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Stability of the foot and ankle: the impact of daily habits on dance training

Posted By Nancy Romita and Allegra Romita on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Thursday, May 23, 2019

"The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art"
- a
ttributed to Leonardo Da Vinci

 

As you read this, freeze. Hold the position in which you currently find yourself. Do not adjust anything. Without judgment or shifting, notice the position of both feet. Does one foot have more weight on it than the other? Are both feet on the floor? Is there an even weight distribution? Is one foot or ankle a little more turned or rolled in or out? Are you sitting on one foot? Is a leg crossed and how does that affect the shape of foot and ankle?

 

 

There are 26 articulating bones in each foot to provide dynamic resilience. The ankle joint has a secure mortis and tendon configuration to generate stability during flexion and extension. The foot and ankle are elegantly designed to be stable enough to bear the weight of the body and resilient enough to navigate uneven ground, such as climbing rocks or walking through sand.

 

Stabilization of the ankle and foot is crucial for injury prevention and enhances the potential for efficiency in action. The foot and ankle provide the structural base of support for standing, walking, and dancing. 65% of dance injuries are related to habitual mis-stacking of the skeletal structure (Liederbach, 2018).  It stands to reason that conscientious awareness to distribute the load of the foot develops the foundation for the stacking the skeletal structure. Unconscious habits in standing, sitting, or how you hold your feet while driving a car can either support the stability needed for the rigors in dance training or it can insidiously compromise it.

 

Injuries to the ankle and foot comprise 50% of all injuries sustained in dance (Conti & Wong, 2001, p. 43). Strengthening the surrounding neuromuscular structures of the foot and ankle is vitally important, but all the wonderful work in technique class, cross training in the gym, working on a Bosu ball, or using Therabands are compromised if unconscious foot habits undermine these actions by rolling in (eversion) or rolling out (inversion).

 

 

One tool to let go of habitual stance is to consider an anatomical visualization to enhance the integrity of foot stance. The tripod of balance is depicted in the image below. The first point of this visualization is between the distal head of the first and second metatarsal. The second point is between the distal heads of the fourth and fifth metatarsal. The third point of reference is at the center of the calcaneus. The anatomical visualization of these skeletal landmarks can aid in moving out of habitual stance toward a balanced distribution of weight through the foot and ankle. The image provides a stable foundation for stacking the skeletal structure in static and dynamic balance. The three points are landmarks around which the muscles of the foot and ankle can navigate movement.

 


 

 

Try these self-explorations:

 

In the next few days, notice how your foot rests when sitting at a computer or while driving.  Is there a habit that relates to how your feet work while dancing?

 

The next time you find yourself between exercises at the barre or in teaching you are watching students move, notice your habit for the foot and ankle in standing.

 

Notice if your foot is sickled underneath the chair or you literally sit on one foot while reading or working at a computer. The toll on the lateral ligaments and tendons can create an imbalance and instability of that foot.

 

When you notice an imbalance, allow for a breath, release unnecessary tension in the feet, and visualize the weight evenly distributed through the tripod of balance.

 

In this approach of anatomical visualization through somatic practice, we invite you to consider balance, not as a station one arrives at, but rather as a way of traveling. Balance is not one position. It is a manner of being and shifts from moment to moment in lively response to the environment. 

 

 

Habits in sitting, standing, and driving can either support or adversely affect the structural stability of the ankle and foot. Dr. Kenneth K Hansraj has linked daily habits of how we hang the head down to look at cell phone and the impact on postural balance with the health of the cervical spine (Hasraj, 2014). Further research on the correlation between habit and ankle injuries in dancers is warranted to prevent insidious weakness in the structure of the ankle from affecting the risk of injury in dancers. Bringing mindfulness to habit, and visualizing a balanced foot stance is one strategy to move toward balance and stability and support both dancing and the actions of daily life.

 

 

 

Authors:

Nancy Romita (MFA, AmSAT, RYT), Senior lecturer Towson University, Director of Alexander Technique Mid Atlantic Teacher Training, and co-author of Functional Awareness Anatomy in Action for Dancers.

 

Allegra Romita (MA, CMA, RYT) is Dance Education faculty at NYU Steinhardt and currently pursuing a second graduate degree in motor learning and control at Teachers College, Columbia University, NYC. She is co-author of Functional Awareness Anatomy in Action for Dancers.

 

 

References

 

Hasraj, K. (2014). The assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head. Surgery Technology International. XXV, 25:277-9

 

 Conti, S. F., & Wong, Y. S. (2001). Foot and ankle injuries in the dancer. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science. 5.2: 43-50.

 

 Leiderbach M. (2018). Epidemiology of dance injuries: Biosocial considerations in the management of dancer health: Strategies for the prevention and care of injuries to dancers. American Physical Therapy Association Orthopedic Section Monograph, Independent Study Course 18.1-3, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Tags:  ankle  dancers  foot  teachers 

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Trait versus Process Correction and Praise

Posted By Dr. Kveton-Bohnert on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Every dance class includes correction. Teachers serve as talking mirrors. Without feedback, dancers cannot develop discernment of detail or learn to self-correct. However, teachers must realize that what they say and how they say it has a marked influence on the dancer’s self-beliefs that manifest as confidence or anxiety. Instructors must be mindful of their phraseology when giving correction and praise.

 

David Howard rehearsing Tamara Rojo Photo: Johan Persson (2007). ARENA PAL 1106552   

 

Do you believe traits are fixed or malleable? I hope you answered malleable; research demonstrates that traits can be diminished or developed.1 The term growth mindset refers to this precept. Teaching from a growth mindset is optimal because it leads to process rather than trait correction and praise.

 

Growth-oriented instructors offer constructive suggestions; their key word is “yet.” For example, “You don’t have your double pirouette yet, but try this.” Or “Your ankles have insufficient flexibility for pointe work yet, but these exercises may help.” This is a constructive way to offer correction because it offers a path toward incremental skill-mastery. Students in a process-oriented classroom will assimilate correction more readily and will gain greater resilience and confidence with less performance anxiety because their instructor expresses that growth and change are possible. Classwork focuses on how specific efforts yield specific results.

 

Conversely, fixed-trait commentary develops an always or never fixed mindset: “You never point your feet” or “You always fall out of your turns.” This is a nonproductive and destructive form of correction because such statements offer no path toward change or growth. The student feels powerless, criticized, anxious, and defeated. Fixed-trait beliefs lead to fatalistic views about challenge and heighten fears of failure.2, 4

 

Even compliments can be trait-based. “You are so talented,” “you are so smart,” or “you have such long legs” are trait-based praises to avoid! Certainly, we mean these as compliments. Nevertheless, trait-praise raises performance anxiety because the recipient cannot identify a specific process to sustain such traits. Consequently, acute fear can arise when a trait-label is challenged. One may not look at all ‘smart’ or ‘talented’ when trying something new; this threatens the label and the loss of approval from those who matter most.1, 2, 3, 4

 

Process praise reduces performance anxiety because it illuminates a path to achievement. For example, “I see that you focused on your épaulement; now your variation looks more expressive,” or “Now that you are really using your plié, your jumps are getting stronger and higher.” Process praise describes something that the student focused on and its perceivable result. From process praise, students learn to trust that their effort is noticed and that correction and application yield progress. This builds students’ confidence and willingness to face new challenges. Difficulty is not perceived as failure or a threat to a trait. The process-praised student learns that difficulties can be overcome incrementally through application of correction and sustained, directed effort. Thus, these students develop greater confidence, perseverance, and resilience. Focusing on process rather than personal traits when delivering correction and praise is essential for students’ wellbeing.

 

Lisa Kveton-Bohnert, PhD, dance educator, coach, researcher, licensed myofascial release practitioner

 

 

 

Additional Reading

 

 Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

 

 Molden, D. C. & Dweck, C. S. (2006). Finding “meaning” in psychology: A lay theories approach to self-regulation, social perception, and social development. American Psychologist, 61(3), 192-203.

 

 Blackwell, L. S., Trzensniewski, K., & Dweck, C. S. (2005). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University.

 

 Kamins, M. L, & Dweck, C. S. (1999). Person versus process praise and criticism: Implications for contingent self-worth and coping. Developmental Psychology, 35(3), 835-847.

 

 Dweck C. S. (2002) The development of ability conceptions. In A. Wigfield & Eccles (EDS.), The development of achievement motivation (pp. 57-83). New York, NY: Academic Press.

 

 Gunderson, E. A. Gripshover, S. J., Romero, C., Dweck, C. S., Glodin-Meadow, S., & Levine, S. C. (2013). Parent praise to 1-3-year-olds predicts children’s motivational frameworks 5 years later. Child Development, 84(5). 1526-1541. Doi: 10.1111/cdev.12064

 

 Kveton-Bohnert, L. A., (2007). The voices of classical ballet dancers: Alleviating maladaptive perfectionism through resilience, mindful learning, and self-compassion. ProQuest Dissertations & Thesis Global. 10278171

 

 Lovatt, P. (2018). Dance psychology. Norfolk, UK: Dr. Dance Presents.

 

 Mainwaring, L., & Krasnow, D. (2010).  Teaching the Dance Class: Strategies to Enhance Skill Acquisition, Mastery, and Positive Self-Image. Journal of Dance Education, 10(1).

 

 Pickard. A. (2012). Schooling the dancer: The evolution of an identity as a ballet dancer. Research in Dance Education 13(1). 25-46.

Tags:  dancers  feedback  teachers 

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Can Physics improve your pirouettes?

Posted By Margaret Wilson and Jennifer Deckert on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Successful completion of a pirouette (turn on one leg) can sometimes feel like an impossible task, but understanding more about the mechanics behind the turn may help you find more stability, produce more rotations and have better balance.  There are several principles from physics that are useful in understanding the preparation and turning action in a pirouette.

1.     Torque – a turning force that helps start the turn

2.     Force couple – torque that is created in the placement of the legs and feet in the preparation for the turn

3.     Angular acceleration – how to build up turning speed

4.     Conservation of angular momentum – how to maintain the desired turning speed. 

 

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But first, let’s examine Newton’s laws of motion to help put these principles into context and help describe our understanding of dance movement.  The first law has to do with inertia (the tendency to maintain the current state of motion or a resistance to change).  Newton's second law deals with acceleration and momentum and the third law describes action/reaction. Each of these laws comes into play in the preparation and continued turning motion in pirouette.  To start turning we must overcome inertia through the creation of torque – and we do this in the preparation for the turn.  While turns can start from a variety of positions of the legs, if we look at 4th position in external rotation, we can see easily see how the dancer creates torque to overcome inertia and begin the turn. The distance between the two feet, rotating away from each other creates an equal and opposite force which is transferred to the supporting leg in the turn. This generation of torque can be described as a force couple. In 4th position plié a moderate amount of torque is created, in 5th position, where the distance between the feet is very small, less torque is created. If a dancer takes an open fourth allongé (a lunge position where one leg is bent and the other extended), the torque generated is greater (Sugano and Laws 2002). 

 

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The force couple and torque help start the turn, but angular acceleration also determined by the contribution of all related body parts in a turn.  For example, when the arms and legs are extended away from the center of the body, as when the arms and gesture leg are à la seconde, rotation is slower since more mass further away from the body’s center of rotation. As that mass gets pulled closer to the center of rotation, conservation of angular momentum dictates that the dancer must turn faster. Dancers can feel this when they pull their arms in tight, and it is clearly visible on a low-friction surface like when watching figure skaters.

 

Angular momentum is lost to friction – the amount of surface contact for the turning foot.  A dancer will experience less friction en pointe than on a low relevé in plié as is sometimes seen in a jazz turn. The interaction of the surface of the shoe and the floor also contribute to the coefficient of friction: a satin pointe shoe on a vinyl surface has relatively low friction when compared to a bare foot on the same surface. The more friction the slower the turn, and therefore fewer rotations are possible.

 

Take Away Ideas:

 

1)     Develop a strong supporting leg: In a pirouette the dancer is rotating around a vertical axis so balance in the turning position is important. Imura and Iino (2018) found that dancers need good strength in the supporting leg to help find balance and endurance for multiple revolutions. 

 

2)     Focus on the arms in the preparation –Kim, et al, (2015) found that skilled dancers generated larger vertical angular momentum by skillfully using rotation of the upper trunk and arms. The closing arm after the moment of inertia makes the largest contribution to whole-body angular momentum – not the arm that opens as the trunk begins to rotate.

 

3)     While the supporting leg should be strong, the body should be slightly relaxed.  The same is true in pirouette.  If a dancer holds the body rigid, the slightest displacement from equilibrium will cause gravity to exert a torque on the body, and the dancer will topple. Keeping the body somewhat relaxed enables the dancer to make the slight adjustments necessary to correct for small perturbations from balance.

 

Additional Reading:

1)     Laws, K. Physics and the Art of Dance (2002)

2)     Sugano A and Laws K.  Physical analysis as a foundation for pirouette training.  Med Probl Perfom Art, 17 (1) 29-32.

3)     Imura A. and Iino Y. Regulation of hip joint kinetics for increasing angular momentum. The results suggest that dancers need to regulate hip joint torques along with the thigh angles in the pirouettes depending on the number of revolutions. Human Movement Science 60(2018)18-31.

4)     Kim J, Wilson M, Singhal K, Gamblin S, Suh CY and Kwon YK Generation of vertical angular momentum in single, double and triple-turn pirouette en dehors in ballet.  Sports Biomechanics, Volume 13, 2014 - Issue 3

5)     Lott, MB and Laws KL The physics of toppling and regaining balance during pirouette.  Journal of Dance Medicine & Science 2012, 16(4) 167-174.

 

 

 

Margaret Wilson, PhD

Professor, University of Wyoming

 

Jennifer Deckert, MFA

Associate Professor, University of Wyoming

Margaret and Jennifer are the co-directors of the Dance Science Program at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, WY USA

 

Tags:  physics  pirouette  teachers  turn 

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IADMS 2018: A Dance Teacher’s Perspective

Posted By Fiona Wallis on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators' Committee, Monday, December 10, 2018

I’ve been teaching ballet for over twenty years (the last twelve in Higher Education) and have been aware of IADMS for some time. 2018, however, was the year that I decided to make direct contact with this organisation and began to consider how dance science might enhance my studio-based practice. As a new member of IADMS, I was encouraged by Dance Science colleagues at The University of Chichester to attend the 2018 Helsinki conference. My hope was that it would provide much needed space to pause and reflect on my own practice, to consolidate knowledge, and to consider new ideas that aim to improve the learning and teaching experience in the dance studio.


From the beginning, the schedule was packed with a range of research presentations and practical/movement sessions; a testament to the diversity of research practices within the dance science community. From the wide array of topics over the four days of the conference, it is difficult to identify specific highlights. Furthermore, I am certain that, in the coming weeks and months, knowledge gleaned will permeate subtly into my own teaching. As a dance educator, I found the practical sessions in particular most useful, providing a valuable opportunity to consider how research that is situated within the domain of dance science might be applied directly to a studio setting.

 

Included in these highlights was Javier Torres’s session, ‘Breathing patterns and their use in ballet’, which considered the harmonious interaction between breath and ballet’s codified vocabulary.  Consideration was given to the release of tension when breathing out; how exhaling when performing actions that require greater muscular effort relaxes the chest and enhances the flow of movement. Although I have considered this application of breathing to my own practice before, Torres also emphasised the connection between appropriate breathing patterns and core stability. Thus, how breath is connected to strength and the facilitation of optimal performance. I found the principles from this session extremely relevant and a closer exploration of the benefits of conscious breathing to performance can be easily incorporated into a technique class.


Spirals, particularly in the torso, and the three-dimensionality of the dancer are fundamental principles in my own ballet and SAFE® BARRE classes, so I was particularly interested in Shonach Mirk Robles’ session on the Spiraldynamik® concept and the three-dimensional foot. Foot massages – as well as being a real treat – enabled us to explore more closely the structure of the foot. In particular the importance of the two longitudinal arches and the anterior transverse arch in weight bearing, how the notion of a spiral of energy from the foot into the leg can focus our attention on correct lower limb alignment. As a teacher who works predominately in ballet, safe practice when standing in turn out is key. This session, provided me with a new way of considering correct alignment, working up from the feet into the lower limbs, rather than down from the hip, emphasised correct weight placement into the floor thereby enhancing balance.


As suggested above, the ability to apply knowledge and ideas from specific sessions directly into the studio, for me, became the marker of a ‘good’ session. Agathe Dumont’s class on warming up and cooling down focused on giving students autonomy during this process and I came away with specific tools that I look forward to using in the near future. Similarly Alicia Head’s practical lecture on the biomechanics of an arabesque and Katy Chambers’ session on neuromuscular activation patterns whet the appetite for future explorations into biomechanics and neurological bias.

 

Whilst the practical sessions provided much needed ‘food’ for my teaching and research, I found the presentations to be less immediately applicable.  Indeed, although the application of dance science to specific dance movements or training methods were explored (for example, uncovering joint angle coordination strategies in pirouettes), I was left wondering how this knowledge was applied to the dancers in order to improve their skills. Perhaps the length of each presentation (only 15 minutes) prevented the ‘what next …’ scenario being explored but it is this application of knowledge that is so crucial to a dance educator and trainer.

 

Notwithstanding, when I did venture into these lecture spaces, I had the pleasure of seeing colleagues from the University of Chichester articulate their research on a range of topics including training load (Sarah Needham-Beck), the notion of the performer in relation to a sense of self (Gemma Harman), and performance anxiety (Lucie Clements). I, therefore, look forward to working with these individuals and exploring how their dance science research can have a positive and direct impact on the curriculum that we deliver at Chichester.

 

In conclusion my first experience of an IADMS conference was definitely a positive one. As a dance teacher, I’m very aware that, if I don’t regularly gain new ideas and inspiration, my practice can become stagnant. Although it was a luxury to take four days away from home close to the beginning of the academic year, the conference provided me with key tools that can be applied to my studio practice and I have returned to Chichester with new ideas that I am excited to explore with my students. IADMS also enabled me to meet new people (dance scientists, teachers, performers etc.) who are all passionate about dance practice, performance, and wellbeing. No doubt between now and the next conference, I will have many opportunities to keep in touch and share ideas with these new friends.

 

Final thoughts:

1) Making the effort to travel to Helsinki was definitely worth it. I came away tired but definitely refreshed and ready to start work again.

2) I was glad I was wearing comfy shoes! The conference was packed and I needed to move quickly (sometimes run) from one session to the next.

3) It was not all work … dinner and wine plus cups of tea in Helsinki’s Moomin café with new friends were not to be missed

 

Fiona Wallis MA is a dance educator and PhD researcher specializing in ballet technique. She is a Senior Lecturer at The University of Chichester and is also a certified instructor in the SAFE® BARRE method.

Tags:  A Day for Teachers  Annual Conference  teachers 

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Breath: A Back-To-School Basic

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

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

 

Anatomy of Breathing

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

 

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

 

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Three-Part Breath

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

 

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

 

Application to the Classroom

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

 

For further information, check out these recourses:

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

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

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

Getty image board

 

Jennifer Deckert, MFA

Dance Educator, Researcher, and Yoga Instructor

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

 

 

Tags:  breath  breathing  teachers 

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Imagery, Research, and Practice

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

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

 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

e.      When injured, to reserve their resources.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

5.       Dance Imagery for Technique and Performance by Eric Franklin

 

 

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

 

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

 

References:

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

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

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

Tags:  imagery  teachers 

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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.

 

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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.

Findings 

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?

Educators: 

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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