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What is Dance Science?

Staying at home? It’s conditioning time.

Farah Fadzali, May 2020



Dance + Science? 

Dance science is a new area of research study where scientific principles are applied to enhance dance and movement performance, improve dance training, promotes care, reduce injury, prevention and safe post-rehabilitation return to dance 5Today, dance science has a large number of following and a organisation that supports it named The International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS). IADMS was formed in 1990 is an organisation that was founded by an international group of dance medicine practitioners, dance educators, dance scientists and dancers. Today the organisation has over 900 members worlwide, from 35 different countries. 

So where would dance science come into play? 

Firstly, we must understand the needs and demands within the dance environment. For example in 2002, a UK national survey investigating dancer’s health had reported that at least 80% of dancers are injured every year. Subsequently, more research has recorded higher percentages. Drawing perspective from the local context in Singapore, a 2017 study3 had reported a large population of dancers (69.9%) with recurrent injuries.  

So what is the cause to such substantial number of injuries across the world? Do we know the percentage of dance injuries in Singapore today? Does the number in UK justify for the numbers locally? This is where the role of a dance scientists comes in. A dance scientists is someone who not only conduct both qualitative and quantitative research works but also investigate on how to improve dancer’s well-being using various scientific discipline such as anatomy, physiology, psychology and biomechanics. 

“Dance scientist acknowledge every dancer as an artistic athlete” 

Is dance science similar to sports science? 

In many ways, yes. The subject area covered in dance science are fairly similar to that of sports science. In fact, earlier research studies conducted on dancers are based of sports science. However, in dance science, topics such as creativity and somatic practices are more heavily touched on. 

“So, why exactly is Dance Science important and much needed in today’s setting?” 

Importance of Dance Science  

We have previously identified the role and the existence of dance science is to investigate ways to improve dancer’s well-being using various scientific discipline and incorporating multidisciplinary approach. For example ‘Performers physiological readiness for performance season,’ ‘Psychological well-being (eg. self-esteem),’ ‘Nutritional intake,’ and etc.  

Sir Peter Wright, the artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet was one of the first to recognize the importance of dancers to heighten their physiology and fitness knowledge; apart from skill development. This is due to the increasing physical demands placed on dancers. A good example to refer to would be the progression of ballet. The early ballet started out with low arabesque and nothing above 90 degrees of height. The ballet that we see today comprises of high legs and complicated sequences which in fact is very arduous for every individual joints.  

In another instance, dancers reported 4.6 injuries for every 1,000 hours of dancing and illness rate of 9.1 for every 1,000 hours. Despite this fact, the high illness rates did not result in time away from dance. Using the dance science approach in today’s dance setting, it will benefit and enhance the health and well-being of dancers in Singapore. Presumably, having a lower percentage of injuries across the nation. At the same time, closing the gap between medical professionals and dancers in understanding the bodily requirements with regards to returning to training.  

“… Dancers reported 4.6 injuries for every 1,000 hours of dancing and an ilness rate of 9.1 for every 1,000 hours.” 

With the example provided above, it is prevelant for dance science research to identify methods to support the demands of the art forms regardless of genres. Since the 1990, there has been an increasing number of dance science research and articles made easily available to us. As such dance scientist, dance educators and dancers can now better understand how dancers function and  meeting their individual needs. The next step would be the application of knowledge and positive research outcomes towards trainings to optimize dancers performance. However, it is also important to understand that the demands of each dancer and dance genres varies individually. Hence, information obtained should be carefully examined to ensure that it is applicable and tailored to the specific genre. 

 “But how will dance science help to improve my performance?” 

Strength & Conditioning  

As mentioned previously, there is an increase in physical demand placed on dancers suggesting that one must be proficient in both aesthetics and technical aspects of the art. This also implies that a dancer needs to be psychologically prepared to face unexpected situation. To do so, one must be physically “fit” and free of injury. As such, a comprehensive strength and conditioning program is essential. 

On that notedue to this current COVID-19 situation, many of us are unable to resume our usual dance training and rehearsals. Hence, it is a good opportunity to rest, recover and maintain fitness level through strength and conditioning during this period. 

Does Strength & Conditioning only apply to sports athletes?  

Certainly not! By implementing strength and conditioning in dance training, it helps to increase  muscular strength. It also minimizes the likelihood of injury by protecting certain joints such as the hips, knees and ankles that have been shown to be an area of concern in dance. 

During the IADMS 29th annual conference in Montreal, a researcher presented their studyin evaluating the effectiveness of strength and conditioning program for dancers. The program was modelled after FIFA 11+ injury prevention regimen and was launched at the Elmhurst Ballet School, UK. The results showed that the number of injuries were reduced by 40%. 

Other studies that looked at the effect of training programs on both dance and fitness performance too have reported significant increase in dance performance, flexibility, and lower-body strength. Thus, by assimilating a strength and conditioning program in today’s dance training, it will enhance both dance and fitness performance. 

Staying at home? Its conditioning time!   

Getting bored of staying at home this circuit breaker? Well it is time for conditioning! Here are 5 conditioning exercises for dancers with no equipment needed: