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Dance Science: An Introduction

Posted May 09 2008 12:34pm

“Dance science? What is that?” the woman to whom I’ve just been introduced asks with a puzzled look. This question inevitably follows any mention that I majored in dance science at college. My usual reply is to describe dance science as an emerging field that combines anatomy, physiology, biomechanics and nutrition to enhance dancers’ performance and health and reduce injuries. Such a developing profession often garners me skeptical looks from the askers of these questions. However, this does not stifle my determination to contribute to the scientific enrichment of the dance world.

Although changing from a solely dance performance major in college was a difficult decision, I knew that I loved the art of dance but wanted to combine this passion for movement with an increased scholarly approach. I always found information about the body and its mechanics and functions particularly fascinating and constantly applied this knowledge in my dancing. Struggling to find a way in which I could fuse my passion of dance performance with my scientific inclinations, I took time to investigate professions and schools that offered a more scientific approach to dance. Delving into scholarly journals and articles on dance medicine and dance therapy and taking exercise physiology and kinesiology courses, I discovered my enthusiasm for the area of dance science.

My focus is now on my future and I plan to continue my studies in graduate school to receive a master’s degree in dance science or dance kinesiology. I hope to become a trainer for dancers, in a college or company setting, or teach dance kinesiology at a university. The knowledge and experience I have received through amazing internships and college will better enable me to decrease dancers’ injuries and improve their strength and performance in the future. I am also eager to participate in dance science research.

Vague online definitions of dance science and scarce job information indicates that connections with people actively participating in dance science professions are essential for obtaining knowledge of this relatively new field. Expanding knowledge of anatomy and physiology and its application in dance is also critical. Slowly more and more academic programs, teaching positions, and internships are being offered to aid dance enthusiasts in developing specific skills and first hand experience in the dance science field. Knowledge of the mechanics of dance and its effects on a performer’s feet and ankles is an invaluable tool that allows dancers to identify methods of injury prevention and treatment.

Dancers’ passion and complete devotion to dance can often lead us to be overzealous, forcing 180 degree turnout in ballet or landing jumps with lifted heels. The key to realizing the cost of these actions must come from an understanding of the body’s mechanics, particularly the feet and ankles. In order to correct dancer’s misalignments, the dance world is calling for a more scientific approach to preventing dance specific injuries. Dance science broadens the options of dancers, from solely performance to more scholarly positions. It is exiting for many dancers to discover the physics of how their bodies work and why, for example, they cannot execute a pirouette because their shoulders are hunched and pulling them off balance. Dancer’s focus, drive and perseverance required to succeed in dance and academics, produces great artists as well as critical thinkers. In the dance world, there are innumerable obstacles, but dancers are always pushing the boundaries to jump higher and stretch further. The dance world needs healthy, fit dancers and the field of dance science is working to help dancer’s increase performance abilities and bodily awareness while decreasing overuse injuries.

For many of us, dance is like the air we breathe; it is something we cannot live without. The dedicated people in the fields of dance science, dance kinesiology and dance medicine help dancers prolong their careers, because they understand the passion for this art form. Since dance science is still a developing area, I understand that some might view my career path as precarious. I truly believe, though, that scientifically enriching the dance world is an exciting and rewarding pursuit, and one for which I am uniquely suited. I look forward to sharing my knowledge with all the reader's of this blog and hope that the information I impart is helpful to others seeking to explore the field of dance science.

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