Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Register
General
Blog Home All Blogs

Keeping the enjoyment alive: Positive psychology for dance

Posted By Elsa Urmston on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Thursday, October 29, 2015

The next series of posts from the Education Committee shines a light on the psychology of dancers.  Over the next month or so, we have a range of blog contributions from leading dance psychology researchers and practitioners. Erin Sanchez (Dance UK) and Joan Duda (University of Birmingham) will discuss the Empowering Dance programme in the UK, a professional development workshop which draws on research finding that support the integration of autonomy supportive environments.  Sanna Nordin Bates (University of Stockholm) introduces us to the use of imagery in optimizing dance practice and Imogen Aujla (University of Bedfordshire) discusses the importance of passion in dance.  We kick off here with the first in the series exploring the application of positive psychology to dance practice and how we can create positive learning and creative environments in which our dancers can flourish.  

  

Think back… why did you first start dancing?  No doubt it was because of the sheer enjoyment and exhilaration of feeling your body move, often in time with the music, in front of an audience, of telling a story or evoking emotions.  Our love for the art of dance probably never fundamentally leaves us, but perhaps the daily grind of training, of managing and applying the criticism we receive from ourselves and those around us, as well as ensuring we get enough rest and fuel can detract from the pleasure we find in dancing.  Dancers in training might often feel as this young professional described to me her experiences in dancing: “It was a very stressful time for me – the need to succeed, pass, do well, all that stuff affected my enjoyment at that time.  I was having more fun away from university.”  As an educator, these kinds of comments have always been bothersome – what happens in a training environment to bring about this kind of sentiment and why is that a response from the people doing the training?  What strategies can be encouraged amongst young dancers to become more resilient?  And what can I do in my own practice to create an environment where enjoyment can be nurtured?

 

What is positive psychology?

Positive psychology is described by Martin Seligman and Mihalyi Cskizsentmihalyi (2000, p.5) as the “positive features which make a life worth living”.  Positive psychology is typified by constructs such as hope, courage, creativity, perseverance, tolerance, future-mindedness, being in the moment, empathy, engagement and enjoyment.  In 2009, Seligman and colleagues undertook a positive psychology education project in Australia, teaching about the topics which typify positive psychology, as well as trying to embed positive psychology values in the teaching of all subjects at the school.  Their findings reported that the students’ enjoyment of, and engagement in learning increased across the board and that cooperation and empathy amongst students and teachers was also consolidated.  It appears that there is something to learn here in how we teach, and indeed what we teach, that can support dancers in optimising their performance.  But there is perhaps a bigger picture here too.   Hefferon and Boniwell (2012) make the case for positive psychology contributing to health and wellbeing in general terms too; that positive psychology approaches can support happiness and contentment as well as be a way for us to support self-directed behaviours in all that we do.  So, if our overall well-being is sound, and we have a positive attitude towards dance as part of our whole life, it appears we are better able to cope in the face of adversity and enjoy what we do.

As an area of academic endeavour, positive psychology is a growing area, especially in dance, and has many sub theories through which we can structure research and shape practice.  One such theory is Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory.

 

Flow

Flow is defined as “a subjective, mental state contributing to optimal experience, which is characterised by complete absorption in an activity, at given moment in time”(Csikszentmihayli, 1990, p. 53).  It’s perhaps typified in popular culture in the film Billy Elliot.  The moment when Billy is auditioning at the Royal Ballet School and is asked what it is he most likes about dancing.  He says, “I dunno … it sort of feels good, sort of stiff and that, but once I get going, then, I like forget everything, and I sort of disappear.  I can feel a change in my whole body.  Like there’s a fire in my body.  I’m just there, flying.  Like a bird.  Like electricity. Yeah, electricity.”  We’ve all been there I am sure!  From a theoretical perspective, flow is comprised of nine dimensions, conceived as constituents of the flow experience described above:

·         Skill-challenge balance – achieving a balance between the skills that the dancers have and the challenge which is presented to them

·         Action and awareness merging – refers to the moment when the action you are carrying out and your awareness of it appears to blend into one

·         Clear goals – having a clear sense of direction

·         Unambiguous feedback – clear, direct feedback from tutors and other dancers

·         Concentration – an environment in which concentration can be supported and achieved

·         Control – perceiving a sense of control over what you are doing

·         Loss of self-consciousness – in a flow state, we lose our self-consciousness and are able to invest fully in that experience

·         Transformation of time – time might stand still, speed up or slow down

·         Autotelic experience – refers to the intrinsic enjoyment we get from doing activity purely for the reason of doing it, and nothing else


Csikszentmihalyi describes flow himself in this TED talk.

 

What facilitates flow?

There has been much research in sport, leisure activity and work-based settings, and a small amount in dance, which has identified what facilitates flow.  Have a look at the further readings which are recommended below.  In summary the facilitators, or antecedents of flow fall into personal or situational factors; so things that the dancer themselves can control, and those which are influenced by the environment around them. These include:

Personal Antecedents

Situational Antecedents

Mental preparation such as image-based rehearsal, rituals, getting in “the zone”

Suitability of space including flooring, lighting, warmth, etc.

Physical preparation such as warm up, breathing, fitness, sufficient rehearsal

Relationships with peers and teachers

Having confidence in skills and expertise to complete the task

Feeling unjudged and trusting others

Finding the fun in a task

 

 

So if these things help people achieve a flow state, then helping dancers autonomously develop the personal skills above may better ensure their enjoyment in dancing for themselves.  But we too, as educators working with dancers throughout their careers, can shape our teaching climate to foster positive psychology. 

The constructs of flow itself can perhaps act as a way to shape our practice.  For example, balancing the skills of the dancer to the challenge of the tasks set can immediately foster a sense of capability and brings about enjoyment itself.  Setting clear goals in class and creating an environment for dancers to concentrate engenders the flow experience.  Ensuring that your feedback is timely and unambiguous helps too, and making sure there is some fun in class can ensure that autotelic experience we seek.


There are many other educational frameworks which can support the occurrence of flow and promote positive psychology.  A useful one is Epstein’s TARGET strategy, an acronym for the following:

·         Task - designing class activities for variety, individual challenge and active involvement, focus on learning through fun and task-involvement, rather than competition. 

·         Authority - involving dancers in the decision making process, offering leadership roles

·         Recognition - recognising individual development rather than rewarding talent alone

·         Grouping - encouraging cooperation by working together, small groupings and using multiple ways of organising those groups

·         Evaluation - using criteria for development using self-set goals, to involve students in process of evaluation

·         Time - providing opportunities and time for improvement, time management, flexibility in reaching goals using various pathways

 

More recent research that my colleague James Hewison and I have undertaken, has been to look at how flow can enable greater willingness to take risks, particularly within the teaching and learning of Contact Improvisation.  Full details of the study have been published in the Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices (see further resources), but our findings point to a range of structures which enable flow to occur and greater risks to be taken.  These include:

·         Starting with small, scaffolded tasks and building to larger ones in terms of:

o   Task length

o   Simple to complex

o   Familiar partners to those less well known

o   Quiet to loud

o   Solo to group

o   Private to public exploration

·         Allowing time for full exploration, discovery and play

·         Engendering an environment of trust and on-judgment

·         Building a community of learning of which the teacher are a part

·         Offering space and time to discuss the significant and not so significant

 

There are lots of ways in which we can keep the enjoyment alive, these are just some and there are of course many more.  For further information have a look at these resources:

American Psychologist:  Special Issue on Happiness, Excellence and Optimal Human Functioning.  January 2000, 55(1).

Csikszentmihalyi, M.  (1990).  Flow: The psychology of optimal experience.  New York: Harper Collins.

Hefferon, K. & Boniwell, I.  (2011).  Positive psychology: Theory, research and applications.  London: McGraw Hill.

Seligman, M.  The pursuit of happiness: Bringing the science of happiness to life.  Website available at:  www.pursuit-of-happiness.org  (Accessed: 13.11.13)

Urmston, E., & Hewison, J. (2014). Risk and flow in contact improvisation: Pleasure, play and presence. Journal of Dance & Somatic Practices6(2), 219-232.

 

Elsa Urmston is DanceEast Centre for Advanced Training Manager in Ipswich, UK, and member of the IADMS Education Committee. 

Tags:  dancers  motivation  psychology  teachers 

PermalinkComments (1)
 

A Young Dancer's Guide: What every young dancer needs to know about injury prevention and rehabilitation: Video from the 2014 Annual Meeting

Posted By Bobby Bernstein, Tuesday, September 29, 2015

IADMS Bernstein from Steven Karageanes on Vimeo.

Dance today is an athletically strenuous art form and many young dancers suffer from injuries. My co-author, Nancy Kadel, MD, and I have many insights into why these injuries commonly occur and how they can be prevented. The focus of this blog is on cross training for young dancers, one of the most important topics we discuss in “A Young Dancer's Guide: What every young dancer needs to know about injury prevention and rehabilitation”.

 

There are approximately 32,000 dance schools in the United States alone [1], and countless young dancers are under-informed about dance injury, prevention, and rehabilitation. This lack of awareness can result in young dancers sustaining potentially preventable physical injuries. Knowledge in these areas may be improved if parents seek out qualified cross-training instructors. Great cross-training options for young dancers include Yoga, Pilates, GYROTONIC®, and Yamuna Body Rolling™.

 

Working as a GYROTONIC® instructor for more than eight years, I have experienced that cross-training greatly improves the overall sense of how young dancers use their bodies. In the beginning, they are usually good at showing the movements and at mimicking what is demonstrated. However, they soon learn to feel the movements in their own bodies, to discover the range, tempo, and quality of the movements, and they gain a deeper understanding of how the body works. The following is an example of this learning process.

 

One of the most important skills for young dancers to learn is how to correctly turn out (externally rotate) their legs from their hips. Not all bodies are built to be able to achieve the level of external leg rotation, that is often demonstrated by professional ballet dancers. Young dancers being told that they do not have enough turn out in dance classes can cause mental distress and often results in far too many young dancers forcing their turn out from their hips, knees, ankles, and/or feet. This can cause preventable injuries in those areas as well as in their backs. My favorite way to teach young dancers how access and/or improve their true turn out is by using the GYROTONIC® Full Circles exercise.

 

Please note: In this exercise the student is lying in a supine position on the bench with the upper straps of the GYROTONIC® pulley tower attached to their feet and ankles. The straps are counter weighted cables used to teach control and for muscle conditioning. The movement starts with the legs together, straight, in parallel, and slightly higher than the torso. The legs are then brought up to a 90 degree angle with the torso. Next, the legs are externally rotated, opened to the sides and brought down and around until they meet again at the starting position.

 

To begin, I ask my young dance students to execute the Full Circles without instruction other than to use their abdominal muscles to protect their backs and to stabilize the movement. In most cases, young dancers will overuse their muscular strength, try to open the legs as far to the sides as they can in as close to 180 degrees of external rotation as possible, and to complete the whole circle at a relatively quick tempo. The movement usually lacks control and generally young dancers do not naturally use the correct muscles throughout the whole movement. Specifically, they do not use the correct deep rotator muscles to achieve their full external rotation before opening the legs to the sides. In many cases (depending on how deeply the head of the femur naturally sits in the hip socket), if the femur bones are not properly rotated before opening the legs to the sides then the heads of the femurs can be “blocked" by the sides of the hip sockets. In addition to not being able to access their full external rotation, this also causes gripping of the muscles, discomfort, and tension in the body. I will then ask the young dancer how the movement felt and they will often report some level of pain in the hip while doing the exercise and a snapping in the hip might also be heard. With further conversation it usually comes out that they also feel some hip pain, and many additionally hear this same snapping sound, when lifting their legs in high positions in their dance classes. (The sound most often indicates that the young dancer is also suffering from Snapping Hip Syndrome or Dancer's Hip, which is where the snapping sound is usually caused by the movement of a tendon over a bony structure in the hip.)

 

The next step is that I teach my students to feel the difference between forced external leg rotation and correct external leg rotation. To accomplish this I move their legs one at a time into an assisted, relaxed, fully externally rotated position and then back into parallel multiple times. I then teach them how to use their deep lateral rotator hip muscles to achieve their full external rotation. I continue to cue (hands on teaching techniques) their movements and to gradually increase their range of motion while maintaining the correct muscle activation as they open their leg to the side. Usually, the first several times they try to do this by themselves they continue to grip in the front of their hip and to tighten their quadriceps and gluteal muscles. However, by continued use of hands on cueing they soon un-learn these incorrect movement habits. The end result is that they are able to turn on the correct external rotation muscles without assistance and to correctly execute the complete Full Circles (which also includes the use of the inner thigh muscles, hamstrings, and abdominals) without any hip pain and without the snapping sound if it was also previously present.

 

Learning to move in this new way requires a decrease in tempo. As young dancers become more proficient in correctly executing external leg rotation an increase in tempo becomes possible. Their quality of movement changes naturally as a result of their new body awareness. Full Circles that started out with a forced, slamming quality as the legs opened to the side, gain a soft, easy quality of movement. Once correct rotation of the leg in the hip socket is achieved, and young dancers have learned to access their true turn out without forcing and gripping, they can then use this information in numerous practical levels in their dance training.

 

For example, this is how using correct turn out activation is then transferred into doing a correct tendu from first position (First position is when the heels are together and the toes are pointing away from each other with the goal of achieving 180 degrees of external rotation). I ask the young dancer to start with the feet in parallel facing the barre and then to simply open and close their feet from parallel to first position and back again several times. As they do this, I cue them to feel the correct external rotation muscle activation the same as was achieved in the Full Circles exercise. Then we work on maintaining the un-gripped turn out on both the standing leg and working leg as the young dancer does slow tendus through the entire range of the movement (A tendu is when the working leg is extended away from the standing leg to the front, side, or back, until the foot is fully pointed while maintaining contact with the floor and then the motion is reversed). Improved self-knowledge of this kind can then be further applied to correctly doing all barre exercises and more complicated center work. Improved execution of advanced dance combinations and choreography is only achieved when young dancers increase their over-all body knowledge, but for many aspects of dance this foundation of true external leg rotation with correct muscle activation is key.

 

In addition to the cross-training modalities initially mentioned, there are many helpful exercises that can be easily done in the studio before dancing. For example, young dancers can greatly benefit from doing warm-up/strengthening exercises with a resistance band every day. Nancy Kadel, MD also recommends the following:

 

“Doing slow pliés and relevés in parallel with a tennis ball between your heels is my favorite recommendation for dancers to warm up the little muscles in their feet and ankles in correct alignment.”

 

It is incredible to see young dancers being able to dance pain-free through greater self-knowledge. Supporting this increase in understanding can help the young dancers of today reach their goals healthily and become the great artists of tomorrow!


 

 

Bobby Bernstein

Professional Dancer

Certified GYROTONIC® Instructor

Dance Teacher

IADMS Member

 

e-mail: thehealthyyoungdancerproject@gmail.com

 

 

[1] “Education Statistics-National Dance Education Organization”, Ndeo.org, 2015


Tags:  cross-training  dancers  teachers 

PermalinkComments (0)
 

What Dancers and Dance Teachers Need to Know about Motor Development, Motor Control, and Motor Learning: Part III

Posted By Donna Krasnow, PhD, and Virginia Wilmerding, PhD, Monday, September 14, 2015

This is the third of three posts looking at the field of motor behavior and its impact on dance training. This post will deal with motor learning, which looks at the changes in motor skills caused by experience and practice, rather than development as described in a previous post. These changes can only be observed by changes in performance and are relatively permanent. This area of motor behavior is probably the most useful for dancers and teachers.


How dancers learn is strongly affected by instructional strategies and learning styles. The three main categories of instructional strategies are demonstration, verbal instructions/cueing, and feedback. Demonstration is very important to dancers, especially beginners, because we are so visual in our learning. What learners perceive when they watch the teacher or another dancer demonstrating is related directly to the coordination pattern of the skill. With verbal instructions, the important message is that dancers should not be overloaded with information when they are learning a new skill or combination. Instructions should be also be age-appropriate. Imagery can be highly useful in keeping instructions concise, stimulating, and suitable for the age group. Finally, feedback that expresses how the movement was done (knowledge of performance), rather than simply giving information about what occurred (knowledge of results), is far more useful.


The importance of motivation in dance training cannot be over-emphasized. Dancers need feedback that tells them what they need to improve, but the tone and message should always remain positive. Criticism does not imply negativity, and can be balanced with praise and support. It is important to set clear and reasonable goals for dancers, which sustains a motivational climate.


All dancers and teachers know that learning demands considerable practice. The issue is how to keep this interesting and progressive. Variability in practice is a key factor. While repetition is essential, variations can help with both developing the larger general motor plans as well as assisting in motivation. A movement or skill should only be repeated in the same way over and over when that particular form of the movement is going to be needed in choreography. Two other factors to consider are using random practice, that is, practicing a variety of skills alternately, and rest. Rest is crucial for muscle recovery as well as consolidating memory.


Dancers and teachers use several strategies to make learning easier. Segmentation means to practice sections of a phrase, before putting them altogether. Simplification involves doing a less complex version of a skill, such as a passé balance, before doing the complex version, such as a double pirouette in passé. Fractionization is for multi-limbed movements, and means practicing just the arms or just the legs before doing all the limbs at once.


Two other tools that dancers can use to assist in learning are mental practice and improvisation. Mental practice combined with physical practice can enhance learning, and even by itself, such as during times of injury, can help maintain skills. Improvisation allows dancers to explore movement concepts and focus their attention on fundamental ideas without worrying about choreographic detail.


With a firm understanding of motor development, motor control, and motor learning, dancers and teachers can make the most of the dance training environment.


Donna Krasnow, PhD, and Virginia Wilmerding, PhD, are IADMS members and co-authors of the newly released Human Kinetics text Motor Learning and Control for Dance: Principles and Practices for Performers and Teachers.

Tags:  dancers  motor control  motor learning  teachers 

PermalinkComments (0)
 

What Dancers and Dance Teachers Need to Know about Motor Development, Motor Control, and Motor Learning: Part II

Posted By Donna Krasnow, PhD, and Virginia Wilmerding, PhD, Monday, September 14, 2015

This is the second of three posts looking at the field of motor behavior and its impact on dance training. This post will deal with motor control. Motor control is the study of the nervous system, that is, the brain and all of the nerve cells communicating with the body, and how this system organizes and guides the muscles to create coordinate movement. It also explains how the senses such as vision and hearing, as well as information from the environment, are used to accomplish movement. The study of motor control can yield valuable tools for the dancer and the teacher.


Sometimes teachers suggest that dancers try to contract individual muscles consciously to create dance movement. However, once teachers and dancers understand how the brain functions to create movement patterns with multiple muscles, and the nonconscious processes that are ongoing, they will realize that what they are attempting to do is inefficient. They will be more effective using language that describes whole tasks.


One important aspect of motor control is attention, which simply put is concentrated mental activity. Today people think that it is possible to multi-task, but in truth, when two or more tasks demand the same type of attention, the brain must switch back and forth.  It cannot do the two activities at the same time.  This is why we can drive and listen to music, but we cannot drive and text safely at the same time, because both demand visual attention. If dancers are distracted in their attention in class or rehearsal, they will not be able to dance their best. Finally, levels of sleep and anxiety can greatly affect attention.


Motor control is a balance between movement that is primarily centrally controlled, and movement that is primarily responding to environmental factors. The simplest example of this balance is to consider an outdoors walk.  Walking is determined by what is called a central pattern generator (CPG).  CPGs are groups of nerve cells that can create rhythmic patterns, like walking, which can continue without sensory feedback once initiated. However, if the environment changes, such as approaching a stairway, the brain can respond to this feedback and alter the movement pattern. It may be possible that CPGs can be developed through dance training, such as continuous jumps in first position.


Another type of centrally controlled movement patterns is called a generalized motor program (GMP). By practicing variations of a given task, dancers can develop GMPs for movement categories. For example, dancers usually learn sissonne en avant first, and then learn versions to the back and to the side. They also learn finishing both open and closed, and many arm variations. This variety helps the dancer develop a GMP for sissonne, so that any new variation can be learned easily.


Dancers can also change movement while in progress if the movement is sufficiently slow. Otherwise dancers must wait for the next attempt to use environmental feedback, such as a correction from the teacher. Teachers and dancers also need to understand that as speed increases, accuracy diminishes. When teaching fast movements, it is best to work for accuracy first. However, the movement must not be slowed down so much that it becomes a different GMP. Walking is not simply a slow version of running!


Donna Krasnow, PhD, and Virginia Wilmerding, PhD, are IADMS members and co-authors of the newly released Human Kinetics text Motor Learning and Control for Dance: Principles and Practices for Performers and Teachers.

Tags:  dancers  motor control  motor learning  teachers 

PermalinkComments (0)
 

What Dancers and Dance Teachers Need to Know about Motor Development, Motor Control, and Motor Learning: Part I

Posted By Donna Krasnow, PhD, and Virginia Wilmerding, PhD, Monday, September 14, 2015

Dance training is at the heart of the art form of dance. All dancers can recall the teachers who had tremendous influence on their growth as young dancers and artists. The science known as motor behavior is having a stronger voice in helping teachers and dancers develop to the top level of their skills and artistry. Motor behavior is an umbrella term that represents three areas: motor development, motor control, and motor learning.  This is the first of three posts that will describe these areas of motor behavior, and explain how teachers and dancers can benefit from this knowledge. This post will cover motor development.


Motor development is the study of ongoing changes to movement abilities that are common to all people, and it looks at these changes through all the stages of life. These changes are both progressive, meaning that one skill builds on the next, and irreversible in a healthy population, so that once a stage of development is reached, it does not disappear.


It is important for teachers to understand the age-appropriate material for various groups of dancers, and establish their expectations accordingly. For example, balance has three components – the visual system, the vestibular system in the inner ear, and proprioception. These systems are all present in the young child of 3 or 4 years old, but they are not integrated until after age 7, and not fully developed until the late teens. This is why children can take the head off vertical, and they can turn while traveling across the floor, but they cannot do both at the same time until they reach a certain age, regardless of years of dancing. Postural control and balance are the foundations for success in almost all movement in dance, and it is essential to focus on these aspects of training in the early years.


Locomotor skills follow a particular developmental pattern: walking, running, jumping, galloping, hopping, and skipping. These skills must be presented in order, and at the right age. These are the general age milestones at which locomotor skills can be seen:

·         Walking at 10-15 months

·         Running with high level coordination at 2 years

·         Various forms of jumping at 2-3 years

·         Galloping between ages 2-3 years old, after having been able to run for 6 months

·         Hopping starting at about 3-1/2 years old, and continuing to develop past age 5

·         Skipping is the last to develop and occurs between ages 4-7 years old


It is also important to realize that the full coordination of use of arms, particularly in dance-specific patterns, can take even longer to develop. And as all teachers know, refinements such as straight legs and pointed feet in jumps can take years of practice. Finally, ballistic skills are some of the most difficult to develop, and include grand battement and leaps, which demand a sophisticated motor pattern, not just the strength to do those actions. Teachers’ effectiveness and dancers’ skills can be enhanced through a sound knowledge of motor development.


 

Donna Krasnow, PhD, and Virginia Wilmerding, PhD, are IADMS members and co-authors of the newly released Human Kinetics text Motor Learning and Control for Dance: Principles and Practices for Performers and Teachers.

Tags:  dancers  motor control  motor learning  teachers 

PermalinkComments (0)
 

Nutrition Research should drive advice and practice: which nutrients should the dancer be updated on and why: Video from the 2014 Annual Meeting

Posted By Jasmine Challis, BSc, RD, Monday, August 3, 2015

This blog looks at the information I presented at the 2013 IADMS conference in Seattle. It looks at an area where there is a lot of controversy and tries to steer a research based path to advise the dancer on current best practice considering the current evidence.

Introduction

Dancers interested in making sure their food and fluid intake optimises their performance are faced with a huge amount of nutrition information in magazines, newspapers, the internet, blogs(!), TV and radio programmes, Twitter and other social media, plus that from  teachers/colleagues/ peers/family and friends. It can take determination not to be drawn into believing the latest trend as to what is best. It is probably useful to remember that nutrition research changes knowledge slowly in almost every case, so if a claim sounds dramatic, it has probably been exaggerated or the actual information twisted to try and make a story.

When we think about nutrition we tend to think about energy, measured in either kcals (USA) or kjoules (Europe and Australia), which can come from carbohydrates and fats (and alcohol- though not relevant for training/performance), - and technically from protein. Although protein can be used as an energy source, it can’t then be used for its main roles in growth and repair so it’s not a viable option for most dancers. It is also the most expensive component of most meal plans so most dancers will have more of a challenge to take in enough protein to meet their needs than to have surplus to burn as a source of energy.

Moving on from energy we then need to consider the vast range of vitamins and minerals that humans, including and particularly dancers, need. There is ongoing research identifying new roles for established nutrients, such as Vitamin D having a role for a healthy immune system, as well as clarifying the roles of nutrients such as Vitamin E which we still don’t fully understand.

The tables below show the vitamins and minerals that are perhaps of most relevance to the dancer, and the body systems that are most important in dance and whether the nutrient may or may not be involved. Nutrition research is very challenging for a number of reasons. It is difficult to persuade people to keep to a fixed diet so that an experiment can be done to change just one food or nutrient; people do not all react the same; it may take a long time to see a difference, and all of this makes research very expensive and time consuming. Also, when trying to change a nutrient, unless it can be added to an existing part of your diet, for example adding folate to bread, then introducing more of one nutrient, means another typically must be reduced and this can impact your total energy intake which may in itself affect the results. Another problem is that large amounts of any nutrient is likely to do harm, and at extremely high intakes the body may process these nutrients differently compared to when taken in moderate amounts. 

  

There is also a problem that anyone can call themselves a nutritionist – though the title ‘Dietitian’ or ‘Dietician’ is legally protected – so there are many ‘experts’ who are taking some evidence (at best), and advising people without having the depth of knowledge to give the best advice. Always remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And that nutrition is almost never black and white, because of the simple reason that if you make a change you are most likely taking something out of your meal plan to put something else in. If you take out sweets and put in fruit, your energy level as well as your intake of vitamins and minerals may well be better overall, but if you were eating a lot of sweets you will need to put in a large amount of fruit which may upset your digestive system at least initially (you may adjust in time) and also be acidic for your teeth and result in some damage over time. So what sounds like a very good change may bring a less welcome effect.

Small gradual changes you can sustain are best – avoid making huge changes that take a lot of time and effort unless your starting meal plan really needs a complete overhaul and is causing you problems at the moment.

So, think about your food plan, be honest with yourself; if changes would be helpful introduce them gradually and make sure you can keep up the new plan, along with the benefits it will bring, before making further changes. If you can find foods that you enjoy and that help you achieve your nutrition goals that is going to make keeping to a meal plan easier!

Jasmine Challis, BSc, RD

Tags:  dancers  nutrition  presentation  teachers 

PermalinkComments (1)
 

Injury Prevention Research: Investigating patellar tendon development in adolescent dancers

Posted By Aliza Rudavsky on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Thursday, July 30, 2015

Our final injury prevention installment comes from Aliza, reporting early findings of a piece of research which has investigated patellar tendon development amongst adolescent dancers. 

Jumper's knee is a condition where there is pain just below the knee cap associated with jumping.  The medical term for this condition is "patellar tendinopathy" and it is a fairly common condition in elite dancers, especially those who are strong jumpers and tend to jump a lot.  Jumper's knee is an overuse condition.  The main risk factor for developing symptoms is having pathology within the patellar tendon (pictured below).  It is not clearly understood when pathology can develop in the tendon or when the tendon matures.  

 

A group of researchers from Melbourne are investigating how this tendon changes during adolescence in young ballet students.  The goal of this study is to identify normal and abnormal tendon development.  In order to observe changes in the tendon, this study involves using a 3-D ultrasound device called a UTC (Ultrasound Tissue Characterization) to image the patellar tendons of young ballet students at the Australian Ballet School and the Victorian College of Arts Secondary School throughout puberty.   

This research group will be following the same cohort of students over a two year period to monitor subtle changes in their tendons as they grow and progress through skeletal maturity.  Dancing and other exercise volume is also being closely monitored as well as participation in classes and any injuries.  

The evidence so far has demonstrated that people with pathology in their tendons are at a much higher risk of developing jumper’s knee symptoms.  Researchers have discovered already that after approximately 17 years old, tendons are mature and do not generally turn over new tissue; therefore, if people have pathology within their tendons by this age, it will likely remain within their tendons for life.  This doesn’t mean they will definitely get jumper’s knee symptoms, however they are at a much higher risk than someone with completely healthy tendons.  In younger dancers and athletes (pre-pubertal), the incidence of pathology on their patellar tendons is much more rare and it is thought that perhaps during these pubertal years where adolescents are surpassing their peak height velocity (peak height growth spurt) pathology can develop.  Once we have a better understanding of how tendons mature normally during this time period, we may be able to gain some insight into abnormal tendon maturity.  Throughout this study and in future studies, we hope to gain further understanding of the impact of loading this tendon before it has fully developed and clarify how much jumping is ideal for optimal tendon formation in order to reduce jumper’s knee in dancers and other jumping athletes.  

 

Aliza Rudavsky

Doctorate of Physical Therapy

PhD Student, University of Copenhagen 

 

Tags:  dancers  injury  teachers  tendon 

PermalinkComments (0)
 

Dancing Longer: Safe and effective dance practice to optimize performance, and minimize injury risk

Posted By Edel Quin on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Monday, July 27, 2015

This is the third installment on the topic of dance injury on the IADMS blog. Elsa began by introducing us to injuries and injury management in dance, highlighting some great examples of specialized and tailored injury care for dancers in the UK (National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science) and the USA (Harkness Center for Dance Injury). This was followed up by Stephanie’s post on multi-disciplinary screening programmes as a means of highlighting “any concerns with regards to health, injury risk or mental and physical capabilities” and also the potential role of screening as an educational tool in contributing towards injury prevention. As the next contributor in this series, I focus on minimizing injury risk from the perspective of safe and effective dance principles as applied to dance teaching and dance making.


 

Photographer: Chris Nash, 2015.
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Dance Science Testing with Wayne McGregor | Random Dance
Dancer: Jessica Wright

Firstly, it is important to dispel the impression that safe dance practice is about ‘wrapping dancers in cotton wool’ to the point that there is no risk, no creativity, no progression. I do not dare to think what dance - a wonderful, expressive, art form - would become if this were the way we engaged with dance teaching and dance making! No – safe dance practice is the complete opposite, it is a means by which dance can continue to challenge physical (and mental) capabilities, through the application of knowledge and understanding of research-informed practice. It is often noted that choreographic practices of today are increasingly demanding of dancers physicality, and at times reach extremes of athleticism. This can be what makes dance exciting! But, how can we continue to push these artistic boundaries, without increasing an already high injury rate1… enter safe and effective practice.

The principles

Safe practice does not solely aim to reduce injury risk, optimizing dancer potential is just as, if not more, important! The combination of these two aims results in the ultimate intention of prolonging participation in dance through healthful practice. The principles are borne out of dance science research, and engage with key overlapping areas of physical, psychological and environmental knowledge (see figure 1 below). Once understood these principles can be applied and adapted to any dance style, any age group, and any dance setting. 


Ask yourself…

As dance leaders (i.e. teacher, choreographer, artistic director, etc.) some of the key safe practice questions we should ask ourselves are:

1. Do I understand and apply physiological principles of warming-up and cooling down to my dance classes/rehearsals? [look out for the upcoming IADMS Resource Paper on Warm-up and Cool-down!]

2. Am I aware of different ways to stretch and when is it best to the different types? [see here]   

3. Do I understand basic anatomical principles and have an awareness of the possible implications of any alignment variations, such as hypermobility or a forward pelvic tilt, within my dancers?  [check out ‘Teaching the Hypermobile Dancer’ by Moira McCormack or ‘Improving Pelvic Alignment’ by Jennifer Deckert]

4. Do I consider the physiological training needs of my dancers (not just the technical or artistic needs)? [see IADMS Resource Paper]  

5. Do I appropriately balance amounts of activity with rest within in dance class/rehearsal3?

6. Do I understand and encourage effective fuelling (nutrition and hydration) in my dancers? [see IADMS Education Committee Resource Paper]

7. Do I know how to manage an injury, if one occurs during my dance session, or how to engage an injured in the dance class? [check out First Aid for Dancers or Technique Class Participation Options for Injured Dancers]

8. Am I aware of how I could create a positive and healthful learning climate in the dance studio?  [check out ‘Standing on the Shoulders of a Young Giant How Dance Teachers Can Benefit From Learning About Positive Psychology’ by Sanna Nordin and Ashley McGill]

9. Do I know how to adapt my safe practice knowledge to my specific dancers and dance style? [see chapter 10 in Quin, Rafferty & Tomlinson (2015)]

If the answer to any of the above is ‘No’ or ‘I’m not sure’, then let today be the day that you take the first step to exploring that specific area of your practice a little more. Dance has evolved, our understanding of the dancing body and mind has evolved, our teaching practices should also continue to evolve.  Keeping up to date with the developments in dance medicine and science research are certainly integral to my own safe and effective dance practice, and that of the dancers that I teach.

While not every dancer or dance teacher has access to the wonderful work of organizations such as the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in New York or the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science in the UK, fortunately every dancer, dance teacher, dance leader has access to the growing number of widely available resources, a mere sample of which have been included in this post!  IADMS obviously provides a wide range of easy-to-read research-informed educational resources such as the Resource Papers, the Bulletin for Dancers and Teachers, as well as Posters to adorn dance studio walls. There is also an expanding number of dance-specific texts that are applying the research into practice. There is even an organization dedicated to supporting, developing, encouraging and endorsing safe and healthy dance practice world-wide; Safe in Dance International (SiDI), go here for more.

So, as we strive to advance our art form, let’s do so with the aim of minimizing injury risk, optimizing potential and prolonging participation, by educating ourselves on dance science informed principles. As dance medicine and science research continues to develop, so should our knowledge and application of safe and effective dance practice. Just imagine the possibilities….!

  

Photographer: Kyle Stevenson, 2010.
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
MSc Dance Science Students Investigating the Dance-specific High Intensity Fitness Test
Dancers: Helen Reeve and Casey McEldowney


For further reading, have a look at these resources:

1. Shah, S., Weiss, D.S., & Burchette, R.J. (2012). Injuries in professional modern dancers: Incidence, risk factors, and management. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, 16(1), 17-25.

2. Quin, E., Rafferty, S., & Tomlinson, C. (2015). Safe Dance Practice. An applied dance science perspective. Champaign, Ill, USA: Human Kinetics.

3. Batson, G,. & Schwartz, R.A. (2007). Revisiting the Value of Somatic Education in Dance Training Through an Inquiry into Practice Schedules. Journal of Dance Education. 7(2):47-56

 

 

Edel Quin MSc FHEA

Dance Educator and Researcher, Programme Leader MSc Dance Science at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Tags:  dancers  injury  teachers 

PermalinkComments (0)
 

Injury Prevention: Screening as a tool for education

Posted By Posted by Stephanie De’Ath on behalf of the IADMS Education Committee, Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What is screening?

Screening is often used for pre-entry to a school or company to highlight any concerns with regards to health, injury risk or mental and physical capabilities. Although research suggests that protocols should, where possible, be carried out by a physiotherapist or dance science professional there are some protocols that can be adopted by schools or companies with limited resources to at least complete some of the tests for educative purposes.  Although not widely used as an educative tool, screening provides a great opportunity for dancers to learn more about their bodies, optimise performance and identify injury risk1. By addressing the weaknesses or concerns which arise as a result of the screen, a programme of activity can be developed to compliment training and reduce the likelihood of injury. As a member of Trinity Laban's screening team for the past four years, in this post I will explore how screening can contribute to injury prevention from an educational perspective.

 

What is involved in screening?

As highlighted by Liederbach et al2, screening often involves collating information on many components including medical history, skeletal structure, alignment, range of motion, strength, cardio-respiratory response, motor skills, stability and mobility, self esteem, motivation and nutrition amongst others.  From personal experience, the benefits for using screening as an educative tool, rather than pre-entry or for research, is that the methods can be adaptive to reflect the student needs, the current staff's knowledge/experience and developments in research. This can however make it somewhat difficult to use the data for research, which is why changes in protocols should be considered carefully

 

In the UK National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS) screening program, we explore a number of different areas which include: health and injury history, current training exposure, anthropometrics, hypermobility/flexibility, strength, a functional musculoskeletal screen and an aerobic fitness test. Once the assessments have been completed, individuals are invited for feedback to go through each test result: looking at comparable means and discussing how their results can impact their training.

 

How can screening contribute to injury reduction?

There are many benefits and outcomes of screening, however the following are the five testing protocols that I typically find to be most helpful in educating dancers on injury reduction. These protocols can easily be adopted by individuals, especially those with limited resources.

 

1.  Health and injury history

As we already know, results from injury history, menstrual status and nutritional status can be combined to “red flag” symptoms of Female Athlete Triad3. A red flag for each area would be:

- Frequent bone related injuries (more than 2) in the last 12 months e.g. Fractures, bone bruising, etc and/or already diagnosed osteoporosis and/or a known low bone mineral density.

              - Amenorrhea, or no menstrual cycle, for more than three months.

              - And disclosure of, or indicators of, an eating disorder or disordered eating.

There are of course many other areas which may arise as a concern from completing the health and injury questionnaire. For example a low BMI or sleep disturbances, however what is important in this instance is that any red flags for Female Athlete Triad or any other issues are dealt with appropriately. Therefore, if you do not have the provision in your school/ company to provide nutritional advice, have a reliable contact who you can refer your dancers to.

2.  Single jump height

Single jump height measures how high an individual can jump. This result is important information for dancers, however what I find more interesting as an observer of the test is the biomechanics of an individual's jump technique. By looking out for the following we can use the screen itself to optimise the performance of the jump and reduce injury:

             - Are they rolling in or out of the ankles during take-off/landing?

             - Turning in/out of the feet, looking to see if one is more turned out than the other.

             - Are they able to maintain the 90 degree angle at the knees during take-off and
             landing, as specified in the test protocol.

             - If/when fatigued, are they able to maintain technique e.g. feet pointed during
             jump, land in parallel, maintain height, maintain speed, etc

By breaking the jump down and giving this feedback to the dancers I find this to be more helpful than informing them how high/powerful their jump is (of course they will still be interested in this!) as you may point something out to them that hasn’t been identified before.


3. Turnout/turn in

There are a number of different ways to test turnout/ turn in, however I find active standing turnout to be one of the most useful for educative screening, as it is most representational of the dancer in the studio. The dancer will stand on two rotational discs (therefore removing the friction from the floor) and starting in parallel they will turnout or in. The distance of each measurement will be recorded in degrees and repeated three times for accuracy, as they can be rather wobbly if you haven't used them before! In literature it is suggested that dancers should be achieving 70 degrees of turnout4, which may be true for ballet dancers, however for other dance genres this requirement may not be as necessary. What I find that we are actually looking for here is bilateral balance between the right and left side, with no more than 10 degrees difference between the right and left score. An inability to achieve bilateral balance may be an indicator of muscle weakness or tightness in the internal or external rotators or simply a lack of proprioception. I particularly like this test because the dancers are unable to "cheat" due to there being no resistance from the floor - but make sure their knees stay over the toes to ensure no cheating!

                      USEFUL VIDEO HERE.

4. Plank

Like all of the other tests, the plank is more than just achieving a number, it can be indicative of a number of different physical aspects. However from past experiences we usually see dancers achieving roughly around the 2-3min mark.

Whilst the dancer is completing the plank (feet hip width apart and resting on forearm) you can also look out for the following:

              - Feet: are they rolling in/ out or can they maintain a true parallel?

              - Hips: are they even? Or does one side dip more than the other?

              - Alignment: can they ensure that the head, hips and feet sit in one straight line.

              - Shoulder blades: do they "wing" off the back?

5. Dance Aerobic Fitness Test (DAFT)

Over the past 10 years schools and companies have been able to use Dance Specific Fitness Tests (DSFT)5,6,7. One of the most frequently used DSFT by schools and companies is the contemporary Dance Aerobic Fitness Test (DAFT). This fitness test has a number of advantages beyond the data produced i.e. heart rate and rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Observers can also make notes on the individual’s technique over the five stages, each of which is four minutes and progressively increases in intensity. An observer might look out for: arm placement, landing from the jumps, extension of movements, focus, musicality, coordination, etc. The DAFT stage three is representative of the effort levels required for a technique class and stage five is representative of performance intensity. Therefore, the individual can track the changes in their heart rate and RPE over a time period, to see if their training is providing any positive adaptation in their aerobic fitness levels and resistance to fatigue, which allow them to perform set movement at a lower relative intensity. There is currently no published data available on the norms or averages for each stage of the DAFT, however Redding et al will be presenting this information for the first time at the 25th Annual meeting in Pittsburgh…so watch this space!

 

So…what do we do with all this information?

Well, as you can see from the above information, the outcomes are primarily indicators of an area of weakness. To allow this information to contribute to injury reduction we need to ensure that we apply these findings back into training. Therefore, I would recommend that your feedback time is highlighted as one of the most important features of your educative screening session. These indicators cannot be actioned if dancers do not understand the importance and relevance of the results, and furthermore, how to implement this into their training. Ensure you are confident with the official protocols for each test and most importantly, develop a network of dance specialist professionals who you trust for onward referral.

 

References/ recommended resources

1.       Wilson, M., & Deckert, J. L. (2009). A screening program for dancers administered by dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 13(3), 67-72.

2.       Liederbach, M., Hagins, M., Gamboa, J. M., & Welsh, T. M. (2012). Assessing and reporting dancer capacities, risk factors, and injuries: recommendations from the IADMS standard measures consensus initiative. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 16(4).

3.       Torstveit, M. K., & Sundgot-Borgen, J. (2005). The female athlete triad: are elite athletes at increased risk?. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 37(2), 184-193.

4.       Howse, J., & McCormack, M. (2009). Anatomy, Dance Technique and Injury Prevention. A&C Black.

5.       Wyon, M., Redding, E., Abt, G., Head, A., & Sharp, N. C. C. (2003). Development, reliability, and validity of a multistage dance specific aerobic fitness test (DAFT). Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 7(3), 80-84.

6.       Redding, E., Weller, P., Ehrenberg, S., Irvine, S., Quin, E., Rafferty, S., Wyon, M. & Cox, C. (2009). The development of a high intensity dance performance fitness test. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 13(1), 3-9.

7.       Twitchett, E., Nevill, A., Angioi, M., Koutedakis, Y., & Wyon, M. (2011). Development, validity, and reliability of a ballet-specific aerobic fitness test. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 15(3), 123-127.

 

Stephanie De’Ath, MSc, SRMT, is a Lecturer in Dance Science at UK Higher Education Institutions and is a Sports and Remedial Massage Therapist at London Contemporary Dance School and Central School of Ballet.

Email: stephaniedeath1@gmail.com

 

Tags:  dancers  injury  screening  teachers 

PermalinkComments (1)
 

IADMS Education in Motion: A member reports on a Pre-Pointe Education Workshop in New Zealand

Posted By Esther Juon Veitch, Tuesday, May 19, 2015
 

IADMS is an international organization, and our reach is truly international.  In addition to annual conferences and regional workshops, our members are taking the information from dance medicine and science to the most important venues—private studios in small towns, where the application of the information can make a difference for the young dancers and their teachers.  This report from Esther Juon describes such an event.

 

I have recently come back from a five day trip to Aratapu a small place consisting of a hotel and a dance school and a few houses 10 km from Dargaville in provincial New Zealand.

To cover this full day workshop, followed by assessments and fittings, most of the 8 students attending the workshop held a fundraiser. By selling homemade cupcakes and raffle tickets in their town, they raised enough money to pay for the course and the assessments.


 

I had been invited to present a six hour Foot & Pointe Shoe Workshop, followed by fittings of pointe or demi-pointe shoes the next day.  These dancers are in three different classes, the equivalent of BBO (British Ballet Organisation) or RAD Grade 5, Intermediate Foundation and Intermediate.

After settling into the local hotel I met up with the ballet teacher that evening and took her through our PowerPoint presentation and the relevant articles from the IADMS Bulletin for Teachers and Dancers.

I was able to cover the new material and explain the importance of the approaches I was going to use in the workshop. 


We began the morning with an interactive PowerPoint presentation, covering the anatomy of the foot and how that relates to ballet. We also explored what the requirements are for a dancer to be ready for pointe and how the foot should be supported in a pointe shoe (resource here).

The second part of the workshop included working with the dancers on the personal commitment required to safely get ready for pointe work. This includes being technically, mentally, and physically ready to go on pointe. I took the dancers through a series of exercises & stretches that should to be done on a daily basis in order to prepare for pointe work.

Day two was spent working with the dancers individually (2 hours each) and preparing a 5-6 page report, with photos, for each of them to refer to once I was gone. The teacher filled in a pre-prepared form & took notes about each student, while I worked with them. I took photos of what the dancer does currently and noted any improvements she could make. This way the teacher could see why a dancer had certain problems with movements or steps and was involved in changing the way the dancer worked and moved. The report was edited later on, photos added & emailed to the teacher, dancer, and parent. They now have a document to work from until I see them again. At that stage new photos will be taken so we can document the progress each dancer has made.

The teacher has since decided to revisit everything learned and shared in the course and is addressing the personal corrections for each student so progress can happen quite quickly. I look forward to going back to visit them and fundraising for my next trip has already started.

Working with the resources from IADMS I am hoping to reach out to many more teachers to provide them with information to help them prepare their students for pointe work. It is imperative that each dancer goes through her adolescent growth spurt before starting pointe work. In my opinion this is the most important consideration to make for the well-being of the dancer.

 

Esther Juon Veitch:  BBO RTS Dip CID. Member of IADMS Education Board.


   IADMS series one posters are a perfect resource for this topic as they cover the Adolescent Growth Spurt, Pointe Readiness and Proprioception. To order this set, and other IADMS posters, click here


Tags:  education in motion  pointe  teachers 

PermalinkComments (0)
 
Page 4 of 6
1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6
Association Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal