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Measuring a Pirouette: Tackling the challenge of quantifying dance

Posted By Catherine Haber on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Pirouettes are incredibly challenging for dancers to perform, but also for scientists to study! As we heard from January’s post, physical principles – such as torque, force couples, angular acceleration, and conservation of angular momentum – can help us gain better insights into performance. However, beyond these principles, there are a multitude of crucial elements that go into the performance of a pirouette. The dancer must balance in a proper passé position, reach a high relevé on the supporting foot, hold the arms in first, engage the core, spot his head, and many more! With all these components to coordinate, what should the dancer focus on, and what should the scientist measure?

 

With a double Bachelors in Dance and Physics, I was thrilled to begin working as a research assistant during my Graduate studies to Dr. Andrea Schaerli, in her research of the influence of spotting on postural stability in the ballet rotations of pirouettes and fouettés. We recorded dancers in motion capture labs performing rotations, and I was eager to direct my knowledge in physics to my passion of dance. I calculated everything from the displacement of the supporting foot, the trajectory of the center of mass (COM), the velocity of the head spotting, the separation of the head, trunk, and pelvis coordination, and many more variables that triggered my interest. However, it quickly became overwhelming when I realized the magnitude of possibilities for analysis. The question became not only what should we measure, but also – at the end of the day – what measure is the most relevant and applicable to the dance population? How can we as researchers find meaningful outcome measures that most closely capture the dancer’s experience of performance?

 

In a day and age of great technological advances, movement can be measured in many ways - from 2D video analysis to 3D motion capture, force platforms and electromyography (EMG) measures of muscle activation, and even the direction of eye movements. Yet dance inherently relies on experiential and aesthetic variable that can be challenging to quantify. Studying dance thus calls for the creation and validation of dance-specific measures. Therefore, we performed two small studies to integrate dancers’ impressions of performance into our analysis.

 

The first of these two studies was a pilot study that aimed to validate a balance measure that best predicts the performance of pirouettes. To this end, eight intermediate dancers performed many pirouettes in our movement lab and rated their performance after each turn, while the researcher independently did the same. Followingly, we correlated the most predominantly used measures of pirouette performance in dance science research with the dancers’ and researcher’s impression of the turn.

 

Here, it was found that the dancers’ performance was highly correlated with the angular deviation of the pelvis center from vertical – that is, how far off the center of the pelvis is from the vertical line drawn up from the supporting toe. This follows previous findings of smaller angular deviations between the center of mass (COM) and a vertical line from the base of support (here, approximated at the supporting toe) during successful pirouettes. In our study, the dancers gave their turns higher performance ratings when their pelvis – rather than the COM – was closer to this vertical line. This was an interesting finding for two reasons. From a research perspective, the deviation of the pelvis was highly correlated to the deviation of the COM (with this ‘true center’ actually residing within the pelvis of these female dancers during the pirouette). This means that researchers could use the pelvis center as an economical approximation for the tediously calculated COM during pirouettes. From the perspective of the dancer, while it may be challenging to have a clear understanding of your ‘true center’ throughout dynamic movements, being in tune to where your pelvis is can be a good starting point for pirouettes.

 

A second interesting finding was that from the observers’ perspective, performance was best associated with the instantaneous axis of rotation – that is, the deviation of the best-fit line through the head, torso, and supporting leg, from vertical. The observer perceived better turns based on this holistic impression of verticality. Therefore, this pilot validated additional measures of pirouette performance that best represented the impression of the dancer and the observer.

 

In a second effort to incorporate dancers’ opinions into research, we performed a Delphi Method survey to gather expert opinions on the characteristics and uses of spotting. While many measures have been used to describe balance in pirouettes, little research has been done on spotting itself. Therefore, we asked professional ballet dancers, professional ballet teachers, and dance scientists to participate in a Delphi Method survey, bringing together expert opinions over iterative rounds to generate ideas and to evaluate levels of consensus. After three rounds of first brainstorming ideas, then rating agreement on the group’s ideas, and finally ranking the most important ideas, the consensus of the group was actually quite low in defining the most important characteristics and uses of spotting. However, a novel variety of topics were proposed. Building on the traditional suggestions of spotting for balance and reduction of dizziness, spotting was suggested to have further functionality for orientation, rhythm, and particularly in multiple turns.

 

The value of integrated expert opinions was quite apparent when it came to aspects of rhythm. When splitting the group into dance practitioners (teachers and dancers) and dance scientists, it appeared that the practitioners had a great affinity for topics relating to rhythm. In contrast, dance scientists tended to rank these topics relating to rhythm very low. This survey was thus able to bring new perspectives to the understanding of spotting that can serve as meaningful hypotheses for future movement-based research. As such, we performed a study last fall capturing professional dancers performing the multiple rotations of fouetté and a la secondé turns to examine exactly these proposed functionalities of spotting.

 

 

Analyzing dance from a scientific perspective can be a challenging feat. However, we must not forget why we are motivated to do such research: to help improve dancers’ performance! Particularly from the perspective of movement analysis where one can become fixated on degrees of difference or centimeters in jump height, the perception of the dancer must not be lost. Dance is an interdisciplinary, physical system yet to be fully analyzed. With collaborative efforts of the community of practitioners and researchers, we can determine comprehensive, dance-specific measures and methodologies to benefit the well-being and training of dancers.

 

Catherine Haber is a Graduate student, currently finishing a MAS in Dance Science and a MSc in Sport Science Research, and a research assistant to Dr. Andrea Schaerli at the Institute of Sport Science at the University of Bern, Switzerland.

Tags:  dancers  pirouette  research  turn 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

*****

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

Tags:  ankle  dancers  heels  knee  research 

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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. 

 

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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

 

 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.

 

Benefits

 

          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.


 

References

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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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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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 (http://www.iadms.org/?page=186) and bulletins for dancers and teachers (http://www.iadms.org/?page=243) 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 (clarafischergam.com)

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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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 www.danceeast.co.uk

 

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 | Dreamstime.com

 

 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, Dreamstime.com

 

 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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Not “IF” but “WHEN”: Rehearsing for medical emergencies in dance

Posted By Carina M. Nasrallah, MSAT, ATC, CISSN, Thursday, April 13, 2017

He was only 18 years old - healthy, strong and a beautiful performer. It was just a typical day of class and rehearsals. Everything seemed normal.  No one knew that he had a congenital heart condition that would cause his heart to stop unexpectedly in the middle of rehearsal.  He simply collapsed.

 

 

Catastrophic injuries and life-threatening medical emergencies are not common in the dance studio or theater.  Ankle sprains, bruised toenails and sore backs are more the “bread and butter” of dancers’ woes, and as a result it is easy to develop a false sense of security - the mentality that “it would never happen to us”.  But it is critical to remember that dancers are elite athletes and not immune to catastrophic injury.  Therefore, having a plan for handling emergency situations is not a recommendation - it is necessity.

 

What is an emergency action plan (EAP)?

An emergency action plan (EAP) is a written document that outlines how medical emergencies will be managed within a dance institution or performance venue.  The plan should be clear, comprehensive, and adaptable to a variety of scenarios.  Many facilities may already have a barebones EAP - a paragraph or two discussing what to do in the case of fire, flood, medical emergency, etc.  But a detailed and comprehensive EAP should read more like the choreography notes for a Balanchine ballet.  The reader should be able to visualize how the scene would unfold, which characters will emerge from the wings, the sequence of steps, and the location of props.

 

 

 

Who should be involved?

In the case of an emergency roles need to be delegated and the parties should know their responsibilities in advance. Instructors, staff, administrators, any on-site or off-site medical personnel (i.e. athletic trainers, physical therapists, attending physicians), and the local EMS team should be familiar with the venue-specific EAP.  The plan should answer the following: Who will call EMS? Perform the initial evaluation? Retrieve the emergency contact card? Fetch emergency equipment? Escort EMS into the facility? Keep in mind qualifications, location, and availability. When working with minors a staff member needs to be designated to accompany the child to the emergency department and/or make treatment decisions if a guardian is not present.  A list of key administrative and medical personnel along with contact information should be included in the EAP. Clear lines of communication should be established along with any special instructions (i.e. dialing “9” first from a landline, information to given to EMS, name/address of the receiving emergency facility, etc).

 

 

Plan, prepare, and plot it out

Often a qualified medical professional may not be available to perform the initial evaluation in a medical emergency.  Therefore the EAP should outline scenarios in which EMS needs to be activated and when it is unsafe to move an injured dancer depending on level of consciousness, type and location of injury, etc. A healthcare professional trained in emergency care services should assist with developing these guidelines using easily understood language and terminology.  Additionally all instructors and staff should be trained in automatic external defibrillation (AED) use, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and first aid. Emergency contact cards for each dancer should always include a “consent to treat” signed by the dancer or parent/guardian (if a minor).

  

 

Locating and setting up emergency equipment can cost precious minutes in situations when seconds can mean the difference of life or death.  Automated external defibrillators are a life-saving investment that all companies and studios should consider making.  They can be easily mounted on a wall in a studio or carried on tour without even requiring a “per diem”! The EAP should include a detailed description of the location of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and first aid kits. Someone not familiar with the facility’s layout should be able to locate any emergency equipment by following the EAP.  Similarly, the plan should establish an entry and route for emergency care personnel to approach the venue and access the injured person quickly. Floor plans or diagrams may be beneficial for clearly designating routes and locations of emergency equipment. These should be specific to each venue.

 

The performance should never be a rehearsal

As any dance patron knows, seeing a show that has never been rehearsed is not worth paying for.  Similarly, implementing the action plan in an emergency situation should never be the first time it is rehearsed.  This only invites disaster. An EAP should be reviewed and revised as needed at least once a year with staff, administrators, and medical personnel.  Practicing scenarios to drill the EAP is the best way to reinforce the action steps. Then when the unthinkable happens and the adrenaline kicks in chaos does not ensue. A well-designed and rehearsed EAP will reduce time-costly errors and ensures that communication and order are maintained in an emergency situation.  Being unprepared could cost everything.

 

So returning to the young dancer above - what was the end of his story?
That is for you to determine. What is your plan?

 

 

 

Additional Resources

1. Andersen J, Courson RW, Kleiner DM, McLoda TA. National Athletic Trainers' Association Position Statement: Emergency Planning in Athletics. J Athl Train. 2002 Mar;37(1):99-104. PubMed PMID: 12937447; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC164314.

 

2. Emergency action plan (template). National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health. October 2003.

 

3. Casa DJ, Guskiewicz KM, Anderson SA, Courson RW, Heck JF, Jimenez CC, McDermott BP,
Miller MG, Stearns RL, Swartz EE, Walsh KM. National Athletic Trainers' Association Position Statement:
Preventing Sudden Death in Sports.
 J Athl Train 2012Jan-Feb 47(1):96-118.

 

4. Gates R. Be Prepared for Disaster. Occupational Health & Safety. May 

Tags:  dancers  emergency  injury  teachers 

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Are You Warm Enough to Start Dancing?

Posted By Brenton Surgenor and Andrea Kozai on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Monday, April 3, 2017

 

Warming up is essential before taking part in any type of dance activity, but it’s not always clear how to warm up effectively.  This blog post sets out the what, why and some of the how-to’s of an effective dance-specific warm-up.  This prefaces our new, upcoming Resource Paper on effective warm-up for dancers, which has much more information and advice on how to prepare the body for dancing.

 

Firstly, an effective warm-up will prepare you (or your dancers) mentally and physically to meet the challenges and physical requirements of a class, rehearsal, or performance.  As the name suggests, a warm-up should increase your core body temperature, which prepares your muscles and joints to function effectively during dancing as well as reduces injury risk.

 

During the warm-up there is an increase in the amount of energy required by your working muscles.  This means your body needs to consume more oxygen and fuel (glucose) to generate energy to power your muscles.  A byproduct of all this extra energy production is the increase in body temperature that gives the warm-up its name, so the cardiovascular section of a warm up is vital in ensuring your body is ready to go.  Therefore, sitting in the sun enjoying a hot coffee will not have the same benefits as a physical warm-up, as a warm-up ensures that your cardiovascular system, breathing rate, and energy-producing systems gradually increase to meet the higher demand for energy when you begin dancing.

 

A warm-up will have a number of other beneficial effects. These include: increasing the flow of synovial fluid (the lubricant in the joints), which allow your bones to slide more freely; improving the elasticity of your muscles, joints and ligaments for increased range of movement; and increasing the speed that signals travel through your nerves, which improves your overall balance, coordination and proprioception (your body’s ability to understand its orientation). For more information about proprioception see IADMS Resource Paper “Proprioception”. 

 

 

Whilst it’s good to include some stretching as part of your warm-up, not all types of stretching are beneficial before dancing.  The role of stretching during a warm-up is to mobilize muscles and prepare them safely to carry out the range of motion required of dance activities, not to increase flexibility. Stretching should happen after the activation of the cardiovascular system and when core body temperature is raised.  Dynamic stretching (taking the joint through a full range of motion in a slow and controlled way) is the best form of stretching in a warm-up.  This is because research suggests static stretching (stretches held in one position for longer than 15 seconds) can have a negative effect on balance, proprioception (knowing where your body is in space) and the muscles’ ability to produce powerful quick movements like jumps (Morrin and Redding, 2013). While static stretching can be an important part of flexibility training it is not an appropriate method of warming up; on the contrary, the purpose of dynamic stretching is to ready the body for full range, dynamic motion (Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson, 2015).  For more about stretching, see IADMS Resource Paper “Stretching for Dancers”.

 

 

Warming up your mind is just as important as warming up your body.  A good warm-up will give you an opportunity to check how you are feeling, to notice your posture and any unnecessary physical tension or pain.  It can also help you concentrate and focus, which should contribute to technically better dancing and reduced risk of injury (Laws, 2005; Malliou et al., 2007).

 

Although a thorough and effective warm-up should take about 20 minutes, the time required is dependent on a number of factors including, but not limited to: whether the dancer has participated in any physical activity that day (is it the first class of the day or has the dancer recently completed another class); how warm or cold the environment is; and how much space and time is available for the warm-up. This should include a general physiological warm-up that prepares the core body temperature for physical activity.  Importantly too, the warm-up should include specific activities that relate to the style of the dance to follow (Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson, 2015).

 

A warm-up generally consists of three or four sections: a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilizing section, a muscle lengthening section, and sometimes a second pulse-raising section (Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson, 2015). The pulse-raising sections aim to increase cardiorespiratory and metabolic rates; these are the prerequisite to all further activity. The joint mobilizing section consists of gently moving the various joints through their ranges of motion, and the purpose of the muscle lengthening section is to prepare the muscles for the demands to come through the use of dynamic stretching (Wilmerding and Krasnow, 2017). It is also appropriate to include remedial exercises for injury prevention purposes at the end of the warm-up (Volianitis et al, 2001), and mental skills and preparation can be included at any stage.

 

Remember the benefits of a warm-up will be reduced or even lost once the body returns to its resting states of heart rate, respiration, and body temperature, so try to keep the time between the end of the warm-up and the dancing a minimum. Warm clothing and continued movement (but not static stretching) will help keep the body’s core temperature elevated. However, this is dependent on what happens after the warm-up (does the dancer keep moving or do they sit down and rest) and environmental elements such the ambient temperature. Cooler temperatures and the lack of movement may cause the effects of the warm-up to dissipate more rapidly.

 

Unfortunately, there is no magic recipe for warming up and the most important thing to remember is that the warm-up should be specific to the type of dance activity to follow (in other words a ballet warm-up will be different from a jazz warm-up). However, with an understanding of a few basic principles, it should be safe and easy for you to design a warm-up that works for you. 

 

 

Here are some suggestions to help you design your perfect dance warm-up.

1.      Involve your mind and take a moment to center yourself.  Check in with how you are feeling; notice any areas where you need to give special attention. 

2.      Make your warm-up dance (and type of dance) specific.

3.      Introduce an activity to gradually increase your heart rate.

4.      Keep the movement simple to begin then progress to more complex and challenging movement patterns.

5.      Mobilize all the joints in your body and don’t forget about your spine and upper body, especially if your dance style includes upper-body weight bearing or/and partnering work.

6.      Give yourself a goal or try some positive self-talk.

7.      Use dynamic stretching and take your body carefully through full ranges of motion saving the static stretching for the cool-down or the end of the day.

8.      Wake up your nervous system by incorporating quick changes in direction and stopping to balance on one leg – this will engage your proprioceptors. 

9.      Once you are feeling warm and just a little bit sweaty, introduce some power movements like small jumps followed by some bigger ones.

10.  Towards the end of the warm-up, pick the pace and progress your movement to speeds nearer the pace of the following dance activity.

 

Whatever you choose to include, by the end of the warm-up you should feel ready to meet the mental and physical challenges of dancing. For more detailed information, check out the new IADMS resource paper on warming up for dancers.

 

 

For more information about warming up see the following resources.

1.      Harris J, Elbourn J. Warming up and cooling down. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2002.

2.      Laws, H., & Apps, J. (2005). Fit to Dance 2: Report of the second national Inquiry into dancers' health and injury in the UK. Dance UK.

3.      Malliou, P., Rokka, S., Beneka, A., Mavridis, G., & Godolias, G. (2007). Reducing risk of injury due to warm up and cool down in dance aerobic instructors. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, 20(1), 29-35.

4.      Morrin, N., & Redding, E. (2013). Acute effects of warm-up stretch protocols on balance, vertical jump height, and range of motion in dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 17(1), 34-40.

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

6.      Volianitis S, Koutedakis Y, Carson R. Warm Up: A Brief Review. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science 2001; 5(3): 75-79.

7.      Wilmerding MV, Krasnow DH (eds). Dancer Wellness. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2017.

 

 

Written by Brenton Surgenor (BPhEd, MA, MSc), Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and Andrea Kozai (MSc, CSCS), Virtuoso Fitness

Tags:  dancers  teachers  warmup  warm-up  wellness 

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