, £65 concessions
To book, call DanceEast Box Office on 01473 295230 or visit


Tags:  dancers  regional meeting  UK 

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The Importance of Vitamin D for Dancers

Posted By Derrick D. Brown on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vitamin D has received a great deal of attention in the last 5 years both in popular media and in dance medicine and science research, and with good reason. While much emphasis is placed on its role in bone health, a key question revealed from the research is whether it also can provide other benefits for pre- and professional dancers.  The purpose of the post is to highlight some of the research done on dancers and discuss why it might be important to keep an eye on your Vitamin D levels.


 We could say, that ‘if vitamins had a prima ballerina assoluta , Vitamin D (Vit-D) would almost certainly receive that rare and prestigious honour. Such a unique status usually reveals a high level of complexity, which fully describes this vitamin, as D appears to be one of the few organic substances that the human body processes both via our food and from the sun. Two major forms you might have heard of, are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3.  Both D2 and D3 are found in dietary supplements and fortified foods. While there are differences, they do not greatly influence metabolism or activation in the body. You might have seen many confusing letters/ numbers combinations that describe Vit-D. The table below offers an overview of the many ways in which Vit-D is characterized in popular and health-based media.



Vit-D exerts considerable influence on the metabolism of micronutrients calcium and phosphorus, as well as key bodily organs: intestine, bone, and kidney.  The image below provides a schematic of Vit-D metabolism as it occurs naturally due to sun exposure. Oral forms of  Vit-D follow similar metabolic pathways through organs.


Fig.1 Metabolism processes of Vitamin D

© Designua |


 As mentioned above, thanks to the photochemical processes from ultraviolet B (UVB) light, our bodies can produce significant levels of Vit-D from the sun. As with most rules there is an exception. The amount of D3 that your body can convert from UVB depends on your skin pigment. So naturally dark-skinned individuals may block UV light and prevent D3 synthesis. Geography also plays a role; more Northern countries, including, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany, receive less sunlight than, say, Mexico. Sunscreen, once considered a ‘must’ is now cautioned for some; and should be used after sufficient time in the sun to allow for Vit-D synthesis, but not at the risk of sunburn (see practical recommendations below).


© Hanna Monika Cybulko,


 Vitamin D and Dancing

Wolman et al (2013) studied a group of 19 UK based elite classical ballet dancers over a six month period for vitamin D levels.  During the winter, all 19 dancers were either insufficient or deficient, and even in the summer months only three dancers had normal levels of the vitamin.  Similarly, Dulcher and colleagues (2011) found similar results and whilst such small cohorts are not generalisable, they do provide a glimpse of the challenges that young dancers may face. Notable in both studies are the similar findings made across genders and, importantly, in different geographic locations. A possible reason for Vitamin D deficiency in young dancers, is that while studying at pre-professional academies most dancers spend considerable time in the dance studio, upwards of 5-6 hours a day, and so receive little exposure to sunlight, particularly in the northern latitudes during winter months.


 Vitamin D and diet.

Even with the complexity of skin type, geography and adequate healthy exposure to the sun (see practical recommendations below), we can also receive some of our D from the diet. Those who opt for an omnivore diet that is well balanced should have no trouble with additional Vitamin D sources from some dairy products, fatty fish and egg yolks, as well as fortified foods. However, vegans and vegetarians might need to work a bit harder to find significant dietary Vit-D. Larsson and Johansson, (2002) in a comparative study which assessed the dietary intake and nutritional status of young Swedish vegans and omnivores. All youths had dietary intakes lower than average of Vit-D with female vegans particular low even with Vit-D production via skin exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Similar results have been seen in Danish (Kristensen, 2015) and Finnish vegans. Together with the aforementioned studies on vegetarians and vegans from Nordic countries, it is reasonable to presume that some vegan dancers may also have low levels of this nutrient.  Vegetarians and vegans can find many products fortified with Vit-D. Many alternatives to milk (oat, almond, rice) are now fortified with Vit-D.  Even certain mushrooms (Portabella and Cremini) are exposed to large doses of UVB during growth increasing Vit-D levels dramatically, although due to the complex process mentioned above don’t expect to receive adequate amounts of usable (bioavailable) D by eating multiple servings of mushroom ragout!


 Supplementing Vitamin D

Given much that was mentioned, one might conclude that the easy route would simply be to take a supplement. But before you run out, buy up and start popping Vit-D, it is important to caution that for athletes (dancers being a type of athlete) there may be complications. Multiple studies suggest that taking more than 5,000 IU (125mcg)/day could actually negatively impact your performance. And then quality of supplements is equally important so that no undue toxins from inferior supplements are ingested. If extremely low levels are suspected, seek the advice of a suitable medical professional/ clinical dietician who can assess serum (blood) Vitamin D levels and discuss if supplementation is right for your individual needs. A more comprehensive overview of the process and interactions can be found in the newly published book Dancer Wellness or via the nutrition resource paper, both under the auspices of IADMS.



Further Resources


 Brown DD, Challis J.  Optimal  Nutrition for Dancers. In: Wilmerding V, Krasnow D, eds. Dancer Wellness. 1st ed.; 2017:163-191.


 Challis J, Stevens A, Wilson MA. IADMS Nutrition Resource Paper 2016. 2016:1-36.


 Ducher G, Kukuljan S, Hill B, et al. Vitamin D status and musculoskeletal health in adolescent male ballet dancers a pilot study. J Dance Med Sci. 2011;15(3):99-107.


 Kristensen NB, Madsen ML, Hansen TH, et al. Intake of macro- and micronutrients in Danish vegans. Nutrition Journal. 2015;14(1):1-10.


 Larsson CL, Johansson GK. Dietary intake and nutritional status of young vegans and omnivores in Sweden. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76(1):100-106.


 Wolman R, Wyon MA, Koutedakis Y, Nevill AM, Eastell R, Allen N. Vitamin D status in professional ballet dancers: winter vs. summer. J Sci Med Sport. 2013;16(5):388-391.         



 Derrick D. Brown is Programme Manager and Lecturer at Bern University Masters of Advance Studies in Dance Science, Bern Switzerland. Associate researcher/ lecturer at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts , Arnhem, The Netherlands. He is also a Doctoral candidate in neurocognition and motor control at Donders Institute for Brain Cognition and Behaviour; Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. 




Tags:  dancers  health  nutrition  sun  teachers 

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